Monday, August 26, 2013

3 Rivers Arts Festival (Part 2)

Welcome to part 2! Part 1 is back here.
The second concert in the 3 Rivers Arts Festival I couldn't bear to miss was for Glen Hansard. I discovered the Irish singer/songwriter about five years ago through the movie "Once". It's a beautiful indie film staring Glen & Markéta Irglová, and it is now a Broadway musical. Together, Glen and Markéta are the band "The Swell Season"; but they're currently working on solo projects.

Opening for Glen Hansard in Pittsburgh was Lisa Hannigan. I was honestly more excited to see her, than I was to see Glen. Lisa is also an Irish singer/songwriter. She doesn't have a movie, but I love singing along with her debut recording: "Sea Sew".

Once again, I headed to the park after work. This time, I was a little better prepared for sitting on the grass. I stopped by the drugstore on my way. They had one lonely picnic blanket for sale. It needed me, and I needed it!

Beth's things on my bright green blanket.

I sat in front of the sound-tent this time, but still a little way back from the stage. These crowds were nothing like those at the opening night concert. I suppose it had a lot to do with it being a weeknight, and one where the forecast called for thunderstorms. I was wearing galoshes and carrying a windproof umbrella. A little rain won’t chase me away from great music!

With impending storms in mind, they decided to start the music early. Shane and Beth were coming to meet me, but they both work much farther away. They hadn't even arrived yet when Lisa Hannigan took the stage.

She performed most of her songs alone; accompanying her self on guitar or ukulele. The audience was peaceful and respectful. Even as more folks filed in, only the front two rows or so were standing. It was wonderful to here her live! She gave me goosebumps more than once. Lisa ended her set with help from Glen's back-up band, and then everyone took a short break.

Shane and Beth had found each other by then, farther back in the crowd. When Lisa's performance was done, they joined me on my blanket.

Shane looking down from his lawn chair with a sense of superiority, and Beth being cute.

There was a rush of excitement from the crowd when Glen Hansard took the stage. He paused for a few minutes to sound-check and wait for his band. He warned us that the concert would end abruptly when the rain arrived. He also said the cool, grey weather made him feel at home.

The movie and albums didn't prepare me for how intense Glen Hansard's performances could be. When he got a song up to a good driving rhythm, he'd become lost in it. He'd close his eyes, maybe back away from the mic, and bop up and down with the beat. A few times, his face turned a purple-ish red; and even from a distance, I could see a vein popping out on his forehead. The concert was fun, but this guy is serious. Even his acousitc guitar is hard-core (sadly, not pictured). He's worn a hole right through the wood where he strums.

Glen Hansard worked through his set efficiently. We were all expecting downpour at any moment. But the weather remained friendly. So they kept playing. I think there were about thirty minutes of energetic "encores". Each song ended with Glen saying something like, "We've got to go. Seriously. This is the last one."

Lisa Hannigan came back to join him and the band for a few songs, including the old "Swell Season" hit, "Falling Slowly". His voice was nearly gone by then, so he asked the audience to sing the high notes on the chorus for him. We obliged with gusto. Glen invited an old friend on stage too. He's an Irish musician who now lives in Pittsburgh. I can't remember his name, and I couldn't find him with a Google search. Here he is listening to Lisa from the audience. If you know who he is, say so in the comments please! Mystery man sang us a song and then did another with his small children singing back-up. We couldn't hear them well, but they were adorable!

Glen Hansard ended the night (at last) with a song I'd never heard before: "The Auld Triangle". He said it was an important song to the Irish, so I looked it up. I could write a whole post about this song! It was written for a 1954 dark comedic play about an Irishman on death row. The play was popular, and a short while later the death penalty was abolished in Ireland. (I do not know how directly the play effected the legislation, if at all.) This particular prison is notorious to this day, and houses many debtors and political prisoners. That sounds like a weird choice for a finale, sure. But it is really catchy! If you'd like to hear the song yourself, I found a video of Glen singing it with Bono (who doesn't do very well with it - my apologies). Beth, Shane and I were singing the refrain all the way home!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

3 Rivers Arts Festival (Part 1)

Alright, Blog Readers! Here's a real post! This one goes back all the way to June.

