Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Void. More Like a Canyon.

It all started with my best friend. She manages a independent record store in La Crosse, WI called Deaf  Ear Records.  The first time I met Tina she working at Deaf Ear, nearly ten years ago.  I remember this very distinctly because I had just been visiting La Crosse at the time.  It was June, 2003 and in just a few months I would be making a big move from Montana to make Wisconsin my new home.  I had traveled out by Greyhound Bus and stayed for an entire week at the Guest House Inn--I was trying to get a feel for the town--I went to the Co-op and bought cheese and crackers to snack on in my hotel room.  I walked the river paths through the marsh.  I took the bus to the mall and bought a book called "Special" that I read a review for in the back of BUST Magazine.
Tina at Strange Brew

On my last day visiting La Crosse, I stopped into Deaf Ear to find some music to listen to on my discman during the very long Greyhound ride home.  I bought The Cure's  "Wish" and "Crackle: Best of Bauhaus".  Of course when I first met Tina I didn't know she was going to end up being one of the most important people in my life, and I had no idea that over the next ten years she would introduce me to many, many more bands that would be influential to me.

"We are made of starstuff" Valya draws paisley on Madeline's cheek at Strange Brew

Fast forward six years.  It's the middle of winter, 2009,  and I stop into Deaf Ear to find some music to get me through the cold February funk. Tina tells me I should check out "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" -- she knows I would appreciate the Twin Peaks reference, and she also tells me there is an accompanying photography book coming out with words by Neil Gaiman.  Tina knows photography and books are two of my passions (English Major, Photography Minor).   I buy the album from her recommendation, and look up the photography project--and this is how I find Kyle Cassidy's blog.  That October I meet Kyle and his wife Trillian--and because these two very nice and at that time perfect strangers, opened their home to me I meet Valya and Lindsay, two more people who have become very dear friends of mine.

"Singing in Public"  Sean's fear is declared. 

This is the magic of music and friendship.

After "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" I really started following Amanda's work.  One day at knitting group, Tina gifted me with the first Dresden Doll's album.  I followed along as Amanda struggled to get off her major recording label. June 2010, Tina and I, along with our two friends Janet and Matt, traveled to Minneapolis to see Amanda, Jason Webley and Sxip Shirey perform as Evelyn Evelyn at the Cedar Cultural Center.  At that Evelyn Evelyn show, somewhere behind the crowd was Madeline, another wonderful artist and future good friend.  Madeline and I now laugh at the strangeness of two people being in the same room, never knowing the other one is there, and then only a year later, they are friends sharing wine and secrets.

Later that autumn, Tina and I traveled by train to Chicago to see The Dresden Dolls at the Vic in Chicago.  Tina had a really bad cold, and our train was very late.  We got dressed in the train restroom, shakily putting on lipstick and pinstriped halter tops.  It was one of the best shows I had ever seen.  So many friends and so many connections were formed.

By this time, Amanda Palmer had been released from Roadrunner records. Here next album releases were independent efforts, "Ukulele Head" and "Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under".  It was about this time I started to get a little distracted from Amanda's work.  I was following her on Twitter, as well as regularly reading her blog, and because I had been paying attention so closely I was noticing some negativity forming around her.  I found myself defending her to myself quite a bit.  I would think things like "This is what happens when you admire an artist who doesn't have the glamour of public relation specialists working for them--this is what it is like to admire an artist who is trying to be a real person in the public eye".  Despite the uncomfortable nature of some the issues revolving around her, I still greatly admired her desire to connect with her fans.

In the late spring of 2012, Amanda launched her Kickstarter to help fund her new record "Theater is Evil".  I pledged twice to this Kickstarter campaign, once for the album, and also through another backer to help fund the Indianapolis House Party.  Despite my growing questions of how did I fit as an AFP fan,  I was so excited to back the album and jumped at the opportunity to give Tina and I the chance to attend a small gathering of other fans--the fact that Valya and Madeline were also up for the party sealed the deal.

So much changed in my life from when that kickstarter was funded and when the date of the party actually was set.  I relocated to a new city for my job--moved away from my friends in La Crosse, further away from my friends in Chicago--and when the House Party date was finally declared-I had no idea if I was going to be able to make it because of my new job responsibilities.  The fact that I was able to make the road trip was nothing short of a miracle--and I have my amazing crew and many supportive co-workers to thank for it.

