Thanks to speesmees

Having arrived at the venue rediculously early, we got great seats in the beautiful main room of the royal theatre and waited patiently. The room soon filled up to the very brim and there was a very warm welcome for Glen Hansard as he took to the stage by himself, with that beat up old guitar in hand.

As he did in the film Once, he started the set off busker style, standing on the edge of the stage and singing Say It To Me Now straight from the gut. I’m always amazed when I see him sing live how he manages to pull that intensity out of the bag every single time. After that Marketa Irglova and “The Swell Season band” (the other Frames) came on stage and gave a wonderful set with some new songs mixed in.

Marketa’s very unassuming presence is deceiving, it’s her clear vocals and piano lines that give the Swell Season songs great warmth. Particularly when her gentle voice and Glen’s raw emotional voice are put together on songs like When Your Mind’s Made Up and the Oscar winning Falling Slowly, it’s goosebump inducing stuff on stage. New songs such as Go With Happiness (Glen: “This song is about how sometimes you need to let go of someone and you want to wish them the best in life. Go now, good luck, take it easy. And wouldn’t it be great if we were actually able to do that.”) and a song Marketa sang by herself (the name escapes me) were equally captivating and Glen’s rambling introductions were charming as ever.

The audience was blown away by Leave, another song showcasing Glen’s tell it like it is style. And towards the end of the set fans of The Frames were treated to an awesome version of Fitzcarraldo. Even as I’m typing this now I’m still trying to take it all in, what a rare delight of a show in that beautiful venue. I can safely say I wasn’t alone in this opinion as the audience gave a lengthy standing ovation. Here’s hoping there will be a new album out soon.

When Your Mind’s Made Up (thanks to feetinas)

We caught the tail end of a set by Chad VanGaalen, Canadian DIY pop songsmith, who was performing with the band Women. I had never heard his material before but was instantly impressed and intend to check out much more than the two songs we were lucky enough to catch. Flemish Eye has kindly put up two mp3 downloads from his new album Soft Airplanes, be sure to check out Willow Tree.

Next stop: the main event, the biggest source of festival buzz, the gig to see: Fleet Foxes. The place was packed well before the band took to the stage and expectations were high. Before they started playing they apparently had to wait for some technical stuff to be sorted out, and frontman Robin Pecknold broke the ice by remarking “Well, this is a good time to akwkardly stand and stare at each other”.


The first two or three songs were strung together, making it a bit of a muddle and leaving the audience unsure if and when they were supposed to clap. I was a bit weary at this stage, but there was no need. After those ten minutes Pecknold joked “As we only have limited time we’ll just play our greatest hits”, but it did instantly pick up from there. The beautiful White Winter Hymnal, Your Protector, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and Ragged Wood spring to mind as some of the stand out songs for me.

For whatever reason I was surprised by the easy going nature of the band and their funny remarks during the set, perhaps because the songs all seem so clean cut and earnest. At one point the band left the stage except for Pecknold and as he stood fidgetting with his guitar for a while he said “And now for my twenty minute guitar solo”. All laughs aside, he then gave a breathtaking solo performance of Oliver James.

For me, the Fleet Foxes album has probably been the one album in 2008 that grew on me the most. It has slowly seeped into my subconscious and I love it dearly now. It’s going to be very interesting to see what these mesmerising hairy lads will get up to next.