It was Monday morning when The Mister announced, “It feels like she’s moved in with us.” She being Amanda Palmer, my latest obsession, er….inspiration.
I was coming off a weekend of deep stretching that had nothing to do with yoga and everything to do with comfort zones. My energy buzzing higher than I can remember in recent years, even decades. Spurred on by a friend (whom I affectionately refer to as my music guru) who had sent me a fateful email message just weeks prior, introducing me to Amanda Palmer’s music. “I want to tell you about a great girl coming our way” he wrote.
The Mister and I met in the local rock n’ roll scene. Clubs and concerts and the low-level thrum of a crowd in between sets is as familiar and cozy to me as warm pajamas fresh out of the dryer. Seriously. Having kids and raising a family naturally pulled our time and attention away from musical pursuits, but with one kid off to college and the other barely home between gym and school and sleepovers, we heard opportunity knocking at our door. We vowed to make time to see more live music. The Mister and I both love music, but our tastes don’t always coincide. He swings much more to the bluesy-acoustic-classic-rock n’ roll side while I am old-school-funk-punk-alternative-world-beat-techno-dance-electronic and everything else in between. But when we heard that Joss Stone was coming to town, we agreed that was a show we both could enjoy. Tickets bought, date planned, on the calendar. Done.
And then Amanda happened.
Amanda Palmer’s tour stopped in Seattle the very same night that Joss Stone was here. Damn. The more I listened to Amanda’s music and watched her videos, the sadder I began to feel about not seeing her live. I knew I couldn’t back out on my date with The Mister and Joss, but wracked my brain trying to figure out how I could possibly be two places at the same time. Finally, in a moment of spontaneous and joyous clarity, I decided to make the trek to Portland to see Amanda the Friday before her Sunday show in Seattle. I hovered the mouse above the “purchase tickets” button for just a split second, breath held, doubts be damned and clicked it. Done. Exhaling jubilantly, I felt as though I had just inhaled a triple-shot of freshly pulled espresso. Not only was I going to see Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra, I was going to have 24 hours of adventure all by myself in a city that I hold so close to my heart. Friday could not come soon enough.
Bag packed, I set out early Friday afternoon, stopping only to deposit my daughter at a friend’s house along the way. Road trips for me are not a meandering exploration of scenic view points and historic sites. Road trips for me mean pointing the car in one direction, music blaring, foot to the accelerator and full-speed ahead until I reach my destination. Bladder held, no stops, no distractions, just GO. Five hours later (!!!) I rolled into Portland, giddy energy still bubbling into my throat and checked in to my hotel. Save for the rare out-of-town yoga workshop every few years or so, I don’t travel by myself very often. I had forgotten just how divine it feels to walk into a hotel room, kick off my flip-flops (and whatever other items of clothing I feel like discarding) and belly-flop on the king-size bed. God, it felt good.
I tend to be very pragmatic and practical. I tend to do things that are sensible and rational and level-headed. And these 24 hours were to be an exercise in doing anything but. So I called a taxi to take me to the venue. I felt very fancy. (And just a wee bit tipsy from the gin and tonic.)
Once in the Wonder Ballroom (and really, how could you not have a great time in a place with a name like that?) I immediately relaxed into the dark, musty familiarity of a nightclub. The crowd was eclectic and friendly, the drinks were strong and cheap, the music…oh, the music! Following her three (very entertaining) opening acts, Amanda and The Grand Theft Orchestra took the stage and played for over two and half hours. Her fans adore her and she them. It was a sweaty, bawdy, hilarious, theatrical, poignant, inclusive, loud, and raucous party. We spilled out onto the sidewalk at 1:30 in the morning and I walked the mile or so back to my hotel in downtown Portland.
Let me tell you about Amanda Palmer: Like all of my favorite artists, she is nothing if not provocative. She is, by her own definition, a “piano-slayer, ukulele-freak, singer” in the alternative, punk cabaret genre. That probably doesn’t paint a very clear image for most. Most notably, she recently funded her latest release and current tour from a campaign on Kickstarter.com. Bound and determined not to be packaged and molded and directed into a tidy box by a record label any longer, she appealed to her fans and they responded. In droves. In a mere thirty days, her fans raised over a million dollars to support her art. No small feat for any artist, let alone someone not exactly in the mainstream media. She is at once alluringly feminine in her Victorian bustiers and elbow-length gloves and wonderfully androgynous with her short, messy, red hair and deep, throaty growl. Supremely comfortable in her own skin, she paints a picture of a strong, confident, talented, mature woman who knows no other option than to live her life authentically and honestly. Her songwriting runs the gamut from brilliant metaphor that she conveys with a wink and a crooked grin to heartbreakingly naked emotion-packed piano ballads that leave me weeping as she delivers the final lyrics with a whisper.
At 2:00am on Saturday morning, as I crawled into my supremely comfy, king-sized bed with more pillows than a girl could ever hope for, my only thought was, “I want to be like Amanda Palmer when I grow up.” Well, that and “I’m really glad those thugs in front of the 7-11 didn’t mug me.”
