Yesterday I went to Amanda Palmer’s Sydney concert, at incredibly short notice, with a random person I’d never met and never known the existence of until late Thursday night.
It was one of the most amazing nights of my life.
I got to Newtown and walked past the lines of people at the Enmore to find Xanthea in a collective bookstore-slash-$2-wine-store called the Black Rose Anarchist Library, absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t find her, and almost immediately spotted someone I really hoped was her. Fortunately, it was.
We walked up to the Enmore, talking, and talked in line and talked while we waited for the show to get started. She’s a fascinating 22 year old musician/uni student/living statue/newbie booking agent from Perth, and she arranged the Perth houseparty. She was so nice and welcoming to me and I’m so glad she’s the one who had a spare ticket and that she didn’t mind giving it to me.
Xanthea had brought a bunch of daisies, and as we waited for more people to arrive we split the bunch and walked around giving people flowers, telling them to throw them at Amanda when she came on stage. Everyone seemed a little surprised but very happy to accept them, and soon there were pretty white flowers adorning many people’s hair. It lent a lovely sense of fellowship to the concert, seeing people with daisies and knowing you had one too and that you both loved Amanda. I’m definitely planning on stealing the idea for myself next time I go to one of Amanda’s shows.
Then the show started, and everything got even better.
Amanda came out, in her lovely kimono (I wonder where she gets those? I want one.) and a crown of roses, to offer a few lucky people donuts and flowers, and to introduce Die Roten Punkte, a dynamic duo of ‘German siblings’ calling themselves Astrid and Otto. I didn’t think they’d be that good, to be honest, but they surprised me: I didn’t love their music and I probably wouldn’t buy it, if only because I don’t particularly enjoy electro-pop, but their interaction with the audience and with each other was quite hilarious – they certainly know how to engage people.
Of course, my favourite song was their most popular: Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I Am A Lion), partially because it was the only one I’d heard before, but mostly because the Grand Theft Orchestra and Amanda herself – dressed in a black camisole type garment – came out to dance with the Red Dots (I can’t help but translate it in my head). Watching their choreographed robot dancing, with Astrid, Amanda, Chad and Otto, was fantastic and I’m pretty sure everyone felt the same way, judging from the atmosphere.
Then Jherek, by far the most dapper member of the band, played some awesome solo bass, and a haunting ukulele composition which he assured us sounds even better when being played by the best quartet in the world, which is who the song was written on the behalf of. I’d already heard both songs but they’re great enough that I didn’t mind. Amanda came out dressed in her lovely Versace suit (from Mo-mo’s in Perth) to introduce Jherek, which I greatly appreciated just because she looks kickass in her suit and especially beside Jherek in his tux.
And finally, Amanda Palmer herself came out to play to us.
Cue joy and thunderous applause.
First we had “Do It With A Rockstar” and she launched right into crowdsurfing – embarrassingly, we basically dropped her and so she walked through the crowd for a fair part of it. Fortunately, our first attempts didn’t deter her from trying again – she crowdsurfed so much, and I love her for it, because it was frigging amazing.
I’m not entirely sure about the setlist anymore, but we had The Killing Type and then Missed Me, which were obviously excellent. She also played Want It Back and Lost, but even though it wasn’t one of her songs, when she played Here We Are Now, Entertain Us was one of the best moments of the night. She crowdsurfed and I held her aloft, along with many others, as she kicked and convulsed wildly, singing and screaming the lyrics, a single living entity reflecting the entire crowd. Everyone’s hands were raised as we hoped desperately to be in the right place to snatch at a booted foot, a silver-clad leg, the sparkling gems of her belt, the stiff black material of her corset, or her actual flesh. At one point I held up her head, though I feel like I managed to hold up every other part of her at some point as well. Her hair is very soft.
She hugged the audience and wrapped her arms around them, and one girl beside me was lucky enough to bow heads with her, a moment of shared communion among the wild ruckus. She held my hand for a few moments, and then was gone, into the depths of the pulsing audience.
It was like some kind of dream, to actually be holding her, touching her. I mean, I actually have before – at the Paris show – but it’s still just as amazing as the first time. The crowd was hot and the music was loud and I found myself both hating it all – the sound and the scent of sweat and the overly close quarters – but being so thrilled to be by Amanda Palmer that it was OK, that I could somehow appreciate the messy tumult of humanity instead of resent it.
She played The Bed Song and then offered us a choice between a long, depressing ukulele song and a short, silly one. I suspected the long one was Bigger on the Inside, which I love, but most people wanted the short one and I am glad we got to hear it: Gaga, Palmer, Madonna because it was, you know, great.
