sitting in the Again Cafe of Nashville: the cafe coco, open 24 hours, playing hits of the eighties and making my life bright. before bonnaroo i waited for doni from trail of dead to show up here for two hours. i was so tired i fell asleep under a table in one of the smaller rooms. the cafe coco has a front and back yard, a huge porch and some tacky statues. it was here that i filmed the first (though it wound up on the cutting room floor) footage for the kaiser chiefs' video i made at bonnaroo. i put the tennis ball on the head of this madonna-like statue wrapped in christmas lights. it looked beautiful, all blinky.
i've been feeling this strange reluctance to blog lately. it's typical, there's just too much happening and i feel like i have to write something poetic and profound. fuckkit
i've had this one sitting in my outbox for about a month, i wrote it during the aussie tour and just didn't post it for reasons probably having to do with laziness, as it probably needed editing. now it doesn't need editing: it's "archival":
(approx sept 17th)
we had our first shit show of the tour last night in melbourne.
yet shit show is relative.
there are certain nights when enough things conspire against you to make you want to just give up...pull a diva and flounce off stage in a flurry of kimonos saying (in a very high-pitched italian accent) I CANNOT VORK VEES ZEEEZZ CRAPPPP!!!!!!!!!!
we've been renting keyboards on this entire tour and this was the first night the company we were renting from didn't have a kurzweil. the control buttons of the kleyboard were much closer to the actual keys, so at the beginning of the set i immediately started alternately accidentally hitting the patch-change buttons (causing some interesting slap-bass, wind-chime and clavinova sounds to take the place of the piano during "sex changes"), knocking the the volume knob to zero by accident (causing a very noticable silence and accidental drum solo, and causing many running-around-stage-techs wondering why the keyboard had gone away) and accidentally hitting the instant-super-turbo-reverb button (making the piano sound like all my bloody valentine's releases were being played simultaneoulsly). this was all just in the first 5 minutes of the show. add to that the two keys that instantly broke, and the gerbil-being-strangled persistant pitch that was coursing through the monitors due to some sort of magnetic field/aussie-alien invasion problem, and i knew this was going to be a shit show. i also realised that this was the show that had been ADDED in melbourne after the first one sold out, so we didn't have our ueber-forgiving, hard-core fanbase. most of the audeince had never seen us. and they were seeing a shit show. however.
i know, from road experience, that a shit show doesn't exist. one can just use these technical difficulties as fuel for one's emotional fire, bare all warts and hope that the audience will love you for your vulnerable & honest self. i was also tired as shit, after almost five straight days of flying every morning and never getting a full nights rest. i was asleep an hour before we hit stage. peeling myself out of bed was almost impossible. peeling brian out of bed WAS impossible. we were downstairs in the lobby of our hotel, ten minutes late for our ride to the club, wondering where he was. we called his room. we banged on the door. no answer. ultimately we had to get the porter to unlock his door and we all barged in and found him passed out in with the kind of oblivion that i believe is usually reserved for the dead. we were tired. we've been tired every show of this fucking tour, since we got here. somebody told me that jetlag realistically takes one day for every hour. i buy it. in this case, we'll be almost caught up by the time we fucking fly home.
i was watching my head during the show last night.
when things are particularly bad or frustrating, i tend to let go more. and by let go, i don't mean try less. i don't mean try harder. i think i simply mean i let things show more. i figure that if the audience knows what a terrible time you're having on stage, that you're actively wrestling demons as they look on, they might see more. appreciate more. care more? i don't know.
