Who Was That Random Man Glen Hansard Invited Onstage at Newport?

glen hansard anthony mulcahy

Earlier this week, I posted a few of my favorite moments from this year’s Newport Folk Festival. But there’s one more that I thought deserved a little extra attention.

Unannounced performances in Newport aren’t unusual. Just last year, a history-making mystery set of stars came together for the 50th Anniversary of Bob Dylan’s legendary electric moment at Newport ‘65. Kris Kristofferson surprised everyone at the Festival this year. But typically a few folks are in the know about these performances. At minimum – the person that’s unannounced knows they’ll be performing.

But that was not the case on Sunday afternoon as former Swell Season member Glen Hansard played a very well attended set that mixed songs off of his 2015 album Didn’t He Ramble (Spotify & iTunes) with a few Woody Guthrie and Van Morrison tunes. Mostly performing solo with his guitar on the massive Fort Stage, Hansard’s set was loaded with crowd participation throughout. He also called up a number of collaborators – so it goes with these solo sets – including trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, singer Jocie Adams, and Elvis Costello.

But as he started strumming his closer, Brendan Behan’s old Irish folk song, “The Auld Triangle,” Hansard invited a random Irishman in the crowd to join him for the song – but not just the chorus like you’d expect with something like this. Hansard asked that random Irishman to sing a full verse solo – and he did it pretty well with his mind visibly blowing the entire time. The crowd totally loved it.

That random Irishman was Anthony Mulcahy, an electrician, indie musician, amateur photographer and obsessive show-goer from Waterford, Ireland who now lives in New York. This was his first time at Newport. He was just there with his wife, Tifany, taking photos and enjoying the day and had no idea what happened was going to happen.

I tracked down Mulcahy to get the backstory…

I was positioned in the center for Glen’s show but about four people deep from the front rail. During a tune up between songs he spotted me and smirked, giving me a nod. I have been a fan of Glen and The Frames for over 20 years and have been in his company at The Scratcher, a little bar on the Lower East Side of NYC, on a few occasions, passing a guitar and sharing songs. It was pure luck that he saw me and recognized me.

The song itself is such an iconic piece of Irish history. There is not a person in Ireland who doesn’t know it. The hardest part was keeping the emotions together to get my verse out!

After Mulcahy sang, an Irish guitar tech named Simon sang as well.

These are the moments that make this Festival feel so different and keep the FOMO train rolling.

Check out a video of the whole thing below. And learn more about Mulcahy’s folk duo with Rachel Stern, Those Sensible Shoes, right here.