Her friend from the Cloud Club in Boston, Mali Sastri, also played a song by her band Jaggery called 7 stone. She was really great, but I hate not knowing the lyrics to a song: I’m just awful at deciphering what the words are all by myself and I can’t appreciate a song as much if I don’t know the words.
At one point, Amanda also brought out Honi Soit – specifically, four of the girls behind the Vagina Soit edition of the magazine. I’d already read all about it so it wasn’t hugely interesting but I respect Amanda so much for bothering to include them, for caring about feminism even if it’s not her mission statement, for being an all-round decent human being.
She played Common People, which was fantastic now that I knew the lyrics a bit, and a lovely song by another friend of hers which features the very simple words “I love you so much.”
(If ever there was a posterboy for simple but effective, that would be it.)
The crowd was singing along, and she asked us to find someone and hug them. Xanthea hugged the girl who had previously had the moment of communion with Amanda, and I looked cautiously around for someone but ultimately held back. I guess it goes to show that even on a night like that we stay the same person. I’m not so much shy as scared of contact with other human beings.
I did hug Xanthea, multiple times, and it was freaking lovely that it was hardly awkward, at least not after the very first time. I think it’s the first time in my life that I’ve hugged someone other than my mother or father and not found it unbearably awkward – not because I don’t love my friends and extended family, but because of what I’ve mostly assumed is my natural reserve.
Also, I asked Amanda for a hug. It was across a table, but holy crap it was wonderful. Have I mentioned I love that woman?
Amanda also crowdsurfed with her beautiful custom jacket on. I have to say, that was pretty damn inspiring – firstly holding Amanda up and then being covered in this gauzy fabric, and finding myself in a little tent of other fans, all rapturously happy judging by the looks on their faces, but cut off from the screaming masses.
At some point, Chad launched himself into the crowd but quickly got sent back to stage, I think because the security didn’t like having him out there. I noticed that I like Chad a lot more than I used to – I thought he was rather annoyingly hooliganlike before, but considering he’s kind of a minor rockstar, and people aren’t perfect, I don’t mind as much. It’s a little hard for my deafult-conservative mind to remember sometimes, that’s all.
Towards the very end, Amanda called all her support acts out to play one fantastic song together, and it was Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). Everyone joined in, singing in unison or in little duets, and generally rocking out. It was brilliant.
Also, when Amanda played Leeds United, the dancing up on stage – especially by Mali – was wild and wonderful and I loved everyone up there at that moment.
Eventually, all the mad, wild music was over, and we trudged through the leaf-and-litter covered carpet up to the merch tables, to wait in line. I was so thirsty, but thankfully there was free icy cold water, which was a blessing. I got a poster – now I have the T-shirt from the Europe tour and the poster from the Australian tour. Joy.
Then Xanthea and I were waiting for signing – Chad failed to appear, but Thor and Jherek were happy to sign my poster for me. I had taken the precaution of writing my name out on my phone so that he could spell it easily, which proved quite useful. Also, it turns out Jherek says “Woah!” a lot. After signing mine, he turned to Xanthea, whose name is obviously equally unusual, and she too apologised for the odd name. But he kindly reminded us that he can hardly complain – Jherek isn’t exactly common, either. There was a splendid little moment of slight solidarity, and now I’m even more sure than before that Jherek is fabulous.
The last part of the night was in some ways the best – the hug from Amanda after she signed my poster, with a lovely massive looping signature in Sharpie. It’s funny that something so inconsequential means so much, but I guess that’s true about a lot of things in life.
I left Amanda, feeling both on top of the world and also like one tiny insignificant little person among a million others, and thanked Xanthea profusely once again, and hugged her goodbye, and went away. Although throughout the show, I wasn’t always just plain, pure happy – there were too many little things bothering me, like how come I can’t dance properly and why did I wear these shoes and I wish I didn’t have such issues with jealousy and I wish I could make beautiful art like this, why can’t I? – but the night was so freaking magnificent and just truly, deeply, overwhelmingly extraordinary, it didn’t matter so much, for once.
Amanda Palmer remains my hero, and idol. I do love the Bloggess as well, but it’s a different kind of love: Amanda is more glamorous and less hilarious, more purely emotional rather than rational, and I feel so happy that my idol is someone so wonderful. Stupid, maybe, because obviously everyone thinks their idol is wonderful – that’s the whole point. But she truly is an inspiration, as well as a reminder of love and goodness and mad, magical experiences.