i watch this happen with my voice. true to form and raining and pouring, my voice also crapped out about halfway through the set (probably due to the lack of sleep and warming up, but add in the overcompensation for the shitty piano and you've got a winning combination). once is really goes, i let it. i try to keep it in the neighbourhood of what pitch it's supposed to be hitting, but otherwise i let it do what it wants. trying to make it sound pretty, or powerful, when i know i'm just doing more damage can be impossible. but i trust people to hear it for what it is. it's a trick. "i am in pain tonight and too tired to be playing a rock show for you" my little voice seems to croak "maybe for this reason you will take pity on me and hear my songs with a very sympathetic human ear". i think it probably hit people differently. one person may simply say "wow, the bitch can't sing. i want my money back." one person may say "wow. real." i also watch my flights of fancy as i listen to what sometimes amounts to little more than a croaking shadow of my usual voice. i usually start thinking about who is out there. our label reps. the promoters. the crew. some very childish part of me still hangs on to the naive fantasy that once people hear whats happening to me, sometimes night after night, even though I've made these decisions myself, even though I approved the adding of a second show in melbourne when we should've taken a day off to rest, even though things are thoroughly and utterly Under My Control....that they will magically see the error of the way we're/they're leading our life and run at breakneck speed to the closest phone booth and Call God, screaming "don't you see what's HAPPENING?.....sir, this is an OUTRAGE!" or more realistically, pick up their cell phones and call...who?....our agents? our manager? isn't there someone actually dedicated to organizing and caring about these things meticulously, who can stop me from overworking, who knows me better than myself? shouldn't someone be taking copious notes and making sure we do this right? this fantasy just won't go away no matter how much reality i face.
the reality is that there is no reality. the reality is that i make random decisions and sometimes they work. and often they don't. and that i'm usually way more interested in pleasing other people and appearing to be a hard worker than i am in my own health or art. nobody else actually looks out for that, nor should they. my fantasy entourage is never going to bust through the door and say "amanda, we've decided, from your peaked complexion and ragged voice that you need to take a nap this afternoon instead of doing press. we've cancelled all but one key interview. here's a cup of tea and some water. now go to sleep." nobody gets this kind of treatment. even madonna and britney-level pop stars have an entourage of specialized people...who need to get their own jobs done. i don't htink any of them have a mental and physical health professional onboard 24/7 who has the magic power to veto everybody else's decisions. nobody on the planet needs to give a shit about that but me and my few close friends (who are, probably very thankfully, never on tour with me), who have been warning me for a few years now to get off the rock hamster wheel lest it all end in tears. and, poetically, the sympathetic and distant readers of this journal. often when i read the comments on here i just feel like i'm reading one big terrible amanda-pity-party. but whatever, i'm not here to make anybody's fucking day. i'm here, for the moment, to bitch and complain. now i feel better. and maybe you feel better. and now we all love and understand each other's pain. now it's a love-fest. see how easy?
the last few weeks, since europe, have been a pretty uneventful blur of shows and airports. i've collected six decent memories since leeds, which is a stunningly good average. one (1) was sitting and drawing in a cafe in berlin the morning of our show. it was a perfect place to sit for three hours (cafe schwarz sauer, for you berliners, in kreuzberg...or was it prenzlauerberg?). two (2) was playing with my musical hero, edward ka-spel, in germany. i think i'll have to address that separately at some point. it was too overwhelming to go into right now. three (3) was walking on the beach in new zealand with ashley, who was kind enough to borrow his friend's car and drive me out to kare kare to the tall cliffs and the black sands and the little shells which i am keeping in a coffee cup stuffed with kleenex. four (4) was playing with ben folds, although it wasn't the actual playing that was the moment. it was the meeting him and knowing that he's one of the few people on the planet equipped to understand the sorts of things that i constantly think about. he's an ally. five (5) was finally seeing my friend glenn in brisbane and riding on his motorcycle out to his new house in the middle of the woods and seeing a goat and eating an egg-and-avacado sandwich while glenn played me the new go-bewteens CD. six (6) was watching the zen zen zo butoh theater perform at our show that night in brisbane. they covered the stage, all nearly-naked and real, and had another 8 actors out in the audience. the crowd sat down on the sticky club floor and the actors performed in place, the lights splashing off their white-painted bodies. people who rehearse for hours, unlike us. they were sublime. it was like we all fucking created a magical moment that lasted five whole minutes. we're going to try to import them over to london for the roundhouse shows.
