Walking up Sanchez Street on our way to the Noe Valley Ministry, we passed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová (a.k.a. The Swell Season) strolling smilingly toward 24th Street, not a care in the world. They didn't look like two musicians preparing for a concert and they certainly didn't give off the air of being the stars of Once, a truly incredible film that's currently playing in theaters. They were enjoying each other and the calm, cool twilight - a sure sign that it was going to be a good night.

The Saturday before last we saw The Swell Season at Noe Valley Ministry, a small church that's home to the Noe Valley Music Series. We arrived just as the doors opened, in hopes of grabbing a seat near the stage, but were stopped in our tracks when our names weren't on the list. (Again. What's with our guest list luck these days?) Seeing as the ticket taker was a young woman sitting at a card table, and not a seasoned professional sealed behind a glass partition, we resolved to talk our way in this time. Ninety minutes, another street-side Glen and Marketa sighting (this time with his arm wrapped around her) and several conversations with Howard the tour manager later, we were escorted upstairs to a wooden bench at the side of the room, about 20 feet from the stage. The wait was worth it, because we had a clear view.

We'd missed the opener and were seated just minutes before Glen and Marketa came to the stage, which was sparsely set with a piano and acoustic guitar and flanked on both sides by an overflow of audience members sitting in the wings. Glen played the same acoustic guitar with the shredded body that he plays in the film and Marketa spent most of the set playing piano. From our angle to the stage, we could see her hands reflected in the piano's top, mirroring her movements to us like a chef's at cooking class.