This particular adventure started for me last April on the drive home after the house party in Portland. I realized as I left that if I had the chance to have that experience, or something like it again, I needed to take it. Meeting other Amanda Palmer fans and talking with Amanda is like a balm that calms the frayed nerve endings from struggling to be yourself in this crazy world. At least, for me it is. It’s a bit like being home, which this week, I needed. People are happy to see you, they give hugs freely and laugh at your jokes (because they actually get them no matter how geeky they are). So I did a bit of googling and emailed Neil (our host, not Amanda’s husband) to see if there was a chance I could be a part of their group in Brisbane.
Fast forward five months and I’m stepping out of the YHA and into the car with Ellen and her mom whom I’ve only ever spoken to on Facebook to drive to the next town over to a house I’ve never been to with people I’ve never met. She puts Theatre is Evil on the radio and we’re off. We got to Neil’s a bit early and helped with set up as more guests arrived. Conversation was easy, we all had at least one common interest and conversation started there : how did you discover Amanda Palmer. It was great to see that we had everyone from old Dresden Dolls fans to people who had only discovered her more recently. We chatted and laughed and even had in-jokes by the time the last few guests arrived.
Amanda arrived and began passing out hugs and saying hello. She hugged me, telling me I smelled nice (take that 4 weeks of travel) moving on to the next person, asking their name, then looked back at me ‘what’s your name?’ I laughed. ‘Monica, Portland house party’. ‘right! you’re out of context. what are you doing here?’ And so I explained how my trip happened to be when she rescheduled her tour, and the Brisbane show was on my birthday… so I decided I needed to come see Brisbane. A little later a few of my new friends tried to convince her to sing me happy birthday at the show on Thursday. All I’ll say is, we’ll see what happens. But more than that, the fact that there is a second house party came up. I immediately asked if anyone knew the person in charge and maybe I could reach out and see if they had room. Amanda said she would text the lady and ask. An hour later, I scrounged a piece of paper from my bag so Amanda could write down the address. I kissed her thank you. There are no words to describe how I feel about this, joy and excitement don’t come close. There aren’t many artists who would do this kind of thing for a fan. There are a lot of people that wouldn’t do it period. So for her to make that gesture, for me, on my birthday, something so kind, human and real is huge. That we get to see her as a person, as she is, as well as experience her art is something that I am very grateful for.
We wandered down from the large deck onto the lawn lit by candles and fairy lights and sat on blankets on the grass underneath the stars around an old upright piano. For the first time in a gig I was at & where she was taking requests there was a piano. One of my favorite songs of hers needs piano, and I’ve never heard her play it live. So when she asked for requests Sing was the first thing out of my mouth. She played for a series of requests and I sat there with the others, and a girl named Tegan and I leaned on each other, just taking in the moment, listening to Amanda and watching the stars, and enjoying a new friendship. (for the record I think she played: Sing, Blake Says, Gaga Palmer Madonna, Map of Tasmania, Creep, and The Thing About Things). It’s amazing what things make us feel most comfortable, most alive. After she was done playing we all turned off the lights and wandered down to the lower yard away from the candles to stare up at the stars.
Somewhere in there between the songs around the time she sang Gaga, Palmer, Madonna we launched into a huge discussion about Miley Cyrus, her VMA performance and whether we really would have felt the same way about it if she hadn’t been a disney starlet. If she’d been any other young-twenty-something musician in the pop music scene, would we have batted an eye? Probably not. But circumstance has it that we do, because she was a young star and we don’t like to think of people growing older because maybe that means we’re getting older too.
A group of us huddled together and stared at the vastness of the milky way. Contemplating the stars, to me they seemed all at once foreign and familiar. The people around me were at once almost strangers, new friends and people who resonated with something deep inside of me. Earlier in the day I could feel the weight of the long trip pressing in on me, making me homesick in a way that only happens when you’re alone. There with those people that I’d only really just met and Amanda, who has never been anything but kind and real to me and whose work I admire, there in a strange place far from home, homesick, I felt at ease. That I was where I needed to be.
Back up near the fire we huddled for warmth as Amanda signed ukuleles and a Map of Tasmania themed cake was brought out. One of the guests turned out to be an amazing artist and drew two gorgeous portraits of Amanda (I wish I had pictures of them). We all talked into the night just enjoying the company until it was time to leave, say goodbye. Tegan gave Ellen and I a ride back to our hotel, all of us full of feelings and experiences of a lifetime.
Except it’s never really goodbye is it? We can keep in contact, reach out and hope that someday we get to see each other in the flesh again. The internet is wondrous for that. To my new friends, thank you for bringing me back to me last night even if you have no idea that’s what you did.
update: check out my awesome new friend Tegan’s blog about it as it was her first time meeting Amanda!