i didn't collect any good memories in japan this time around. i spent most of the time trying to kick jetlag and trying to keep my head from exploding every time i looked out my 18th-floor hotel window at the 568,378 people simultaneously crossing the street in shibuya below. i swear, i've never seen so many people crossing one street. the show is japan was good but not great. the audience was very excited but very quiet. it was hard to understand.
everything else amounts to a neutral or bad memory of blurry travel and shows. good shows still don't leave good memories. maybe because there are too many of them, maybe because they don't leave a unique impression, maybe because i don't want that to be what makes me happy. who knows. i love it when it happens, i don't let myself be too bothered when it doesn't. increasingly, amanda amanda, it's only rock and roll. it all seems more and more absurd. watching "an inconvenient truth", al gore's documentary about the global warming crisis, was a nice moment of despair as i sat on the plane, leaving trails of jet fuel in my wake. i strongly urge you to see it if you haven't. having just read the mindblowing bill bryson book "a short history of nearly everything", it all wove together nicely (&i noticed someone commented about it.....all i have to say is YES YES YES, and i've been meeting people on the road who have read it and it is becoming a kind of cult, where we look into each others eyes and go...yes, yes, yes....we now share some cosmic connection through bill bryson and our knowledge of impending ice ages and taxonomy).
so also on the plus side i have finished two more books by mr. bryson ("a walk in the woods", a hilarious tale of hiking the appalachian trail and the brand-new "life and times of the thunderbolt kid", a childhood-in-the-golden-fifties memoir) and he is now among my favorite authors. his writing style in all three of these books tends to follow the same perfect pattern. pick a topic, write about it, yet go off on perfect tangents that are in turns gut-bustingly funny and deeply, the-world-is-about-end tragic. if he blogged, i'd read it.
we have three more shows, a quick sit-in with ben folds again back in melbourne, and then we fly home for a 10-day rest before we hit the states with the red paintings, who, along with jason webley, have been the most divine and perfect support band. you guys in the states are going to love them. imagine muse in costume with live painters on stage. they are sublime.
(back to now, oct 23)
a month later, i can agree that the red paintings still are sublime. they're had a string of misfortune that seems almost biblical: tour manager left the tour, sound engineer left the tour, gear fell out of the back of their RV, the leas singer trash fell off of stage and developed a ancient-cell-phone-sized lump on his head. he's ok. they get better and better with every trial and tribulation. they play with their hearts.
the last show with ben folds was brilliant. he remains a steadfast ally.
we flew home, and i can't remember exactly how long we were there. a little under two weeks. i re-united, as i do, with my bed and pillows and bathtub, and tried not to think too much or do too much. i didn't touch the piano. i went to yoga every morning. there were meetings about the upcoming play, costume fittings, conference calls. i sat in the cafe drained cup after cup of green tea while alternately reading the boston globe and new york times and emptying my head of random thoughts and worries onto the pages of my moleskine journal. i sat with pope and gave editing feedback for the panic video. i ate chinese food and watched a movie with my sister.
i went to the boston music awards, where the band was nominated for six awards and won three. it didn't feel wonderful. i felt sad for my town because the event felt superficial and uncaring. brian dressed up in a full bear costume and kick-started a mosh pit during Gang Green's set but it wasn't enough to save the evening.
i walked my bicycle through the public garden and made eye contact with a man sitting on a bench. "do i know you?" he said, in a gravy french accent, "i think i know your face."
i stopped, said nothing, kick-standed my bike next to bench and sat down next to him. "i don't know, maybe you know my band. we're called the dresden dolls."
"no, i have never heard of this band."
he was older than me, probably in his sixties. he was an oncologist and professor at harvard. he invited me to dinner. i said no. but we sat there for about a half hour, talking about the nature of mortality and belief and emotion.
we had seen the same woman crying on the bench across the way, about ten minutes before. she had been talking on the phone. we discussed cell phone technology and how it affected human interaction.
we took some photos of each other with his new digital camera. with the ducks in the background.
i had picked up a fallen leaf from one of the maple trees that was all green-gold-flaming-red, intending to take it home and press it in the book i was reading. i gave it to him and kissed his cheek and walked my bike away without turning around.