Pittsburgh is a generally gloomy place, weather-wise. We actually get two more cloudy days each year (on average) than notorious Seattle. Perhaps as a result, when it gets nice here, folks make the most of it. Part of the local celebration of beautiful outdoor days is an annual festival downtown. The 3 Rivers Arts Festival is ten days of fair food, seas of local artist-merchant stands, and free live music!

This is actually from the Glen Hansard concert which will be featured in "Part 2".
Fun Fact: I didn't realize these were my friends, Kyle & Mikeala on the right until after I took the picture!

Some past years, I've simply avoided the crowds. (I don't do well with crowds, even in the nicest weather.) But this year there were two music performances I simply couldn't miss!

The first group were the festival headliners: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I headed straight to Point State Park after work, and ran into friends on the way!

Derek and Jenn being awesome (no idea who girl in tie-dye is)

We went to buy food and wait for Kira; and ran into more friends!

Ellie, Matt, and Brandi (Sorry, Matt. That's my best picture of you...)

In the following half-hour or so, I probably saw a dozen people I knew. When talking to folks later, I heard there were a bunch of friends there who I didn't see. We took a seat on the lawn just past the sound-booth-tent. "We" was me, Shane, Kira, and the lovely folks pictured above. Dan and Sarah came by later with baby Selah, who they were baby-sitting. I didn't get any pictures of them. Probably because I spent most of their time with us with Selah asleep on my shoulders.

Proof Shane was there too. No photo-love for Kira. I took some, but none turned out.

I was lucky to have found friends, and double-lucky they were friends with blankets. I had totally failed to consider what we would sit on! Then again, after the show started, there wasn't much sitting. I was also glad we arrived early. There were maybe 500 people ahead of us, but probably another 1,500 behind us!

 (Here is a map I made for your reference. The whole red circle was full, and then some! Source)

I forgot my camera, so I have no pictures of the band. But here's a cell-phone picture of the stage:

They had all sorts of fancy lighting effects!

Yes, that's a guy dressed as Jesus in front of us. I also saw a little boy in a Link costume, teenagers wearing tails, and girls in Japanese Lolita outfits. I guess something about a big event makes folks want to show off.

Anyway, the energy of the crowd was exuberant (and not too over-stimulating)! The babies were adorable and really into the music. I was impressed by their behavior! I myself had to wear earplugs to feel comfortable with the volume of the sound system. Their parents/babysitters took them home about half-way through, because they are babies.

The band played a good show. Not a beat or note was out of place. But they seemed a bit taken-aback by the size of the crowd. I guess no one told them they were going to be the main event!

(Part 2 coming soon!)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Break

A cell phone picture of a butterfly from my walk home

So I feel like I haven't been keeping up with the blog the way I'd like to. (Not that I ever promised to be consistent...)

The last month has been eventful, but not in a photogenic sort of way. Shane's dad had surgery a couple of weeks ago, and we spent that weekend at the hospital helping out and hanging out. He's home now and recovering fine. It easily could have been a much more negative experience than it was. Of course it still took energy to support my husband and his family; and that kind of knocked the wind out of my blogging sails.

I still have a couple of fun experiences to share from the beginning of this summer. I'm also excited about a vacation we have planned for the first week in September! This will be my first real vacation as an adult. I think of it as "real" because I'm going where I want to go and because I chose it, instead of joining family/friends in their plans or at their home. Which isn't to say we won't be seeing some family folks... but I asked them if we could visit. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me I guess.

While I'm very happy about these plans, another first in this vacation is that I'm spending money for fun's sake in a big way. Of course we've had fun dinners out or seen fun concerts or what-not. But I've never spent on fun on this scale before. It's messing with my head a bit. I keep having to remind myself that we worked hard to save up, and we're being super frugal (like camping most nights instead of staying at hotels). I also think it will be good for me. Not just because of the break from routine, but because I'm currently in the process of learning to live more for today. The theme of my thoughts lately keeps turning to: "Be grateful for what you have now. Don't just plan for tomorrow."