This time I had three more days of work. My second day back we had a two and a half hour collective meeting off site, and were due for a happy hour after. The only thing was, at 11 am, when I checked my Twitter Feed, my eye caught on Amanda Palmer’s post.
Immediately I wanted to drop and rearrange all my plans. I couldn’t go to this work happy hour, I HAD TO SEE Amanda Palmer! For context, I’d like to backtrack to when I was fifteen. At the time I was a bit of a loner in high school who clung to what little social activity I could with the art and theater kids. At gym I hung around two alternative theater girls who seemed plugged into the music scene beyond the mainstream and American Idol exposure I was used to. They liked bands and albums like “Elevator” by Hot Hot Heat, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” by My Chemical Romance, and the self-titled album Dresden Dolls. I had my mom take me to Target and bought them all. Upon hearing these albums, especially the Dresden Dolls, I finally felt like someone understood and catered to my “out there” personality. Someone finally produced art for the sake of art and created something truly unique that spoke to all the afflicted parts of my soul. There was only one problem. I was fifteen. And even though in retrospect, I realize thirty dollars is not a lot of money, at the time, I couldn’t even afford to get a ticket. Since I wasn’t that familiar with the city (I lived in the burbs), I’d have to get a ride from my mom or my friend. One time, Lindsay and I finally tried to coordinate to see the Dresden Dolls, but it was already sold out.
“Don’t worry,” Lindsay told me. “We can see them another time.”
It was too late. By the time I turned eighteen and truly thought I could afford it, the Dresden Dolls had broken up. I had missed my chance because I believed those words, I felt. I was truly mad at myself.
So you can imagine my glee and surprise when I finally saw Amanda’s tweet.
Since the band had broken up, I had only kept up with “Who Killed Amanda Palmer,” and certain aspects of Amanda’s life from time to time. I was thrilled when I heard that she married my favorite author Neil Gaiman, and they officially became my favorite celebrity couple. What were the odds that my two favorite people met and got married? I saw on Buzzfeed that she’d become pregnant, and that was amazing too. I had not really followed her later albums aside from a couple of singles. Lindsay linked me an article that said the Dresden Dolls had reunited briefly for a ninja gig in Boston, and I felt a quick flame of envy. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I live in Boston?
“Don’t worry,” Lindsay said. “They’ll come to Chicago. It’s a big city. They can’t miss it.”
Where had I heard that one before? I wondered. I had become pessimistic too soon. But from that moment I kept an eye out. An even stranger coincidence occurred that same week when I rode up to Evansville to meet a friend for a reunion in Heartland Cafe. I hadn’t been since February. Since I got there half an hour before she did, I scoped the shop. My eye was immediately drawn to Origin Magazine, with who but Amanda Fucking Palmer on the cover. I flipped the pages hunting for the article, and started reading it. I deliberated. Should I just read the article and put the magazine back? I felt Amanda judging me. She would want me to support the magazine. But more importantly than that, I knew that I wanted to take the time to read the article and take notes on it. I knew what she had to say would be valuable to me. I scanned some of the other interviews, and found that in general the magazine had a very uplifting feel. When I looked back at the price of six dollars, I knew I was sold. I sat in the cafe, read and took notes while I was waiting for my friend. I finished reading it on the ride back. For eons I had been waiting to have something “worthy” to say to Amanda Palmer. As much as I wanted to tweet fanatically at her every day, I really wanted to save that @amandapalmer tweet for something special. I knew this was it. Her interview meant so much to me–that even someone as amazing as her could face negative attention, even she had hard days, but she chose to focus her energy on the light and the people that loved her. That women who were big in their industry were attacked at all angles, because a powerful woman is threatening. I realized more than ever that if I wanted to be an artist, I would have to be willing to endure that. And I was. Aside from grade school bullying, I don’t actually know what it’s like of course, but I am not afraid of the idea of it. If my art truly matters to be, I can’t be afraid of what anyone says about it, no matter what. I just have to have the confidence to keep creating, and focus on the people who love what I do. I couldn’t say all that in 140 characters, but I did my best. I told her it meant a lot to me, hearing her perspective as a woman getting into the arts. She “RT”ed @ me and I felt like my life was made! It was for that reason that I ended up reading her feed more avidly. It was for that reason that I saw her tweet, dropped everything, and invited Lindsay and everyone I could to go. It was for that reason that after our meeting ran late, I went to the happy hour for a half hour before Lindsay called me and yelled at me to GO NOW to stand in line for Amanda’s concert. She didn’t have to tell me twice.