that was my (#1) decent distinctive memory from my off time. my (2) decent distinctive memory from off time was going to see the secret machines play in the round at avalon. we all ended up at my house and though my distinctive memories of the event are very very dark gray (i wouldn't call it a full blackout) there was much piano-playing and laughing. i paid the next day. my (3) memory was seeing regina. she also played avalon, wore a sparkly top and has a band now. watching her slay the piano in front of two thousand people, when only a year and a half ago she had barely any fanbase in boston, was like mainlining hope into my veins. there are plenty of people do like good music. we spent some good time together and got to see each other again, this time at our show, a few days ago in minneapolis. we ate vegan soup and talked about a lot of things that bounce in our brains like labels and fame and how it doesn't matter what you say in an interview, the press can do what it wants with it. the only other (4) memory i can think of that is sharable was seeing elizabeth and the catapult play at the middle east. i liked them so much i asked them to open up for my solo show in boston on november 27th, so if you come you will see what i mean.
then i re-packed my red suitcase and we left for tour.
i packed my rollerskates but i don't think i am going to get a chance to use them.
this tour has been back to happy basics, i am in the dresden dolls and not a pissed-upon opening band. i have art-allies on the road with me in the human forms of sxip shirey (our fucking amazing MC and circus composer), katie kay and erin of Ladybird (who have been doing twisted dance routines during our set, you may recognize them as d'grrlz from the dresden dolls vs. panic video) and our crew has been functioning with love and precision. we've had time to see friends on the road and catch up with other musicians....david j came out in LA and treated us to his minibar when the hotel kicked us out of the bar, in san fran we saw the whole sleepytime gorilla museum/faun fables crew and thomas dolby, whose daughter is a fan (and she also made an excellent assistant during one of paul nathan's magic act - and speaking of paul nathan we saw his magic little theater & absinthe-bar digs and they are incomparable), i hooked up with victor from the violent femmes in milwaukee and saw his built-by-hand-with-love home recording studio, where hopefully the dolls can make an impromptu mellotron and bongo record someday, and i got to see aberdeen city open up for the electric six in portland. i got to take a nap with lane in chicago, jeffers brought some homemade chocolate in chicago and some wonderful fans of ours in san diego brought us homemade mango salsa and guacamole. this is what makes tour bearable.
but the highlight was portland, where i took a full two days off and bought a plane ticket to catch up with the crew while they rode the bus to minneapolis.
it was there that i finally got some breathing room and true time to myself, and i sat down to start writing the play we're about the perform, in earnest. the rehearsals are two weeks away.
it's time. i should have done this months ago. but i didn't. i feel like mozart in amadeus trying to stave off the hoards...."it's all here in my noodle" i say crazily as the directors and set designers worryingly prepare for a show that doesn't exist yet. it exists. it's coming into existence, fastly and surely. it's just in my head and i need to get it out right.
we played at the crystal ballroom, then drank til the wee hours with aberdeen city and i parted ways with my crew and checked into a hotel. i walked to osco drug, bought a 75%-off terribly scented candle, 2 childproof lighters (i only needed one, once, but that's how they came) and some iboprofen and spent the entire next day moving between four stations in the hotel room 1) bathtub, which i kept at a tepid temperature for hours with my terribly scented candle burning brightly by my side 2) floor, where i would read prostrate on a towel until i got cold and would return to bathtub 3) bed, where i would read prostrate on the quilt until i got cold and would return to bathtub and 4) desk chair, where i would read (email, mostly) upright until i got cold and would return to bathtub. i became very wrinkled and eventually dressed myself and headed to powell's where, after my baptism, i felt finally ready to start my writing process in earnest.
