It’s been a while since I wrote any blog posts, but last week was pretty special and I didn’t want to let it go without scribbling a few things about it.
I went to see Amanda Palmer in three different gigs last week. I didn’t realise I was such a huge fan of hers before. I mean I quite liked her music and her antics, but I have never been to more than one concert of any artist within a few days. I joke about being a fanboy when it comes to comics, but I secretly worry about being REALLY identified as a fanboy. I pretend that it’s ironic, but in fact it is not (and those close to me probably know that). Being an academic, I was taught to distance myself from and be objective about any text. Being a big, bearded, stoic looking kind of fellow, I don’t show much excitement about anything (or so I’m told).
I was, however, quite excited about seeing Amanda Palmer live at the Sydney Opera House, and then at a private gig at Karina C’s house in Prestons, NSW and then at a ninja gig at Carriageworks in Redfern.
I found out about Sydney Opera House gig when I was in Turkey in November (I’ll write another post about that and other things). I immediately bought tickets for me and Helena. Around the same time, I also bought tickets for the Big Day Out, impressed by the line up (Rammstein, Tool, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Deftones, Grinderman etc). As these events came closer, I saw on twitter that someone was trying to organise a bundle gig. This was no other than Karina (as mentioned by Amanda Palmer in her recent blog post), who – we were to find out – excelled in organisational skills and was kind enough to offer her house as the place of the gig. I wanted to go… I wanted to go so badly! This was when I realized I’m more of a fan than I knew.
So I tweeted Karina and said I was interested. Later on, Helena decided she wanted to go as well – also realizing she is quite a fan herself!
On Australia Day, we went to the Sydney Opera House. The stage was divided into two – Bogans vs Artfags – featuring props like a BBQ, bush, an esky, several “artsy” punk cabaret costumes, and AFP’s name written with VB cartons. The Jane Austen Argument, a duo from Melbourne, opened the gig, followed by Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen – who were a joy to listen to and watch with their spectacular stage show and theatricality. They also played with Amanda on several songs, and totally killed it! I want to see them live in their own show, the first chance I get.
Amanda was pretty fabulous, sporting the Union Jack around her waist, with the Southern Cross – allegedly – drawn on her face. She sang Missed Me, and molested defenseless men (who she made sure were single). She sang songs from WKAP, the Dresden Dolls, and did covers from Nick Cave and Tom Waits. Apparently, she accidentally skipped some of the songs on her set list. She didn’t play “Australia”, which would be the obvious choice to close, considering it was Australia Day. But noone (well, not many people) seemed to notice any problems on stage. It looked chaotic but sincere and entertaining, with a lot of VB drinking (and cursing), Vegemite sandwiches and BBQ sausages. Neil Gaiman also appeared on stage, and read a piece from the Who Killed Amanda Palmer Book, a poem about Megafauna and Australia Day, and a love poem for his lovely wife (from which the line “She fucks like wild cats” seems to be the one that stuck with me most). They closed with “Map of Tasmania”, with Kim Boekbinder rapping, The Jane Austen Argument and some gogo dancers dancing, followed by “Oasis”, and closed with “Ship Song”.
It was one of the best shows I have ever been to.
On Friday (after spending the day at the Big Day Out, watching Deftones, Iggy Pop, Rammstein, Tool and Grinderman the day before), we set out to the other side of Sydney, for Karina’s AFP backyard gig/BBQ gig/picnic gig/AFP in the burbs, whatever you want to call it. On our way, we joked (half seriously) about the possibility of this being a scam, and several organ theft scenarios flew in the air. But of course, it was all good. Karina’s father picked us up from the station. We arrived at Karina and her parents’ beautiful house. They had prepared lots of delicious food, which we helped ourselves to, mingling with the other folks who were there to share this unique experience. Amanda appeared with her tour manager Eric and Kim Boekbinder (a last minute surprise). We had dinner first, and chatted. Amanda sat between me and Helena, and of course I couldn’t say anything (I hadn’t even drunk one bottle of beer yet!), so thankfully Helena did all the talking, while I sat there being anxious and nervously drank my beer.
Photos by Helena
Kim Boekbinder played some of her songs, like the Impossible Girl (while we helped her with the rhythm through our infallible clapping) and The Organ Donor’s March. (Her music is definitely worth checking out, and her album can be downloaded from her website.) Then Amanda Palmer got on “the stage” and played some of the songs she didn’t play the day before, and asked if we had any requests – as she didn’t have a setlist (surprise, surprise!). I requested the Double Rainbow song, and she played it to general laughter and joy. It’s one of Helena’s (and my) favourite songs, and we had enjoyed listening to it from Amanda Palmer in one of her webcasts. Helena recorded it, and once we have a decent internet connection, we will put it online.
Photos by Helena
I can talk about the music further. I can talk about how I, surprising myself by being a total fanboy, went to Amanda’s ninja gig at Carriageworks the next day, still craving more after two nights of AFP brilliance; how she played “Should I Stay or Should I Go” with a ukulele, formed the world’s first ukulele moshpit, and crowdsurfed as she kept striking the chords. I can talk about how she finished the ninja gig with “Creep”, how it was one of the most joyfully melancholic moments, as we all sang together, and one dude next to me was about to die laughing to the idea of a ukulele cover of the Radiohead classic, and sang “I’m a freak! I’m a weirdo”. But at the end of the day, it’s not just about music. After all, anyone can play guitar – or ukulele for that matter.
It’s about something else.
In everything Amanda does, she inspires people, she makes them want to create things, channel their energies into further inspirational stuff. Most of all, she has an amazing quality to make people happy – even when she is talking/singing about sad things. It becomes about smiles and laughter, and sharing that moment with her and others.
The woman, dear readers (if there is actually anyone reading), is A PHONOMANCER!
She creates magic through her music, and through her whole being. She serves the Punk Cabaret Goddess, recruiting more followers on her behalf – hell! maybe even becoming a demi-goddess herself in the process. And that is why I cannot help being her fan. She casts some powerful magic!
The Wonderful Marianne Wilson captures Amanda’s magic on her camera. Check out her photography at http://mankissingbird.com/
(Her photographs are also featured in the Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under CD booklet, which she signed for us!)
At the end of the backyard gig, we got to get stuff signed by Amanda and get our pictures taken with her. I had brought my ukulele, which I had bought three years ago to learn to play some Beirut songs, and I asked her if she could tune it for me. She did so, and said if I play it it will probably be out of tune again very soon (it’s not a very good one). She signed the ukulele, and the Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under CD for me and Helena. (We made some good friends that night, and we have been in touch since then).
Group photo by Karina’s brother Todd. I can be seen holding my ukulele.
Before we left, I gave Amanda a hug and told her I loved her husband, and that she should give my love to him. She looked at my t-shirt (Scrötumpunk) and said “Which Warren Ellis is this?”
“The comic writer one. I love him, too. You should give him my love, as well.”
“I’m so full of love.”
We said our goodbyes and Karina’s father gave a bunch of us a lift to the train station, and we took a one-hour train ride back to the city, chatting happily (me mostly being drunk and quiet).
And I realized I didn’t tell Amanda Palmer I loved her, too…
This just made my day! Thanks Amanda!
PS: Once again, thank you to Karina C, her family, and everyone who was at the backyard gig. That was special…
PPS: If you want to organise an AFP backyard gig, I strongly recommend reading Karina’s blog post about how she organised it.
PPPS: Read Phonogram by by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie – you’ll love it even if you’re not into comics, but love music.