I greeted the morning light still buzzing with that same giddy energy I had been feeling for the past three days. Ordered room service, watched mindless TV in bed, updated my Facebook status. Hopped in my Prius and headed over the Broadway Bridge, meandering through the funky downtown before parking in my old NW Portland neighborhood for a croissant and cafe au lait. Taking my time, strolling leisurely, popping in and out of curious shops and galleries. Whatever piqued my interest, whatever caught my eye, I followed. Bliss. Pure bliss and nonsense. Perfect.
By Saturday evening I was home and by Sunday morning I was already punchy with excitement about the evening to come. I spent the afternoon calculating how I could possibly see Joss Stone with The Mister and then high-tail it to the U-District to catch the end of Amanda’s show. I was certain it could be done. Then, two hours before we were to leave for Seattle, Amanda tweeted that the show had just sold out. My heart dropped to my feet. Damn. Without a ticket in hand, suddenly my plan got more complicated.
Joss Stone put on a great show, complete with a horn section, back-up singers and an opening act that would have made James Brown proud. She is easily ten years Amanda’s junior and what she lacks in age and maturity she makes up for with a voice that only comes from a gift from above. Barefoot and dressed in simple, faded jeans and a modest sparkly tank top, she looked the part of a young hippie chick. She giggled and flirted shamelessly with the guys in the crowd between songs which I began to find somewhat annoying and distracting. And yes, it was great fun to be there sharing it with The Mister, back in our old stomping grounds, doing what had brought us together in the first place. But time was ticking. Amanda had likely started her set by now.
Have I mentioned what a good sport The Mister is?
We arrived at the Neptune Theater shortly after 11:00pm. I could hear the music from the sidewalk and I felt a visceral tug at my heart. I appealed my case to the doorman and he remained resolute that everyone needed a ticket to get in. I tried my sad face, I tried using logic that as people were leaving that certainly created enough space for me to go in, and then I tried my sad face again. I asked a couple college kids who left if I could buy their ticket from them, but they said they thought they might be coming back. Finally, fed up with the cigarette smoke billowing around us, The Mister told me he would be waiting for me in the car. Kinda like a dad. (Except I didn’t say that.) I leaned against the wall, sighing forlornly until finally the doorman cocked his head towards me and said “Okay, I think we can work out a deal.” Immediately, fear struck my in gut because years hanging around the rock n’ roll scene taught me what that was code for. Oh hell no, I thought. I’m someone’s mother now! Cool as a cucumber, though, I nodded knowingly, and said “Mmm-k, just let me know.” I texted The Mister my update that progress was being made. Standby, I wrote. A few minutes passed and the doorman cocked his head again and says “So, if you’d like to make a donation…” and patted his pocket on the far side of the door. Again, I nodded knowingly and quickly ducked behind the venue wall to furiously rifle through my wallet, looking for cash. Bills in hand and haphazardly folded, I waited until I got the “sign” from my friend the doorman, smoothly made my donation, and slipped in the door.
Exuberant and exhilarated. Nothing sensible about it. Comfort zone met and exceeded! And was it worth it?
Oh hell yes.
Arriving in time to see the last song or two before her encore, I seamlessly slid into the crowd, tickled beyond belief that I was there. She is not an artist who performs the same show night after night, so it was as if I was seeing her again for the very first time. She and her bandmates escaped to the balcony of the vintage theater, with only a banjo and megaphone to perform the first song of their encore, the crowd providing the rhythm and singing along with the chorus as if it was Handel’s Messiah on Christmas Eve. It was sublime and sensational and full of nonsense. A magical elixir of a performance.
Twenty-four hours of adventure had morphed into 72-hours of creative, outside-the-comfort-zone inspiration. It was just what I needed.
I’ve always believed that each of us should wrap ourselves within a community of people we trust who think We Can. We all need friends around us who notice when we’ve faded away, when our shine has dulled, and ask us what’s going on. But now I believe in something even more. Cultivate those relationships with people who not only believe in us, but insist and demand the very best and biggest from us. Those people who see our dreams and our gifts and won’t take “no” for an answer. They are the ones who are sometimes annoying and persistent and hard to ignore and almost always right. They don’t simply think We Can…they insist that We Do.
And that’s what got me here.
I am infinitely blessed to have friends and family around me who know and support my dreams, my best and brightest self. Those folks who give me nudge after nudge and then finally an important and timely swift kick in the ass when I need it. I hope I do the same for them. Sadly, Amanda Palmer may not have actually moved in with us, as The Mister mentioned the Monday after, but she models for me what not settling looks like. Life gets hard, life gets messy, life gets complicated, and we don’t have time to feed our soul, our passions, to do what we know is right and important. Too bad. Do it anyway. Insist on it.
Stop making so much damn sense and start living fully, no apologies needed.
Then let me know how it goes.