powell's (www.powellsbooks.com) is a portland landmark one of the biggest and best bookstores in the country. it's stacked and organized like a libarary and has an extensive zine collection and adjoining cafe. if i lived in portland i assume i would make frequent trips. i pored through the gunter grass section, bought some new books and a blank yellow notebook. then i took my bundle down the street to mary's all-nude revue (www.marysclub.com), another portland landmark, ordered myself a ginger ale and spring water, got my change in ones, and started to write up my notes. the girls were dancing to all variety of music, as they do, from the beatles to tom waits to the clash, and i occasionally looked up from my seat in the back, where i assume i too being eyed furtively by the other (mostly lonely, certainly all-male, most certainly not all-nude) patrons of the club. if the music was good and the stripper seemed like she was at least trying to entertain herself or anyone around, i would wander up to the stage and give her some ones. she would smile at me. then i would go back to my notebook and try to piece together the dresden dolls, war, art, rape, nightclub entertainment and the other pleasant and fun-for-the-family themes that are going to make up "the onion cellar".
the play has taken over my head, and it's not a bad thing. it's an awful lot like cramming for a test or writing an essay the night before it's due...which is the way i always functioned in school anyway. and i always knew i would do my work at the last minute, and after a while i gave up trying to be the sort of person who actually planned ahead and accepted that i was the sort of person who made specific plans ahead of time to not plan ahead. controlled procrastination.
so now i know how my life will be for the next week, i will tour at night and write during the day, and take a few moments out to maintain my band, since we have two massive shows about to go up in london on the 3&4. we are filming. if you are coming, FOR GODS SAKE LOOK NATURAL. that means, DONT LOOK NATURAL AT ALL. twist! scream! crawl!!! it's posterity!!!! we've put more effort into booking these london shows than almost any other show in history. the line-up in insane: Margaret Cho, Edward Ka-Spel, The Red Paintings, Jason Webley, Sxip Shirey, Baby Dee, Circus Krin&Jonas (yes, the very ones with their very wheel of death), Future Cinema, Zen Zen Zo from australia, art from Nick Vargelis, the Pish Dolls, fancy burlesque, aerial feats and more more more more more. brigade folks from all about europe are coming to art out. i am excited yet daunted by the organizational nightmare.
(now is now not now. now it's oct 24. it's later, but soon will be earlier)
in atlanta, next to criminal records at aurora coffee, trying to wrap this up in some meaningful way.no way.
here are some open letters anyway...
dear the man in the hotel exercise room in portland,
i'm sorry if i made you uncomfortable if you noticed i was crying while doing my workout on the elliptical machine. i was listening to a really good song and getting good ideas for my play and got all emotional.
dear the guy who posted his fantasy about me offering you a cigarette as a response to the last blog,
i only bum cigarettes from other people, not the other way around. you will have to change your fantasy sorry.
dear the yeah yeah yeahs,
i watched your DVD in preparation and for inspiration in making our own in a few weeks and it looked like you had a hard show and the audience was kind of lame. that sucks.
dear the electric six,
you rocked live and it was nice to see you and fuck the jocks your political statements did not fall on deaf ears. i hope you get what you want and that the rest of the road is kind to you.
dear cloudy gray sunglasses,
where did you go? i miss you a lot.
dear matt pepe,
i DID put you on the guestlist but the club fucked up. it wasn't my fault. please stop bad-mouthing me to our hometown friends, i want only peace.
dear Barbara Ehrenreich,
"nickel and dimed" was amazing, thank you for writing it. i just finished it and my head was pried nicely open.
dear cafe meshuggah in st. louis,
thank you for being such a perfect Again cafe and thanks for finding me when i lost my wallet. i will be back soon
dear the man who walked into the dressing room while i was naked in milwaukee,
don't feel too bad because generally i don't mind people seeing me naked and i'm sorry if the security was kind of mean to you but you shouldn't have sneaked back into a land where you don't belong.
dear the security staff of the club in perth,
you guys treated our crew so badly that we're never coming back to your club. fuck you and try being nicer to people, it works.
dear the terribly scented candle i left in the hotel in portland,
i'm sorry if you felt abandoned but i had no checked luggage and frankly you were way too heavy to take in my backpack on the way to minneapolis. i left a note with housekeeping to keep you if they wanted and hopefully you have found a nice home with some nice people.
i now have my own myspace page. i'll gradually be moving my diary over here for good so if you're reading this elsewhere, soon it will be living on the dolls site and at www.myspace.com/whokilledamandapalmer.
be. friend. me.