In October of 2012, Tina and I saw Amanda and her band The Grand Theft Orchestra at First Avenue in Minneapolis--and it was exciting but also challenging.  It was the last show of the first part of their US tour, and the band had experienced some difficulties along the way--despite this I was excited to lend my support. There were so many great songs on the album, lots of good energy dance songs--and the mood of the venue was perfect.  A bunch of people I knew came up from La Crosse.  We had a great pocket of dancers.  There were some perfectly moving and emotional points in the evening as well.

And then things shifted-it is when the box came out, filled with pieces of paper describing the worst things that had happened to members of the audience in their bedrooms. Things got intense--and uncomfortable.  When this part of the concert ended--I was left wondering what had just happened?  I was torn between wanting to respect Amanda as an artist and her decision to move the evening in a particular direction, but also wondering why exactly the the mood needed to go into such a dark corner of people's emotions. I am supportive of a performer shifting things to a serious perspective--I know life isn't all sunshine and kittens--but with this, I didn't understand what the point was other than to give Amanda some material to loop behind her song.  Maybe this worked for some of the concerts--but the mood of our show was so celebratory. This was the last performance of the tour--many of the people in the room directly helped fund the album.  During the reading there was actual jeering from people in the audience--something I had never experienced at one of Amanda's shows before. Soon after this the concert ended--and I left feeling not elated and excited as I did leaving previous performances, but actually let down and a little sad.  After that night I didn't listen to any Amanda Palmer effort that I once turned to or the new album.  Maybe it was wrong of me to be so affected by this--but the fact that it did concerned me and I knew I needed a break.

Going into this party I knew I was a different fan than I was 4 years ago.  I didn't know what to expect--and didn't know how I would react.  I was looking forward to a weekend with many of my favorite people and knew whatever the party held, it would be an adventure shared with good friends.

Tina and I, along with our friend Mindy arrived at The Strange Brew Coffee shop in Greenwood, Indiana. Valya, Madeline and Sean met us there--and I was happy to see many familiar faces that I knew from my former Roller Derby community. Joan of Dark and Dill Hero are the owners of this perfect oasis of culture and coolness--and it was a great setting for such an intimate gathering.  There was a delicious spread of food, plenty of drink and many talented people who took turns playing the keyboard, ukulele and guitar.  

When Amanda arrived, Neil was with her--I am slowly loosing count of all the times I am in the same room with Neil Gaiman and have no idea what to say to him...I am hoping someday in the future it will have something to do with book of mine he has read.

At one point in the evening Amanda sang a song about loving difficult people--I don't remember what the name of the song was--but the line that stuck with me was something to the effect of sometimes in life you cannot love someone enough, so you have to love them dead.  It hit home, and I was happy to know that one of her songs could still bring tears to my eyes.
Valya listens as Amanda sings. 

 The evening progressed. Amanda wrote people's fears on their faces...when she asked me mine and I said I couldn't think of anything, and she said maybe it was indecision. I boldly replied, "No, I just face my fears".  Even as I write this I cannot think of a fear or phobia. She wrote "Nothing" on my cheek and a circle to represent a void.

A void.

It's more like a canyon.

On one side I stand...and on the other is the youngster I used to be. In February I will be 30 years old and I suppose if I ever had a fear it was that I would go my whole life not knowing who I am--but I look around me and see my friends, my love, my community.  I look in a mirror and I am happy with how I look, what is reflected is Me. A younger version of myself would look in the mirror and see all the people I am trying to be, the artists I wish were my friends.  Now, I am simply grateful.
Maybe it doesn't happen like this for everyone, maybe it never happens at all. Maybe you were never a person who needed to be loved or liked so desperately by those you thought were exciting and creative. Maybe you are a person who can just read a book or listen to an album without falling in love.

I am not.

I fall in love deeply and passionately with a song or story, and sometimes the person behind it...but that love has changed.  Being Amanda's fan has forced me to mature, to grow up, to really examine how I approach musicians, writers and artists I admire.  With the illusion of closeness that things like Twitter and Facebook can create, it is easy to believe you could have a real relationship with an artist like Amanda Palmer--someone who is trying to bridge that gap between artist and fan.  Whether this is a good thing or bad thing, I am not to judge.  What I have learned is that this kind of closeness is not for me.

I can still love books, songs and photography and that can be enough--I don't have to love you.  I'm on one side of the canyon, and you are on the other.  I could try and jump or climb down and pull myself to your side...but I'm older now and I know it's better just to watch from afar.

And, on this side I still have Tina, my best friend. A decade of memories--what more could I ask for except another decade more?

"..and if  you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends" --Penny Lane
Tina at Luna Music in Indianapolis, Indiana

1 comment:

  1. This is a really beautiful account. So true.

    Love you.