Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unabashed Swell Season lovefest

Glen Hansard, I wish I knew how to quit you.

The Swell Season are back on tour for a few dates around Europe. For me, that means a lot of afternoons lost to YouTube for the next couple weeks.

Here is an especially delicious one. First, there’s something about it that is visually lush — maybe the combination of the lighting and the rich blue of the background. Of course, even more addictive is the song itself and the delivery that is, as always, impassioned, lovely, powerful, and resonant with my own heart.

Since first hearing the Once soundtrack three years ago, I’ve listened to The Swell Season almost daily. While I was in China for two weeks and the band were taking a short break, I told myself I could walk away at last. I had the albums on my MP3 player, but I wasn’t able to rely on old clips or the band’s tweets to get through the hiatus, since YouTube and Twitter aren’t available in China. So, I resolved to go cold turkey, keep it old school, and simply listen while I waited patiently for the next album.

But it’s useless — I can’t walk away. And why should I, after all?


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Master of the Nets Garden

So, I haven’t posted anything in a month. I’m sure all eight of my readers have been worried, but fear not — I was spending a couple weeks in Suzhou, China, just west of Shanghai.

I had a grand plan for this blog on the trip. Although Suzhou is a “small” Chinese city, with a mere 6 million people in the greater metropolitan area, I figured that the Irish had most likely broken into the social scene and established a local drinking establishment there. And before I left, I used the trusty Internet to discover that I was right. There was reportedly one lone Irish pub in the city, called the Shamrock, on Shiquan Street. I resolved to go there, have a pint, and capture on video the live Irish music that I assumed could be found in Irish pubs the world over.

Well, not only was there no Irish music — there was also no Irish pub. Although we were armed with only an address and a vague idea of the pub’s location, my husband and a friend and I set out from our hotel one evening with great confidence. We could practically taste the Guinness and smell the fish and chips. But as we made our way down one long, crowded boulevard after another, we came to realize that it was not to be. An hour and a half after our journey had begun, we found an English-language bookstore, where a table of expatriates informed us of the Shamrock’s demise just a month before.

Luckily, the following week, I discovered the nighttime tour of the Master of the Nets Garden, just down the street from the Shamrock’s former home. The garden was first constructed in 1140 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here’s just one of the performances I saw there. No, it’s not Irish — but still extremely cool.