“I’m giving our zine to Amanda Palmer. Do you hear me? I’m giving her our zine.”
My heart pounded. I wanted to scream. Lindsay had been preparing for the Chicago zine fest and just finished printing them out the day before the fest, on Thursday. She “stole” Mike’s car and high hitched over to Chicago. I bailed in the meanwhile and rode up to Lincoln. When I got in line I was shaking. I kept talking to people ahead of me to reassure myself, since I found out after the reserved tickets sold out. One guy gave me the address to the after party as consolation. I had to get in–right? I had been waiting for this moment my whole life. If I got turned away now, I would cry. Lindsay reminded me it wasn’t likely we would get another chance, at least for a while, given that Amanda was pregnant. So I was rubbing my hands and crossing my fingers and talking to the guy ahead of me the whole time. We were both anxiously awaiting our friends who were running late. We talked about art and essays and “real careers” and everything in between. When the lady came down the line and handed out wristbands, I wanted to cry in sheer joy. Josh (the guy in front of me) and I celebrated. We even got filmed by Amanda’s crew, asked about what it was like to get in finally. Not ten minutes before the line started moving and the doors would close, Lindsay finally arrived. We were worried she was too late, but she did end up getting one. The film crew was asking everyone if they got tickets, saying Amanda was really worried everyone wouldn’t be able to get in. I was touched by that statement. In the end, everyone did get in, even Josh’s friend who came in at the last minute.
The show was at “The Old School of Town Folk,” a nonprofit to teach kids and people music. It was a very nice venue with theater seats circled around the center stage. We landed good seats in the third row up center. Lindsay and I chatted excitedly, took photos, and kept hugging another. When Amanda finally reached the stage, it was surreal. She came in singing a charming ukulele song I had never heard before off the “Australia” album called “In my Mind.” She was very personable, asking for our requests, talking to us about how her perspective on her music changed when she became pregnant and how very strange it was to sing about abortion when she was pregnant. She told us stories about her time in Australia. She even took an hour poetry break reading with Maria Popova from Wislawa Szymborska’s “Map: Collected and Last Poems.” Maria and Amanda’s favorite line, as well as mine, was: “Ill-prepared for the privilege of living.” Beautiful. Amanda read a poem of her own during her struggles with the pregnancy, and comparing her struggle to those lost in the Germanwings plane crash in March 2015. What struck me most was the women’s friendship and close interaction. They were like two powerhouses on stage. I later found out Maria had interviewed Amanda on “The Art of Asking.” It wasn’t until this concert that I even found out Amanda had been on Ted Talk, even though I knew she’d come out with the book. We had time for a few more songs at the end before wrapping things up. Lindsay and I of course were revved to go to the after party.
We brought the two friends we’d made, Josh and Orion, to the after party. It was out of the way, and in a questionable area. But as soon as we got in to the Catalyst Studios, we were amazed. The setting was once again surreal, with an art sculpture set up in the living room, a minibar, a buffalo head and couch, and a string of people lining the halls along the way. But no Amanda Palmer. We wandered into what looked like a ballerina studio where we anticipated the after party would be. When Amanda did finally arrive, she sat at the piano and we all crowded around her. What proceeded was an intimate, very casual setting. Amanda seemed relaxed and unwinded, as though she’d kicked off her shoes finally at the end of the day. She opened up to us, taking requests again and taking Q & A sessions in between, calling on different people with their hands raised. Someone blew bubbles, while some of the girls harmonized and sang along with Amanda. A girl played ukulele alongside her. A cat even interrupted and took the limelight away for a while. I was in awe. This was what I had always wanted. I read that Amanda created settings like this, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be one of the people who got to enjoy her company. After reading her interview in Origin magazine though, it finally clicked for me. Why not me? Why not us? Lindsay and I waited in line to see her at the end. I had to hug Amanda of course, though I realized a little late that she had no prior context of me, so it must have been a little strange for her. Still, I appreciated the gesture and told her I was the one who had read the interview and commented. Her camera man, who had asked me earlier what it felt like to get into the concert chimed in and said “she must have seen you on the help line.” Lindsay handed Amanda our zine as well as her own zine on “Elsewhere.” Amanda said she would read them that night! I am not sure if she did, but even that was enough to thrill me. I could not believe she could ever possibly read something of mine unless I’d made it big and was published. Yet here I was, 25 years old at an after party with little to my name but a college publication and a paragraph on Matador Network, and there was my friend handing Amanda Palmer our zine. It was amazing to me, and I couldn’t have been happier that she was willing to give it a chance simply because we were her fans.