When Glen Hansard and his art-rock band, The Frames, headline the Hideout’s annual block party in September, they’ll be coming off their biggest honor yet: opening for Bob Dylan in Australia and New Zealand. The invitation came after Dylan saw Once, an indie movie phenomenon that has already grossed $4.5 million on a mere 130,000-euro investment. In it, Hansard plays a scruffy street busker passionate about making music his own way. That’s fiction, sort of.
Chicago is “the city I was reborn in,” says Hansard, a 37-year-old Irishman who, a few years ago, couldn’t nudge record sales beyond northern Europe. (In Ireland, The Frames are second in popularity behind U2.) But following a gig here at Gunther Murphy’s in 2000, he met a small but influential circle of fans, including producer Steve Albini and the leader of Songs: Ohia, Jason Molina. The affiliations landed The Frames an American label (the Chicago-based Overcoat), a manager, a producer—and a guitarist, Robert Bochnik, who lives on the Northwest Side.
Still, after 17 years and seven albums, Once has finally delivered Hansard’s music to mainstream ears. “It’s pie in the sky, but then again, the idea of even getting into Sundance was pie in the sky,” he says. “Already, the film has gone way beyond any of our expectations. We planned to make a thousand copies on DVD.” Now he stars in a film that’s generating Oscar buzz and, perhaps more thrilling, he’s warming up for Dylan: “His stamp of approval is stunning.” The Frames play the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Sept. 8th. For tickets, go to hideoutchicago.com.