Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Release: 'The Art of Asking', by Amanda Palmer

Around 2007, I was invited to go to a small caberet-ish concert with my ex and some others. The event was going to be happening in the Corner Hotel in Richmond. Historically speaking, this has been one of my favourite Melbourne venues--along with The Forum which is in the city--due to the interactions I've had with musicians there. Liv Kristine was amazing. I still remember how diminutive she was when I hugged her after the show in which she'd been the operatic vocals of the metal band Leaves Eyes.

The other notable band I saw around that time was, of course, The Dresden Dolls. Their opening man was the unforgettable Jason Webley. Words cannot express how striking he is the first time that you see him on stage, and so to that end I will instead describe him through the visual sharing of this video:

I see now that this post has become a shameless music post, and cannot find it within myself to be sorry.

One part of the duo that made up The Dresden Dolls was Brian Viglione. This man is probably one of the nicest musicians you will ever meet. To me, when I met him, he seemed quiet, bordering on shy, though you'd never guess it when he gets into one of his drum solos.

It meant the world to me when he was the second musician I loved who flattered me with a hug after the show. I remember grinning like a moron, and yet having had the courage not to hide behind my friend's shoulder in nervousness at meeting him. Me and famous people = tied tongues and blushes that run from cheeks to toes. And yet I love these meet and greets at the end of gigs. Go figure.

Actually, it's really cool to have been able to find this particular video on YouTube nine years after the event, because it's the same one I saw on their Yes, Virginia tour in 2007-ish. Out of the screen, I can still see Amanda sitting behind her piano, avidly watching Brian as he went at it, likely looking for the opening to the beginning of "Half Jack". Oh, my god, the lyrics of "Half Jack". Even without Brian's amazing display of talent at the beginning of the live version of this song, it's absolutely mad.

I should probably say, as I'm typing up this post, that I pulled out my old copy of Yes, Virginia and started nostalgically swaying while glancing down at the cover of The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer, AKA the Queen of the Internet.

You see, I remember the night of Brian's drums just like I remember Amanda's stripy stockings on the piano as she stood up, hair flying, sweat launching across the stage with the pure energy she puts into EVERYTHING.

The saddest thing about that night was that, while I was hugging Brian, Amanda was disappearing into the backstage area in what I later learned was a very uncharacteristic display. It was upsetting, over the years, hearing how engaged she was with all of her fans. Those stories made me feel I had missed out on something important.

Finally, I get to my review of this book:

Just over 100 pages in, I read the line, "I notice the difference if I don't sign after a show. It can feel deeply lonely." And it was like... acknowledgement. While I'd been hearing for years about the caring, sharing figurehead of this whole interconnected community of likeminded people the internet, here, finally, was an acknowledgement of my little moment "with" (around?) Amanda. And it felt reassuring to note that Amanda Palmer is human too.

A lot of this book is about getting the feeling that, despite the fame, and the TED talks, and the music, and the dating Neil Gaiman, and the general being Amanda Palmer, she's just a person too. And, I think, that's kinda why I love this book so much. Because it could be written by anyone. It's self-deprecating in all the right places, it's honest, and hilarious.

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