Like many others, I was enchanted by Once upon its release. In the fifteen years since, what has most stuck with me is the touching story of two people falling in and out of love while discovering what will always bind them - music. Of the songs from the original soundtrack, the simple guitar, piano, and haunting harmonies of Falling Slowly never fail to move me.
I also clearly recall the beat-up guitar Glen Hansard plays in that film while busking on the streets. And now, after recently seeing him live in Washington DC, I better understand how he wears holes into every acoustic guitar he plays. The last time I remember being as transfixed by strumming as I was by Hansard's was while watching Richie Havens pummel his Guild G-41. Only Fran McKendree from the criminally unheralded McKendree Spring could hold his own against Havens in his heyday. As a ferocious acoustic rhythm guitarist, Glen Hansard is a worthy heir to these two giants.
Hansard's DC show, featuring his musical partner from the film - composer, pianist, and vocalist Marketa Irglova - was warm and generous. Three other fine musicians supported the main duo. Falling Slowly was, predictably for me, one highlight. Another? Alone and unamplified - in a 2500 seat venue - Hansard played All the Way Down, another song from Once. I was seated near the rear of the venue. I could hear every chord Hansard pounded on his G-41. Next time you watch the movie, notice those holes. RIP, Richie and Fran. Glen has your back.