I have written before about Amanda Palmer’s impact on my life (see here: https://scribomaniac.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/here-i-am-not-quite-dying/ )
But this was a whole new level. It took me a few days to even process the experience.
So here’s the technical stuff:
(All photo credits go to Jason, Carl, Alan, Dayo, and myself.)
It started in May of 2012. Amanda Palmer had a Kickstarter for her self-released album with her new band, the Grand Theft Orchestra. Her goal was $100,000; she reached $1.2 million. One of her reward tiers was a houseparty for 50 guests. I instantly jumped at this and tried to figure out a way to make it work. I only knew a handful of AFP/Dresden Dolls fans, and not all of them were willing to pay $100 for the reward.
So I turned to Twitter.
I started posting constantly to see how many people I could rally behind this. I got about eight fans right away, and I continued to search. Within 48 hours, I had fifteen people.
But that left $3,500. And how was I supposed to pay for it? I didn’t have $5,000 I could just put down on good faith (grad student = no moneys). And where were we going to have this party? My apartment holds 25 people on a good day, and we have no outdoor space.
Dave fronted $5,000 before we even had a full 50 guests (I think we were at 40 or so), just to make sure we got a spot. Siouxzi volunteered her house and backyard for the party.
Without either of these people, this party never would have come to fruition.
But it did. We put down our money and started organizing.
Over the summer and fall of 2012, we got everyone on a guest list, collected the money, and started brainstorming ideas for the coming party. We were elated.
Unfortunately for Amanda, she had complications. Her dear friend battled cancer, she had to cancel a European tour that she needed to make up at some point, and she had house parties to deliver all across the globe. So, we were told it would be a while before our party.
Flash forward to August 12, 2013, in a quiet, happy borough of Chicago.
The day started out with trepidations of rain. People were coming from all around, some commuting as far as three-four hours away, and I was pretty nervous that the rain would dampen everyone’s spirits.
My fiance, best friend, and I drove the accessible 15 minutes to Siouxzi and her husband Alan’s house. We got there an hour early so I could help set up if need be. When we walked in the door, we were greeted by a their tiny daughter, Lorelei, and another party-goer, Jackie. A warm feeling rushed over me, and I felt as if I’d been in this house hundreds of times. I felt as if I’d met Jackie before, as if we were old classmates or friends of friends.
Later on, I gave Jackie a (VERY) basic ukulele lesson that turned into a short singalong of Regina Spektor’s “On the Radio”. It was 9 kinds of wonderful.
Slowly, other people began to arrive. Carl and Jason came with tons of camera and lighting equipment, Simon and Margaret were milling about the living room and getting to know people and cats, and Kelli and I chatted about whether or not candid photos were welcome (hint: they were welcomed and loved.)
It was raining the entire time, but the sun was out. It was oddly beautiful and I curse myself for not taking a picture. I trudged my nine pounds of pasta salad to the garage, where our hosts had set up tables for what turned out to be a massive buffet of homemade vegan and vegetarian dishes.
More people showed up, and we began to start our group art project. We bought a massive canvas and spray painted it as a group, then divided the canvas up into pieces to take home.
I got the ball rolling by making a hand turkey. I also wore a dress that perfectly showed off my Queen tattoo.
Around 6pm, Amanda showed up. There were a few hushed whispers and secret smiles, but most people kept right on socializing with strangers.
There was something immensely satisfying about the way we all interacted. No one acted star-struck, no one shoved their way across the lawn to talk to her; we all simply ate as a backyard commune.
I watched as everyone had meaningful, unforgettable connections, moments that have been blogged about and tweeted about to no end. But I wasn’t ready to talk to her. I had spent a day with her a few years back in a recording studio in Palatine, and part of me wanted to gently remind her of that day. But, for some reason, I thought she wouldn’t remember. I thought she might look at me strangely or pretend to remember to amuse me.
So I held back, took pictures, and talked to the other guests.
And I played my ukulele a little.
Then came the individual photos. We all lined up with props and masks to get some fantastic pictures. I waited in line with my friend, Jes, and talked about what we were gonna say. I suddenly found myself feeling nervous for the first time all night. I hadn’t spoken to her yet, wanting everyone else to get their chance to talk to her. I clutched my ukulele and adjusted my sweet spiderweb cape as I made my way to the front.
“Hi Amanda, you may not remember me, but a few years ago, when you recorded ‘Strange Behavior’, I was the girl who did the photos and did your webcast.”
“Oh my god, yeah!”
Not only did she remember me, but we talked about our evening and how fun it was. I felt like I was going to cry.
She remembered me. And she remembered details of that evening even I’d forgotten.
She’s wearing my tiara.
I watched as she took dozens of photos with the guests, each one unique and ridiculous and kind of indescribable.
I don’t even remember what was happening here, but i snuck into the back with a sweet pirate hat.
After a bunch of photos and conversations, Amanda started playing music. But before she played a setlist that made more than half of us cry, she talked with us. As she sat down with her deep red ukulele, she told us, “Now, this next part can’t go on the Internet. I want it to stay with us.” We were still able to take pictures, but she wanted to share things with just this group that wouldn’t be public. She talked with us about relationships, love, travel, wine, and mistakes. We were a family at that moment.
She was animated, sincere, and hilarious. As you can see by my expression behind her.
She played some of our favorites, some haunting covers, and two new songs that made me tear up.
My favorite musical moment of the evening was when Lorelei quietly walked up to her, looked her straight in the eye, and said, “Will you play ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’?” No one was immune to this. We sang the song as a group. I actually felt blessed.
The night went by far too quickly. By 10pm, we had to quiet down, so Amanda went inside and changed while we passed out the pieces of canvas.
She got a piece of the art too. My fiance is adorable, I’m just throwing that in there too.
My favorite moment of the evening wasn’t photographed or recorded. As we were getting ready to call it a night, Siouxzi thanked Dave and me for helping with the party. I stood on the top of the porch and suddenly felt two arms wrap around me. I heard a soft “thank you” and hugged back. Amanda was truly grateful for this, and there was no mistaking it. How strange, that the person I rallied so hard to get to Chicago, the person who made $1.2 million on Kickstarter, the person who has written some of my favorite songs, was thanking me, thanking all of us.
Jimmy, Tyler, and I were one of the first groups to leave. I wanted Amanda to get some sleep, as I knew she was heading to Minnesota early the next morning. She signed the back of my ukulele ‘LOVE’.
I’m having the back of my ukulele professionally sealed so the love stays forever.
Because, in fact, it’s real love.