Friday, September 21, 2012

Music-T Friday: Somebody I Would Never Have Known

There is a lot of music out there and a lot of musicians finding success making that music. How they get there, whether it's via industry design, a competition like American Idol, or YouTube "discovery", the result is basically the same. They're on our radio, TV, Internet, sometimes in the news if they have the quirkiness to be deemed worthy of coverage.

Occasionally, a musician has a more interesting backstory than the norm. I'm sure all of them would claim they do but it's a subjective thing and, for me, most of them don't. Yes, being discovered is awesome. Yes, getting to perform with a long-time hero is inspiring. But unless you were discovered performing while Rome burned or your long-time hero was someone long-dead and brought back in a non-holographic manner to jam with you, I still feel that this is a typical music industry narrative.

Today's t-shirt is, as promised, music related and a musician with what I would judge to have been and continues to be an interesting backstory. I am far from an expert in Amanda Palmer but I do know how I came to know of her and that, in and of itself, is interesting enough for me to blog about. Subjectively speaking, that is.

(It's also Shakespeare-related which is another WIN for this shirt.)
This is a story in parts:

Part One: With the exception of his early teen love affair with the Barenaked Ladies, my brother and I haven't shared a whole lot of music interests. While in high school (?), he became a fan of the "dark cabaret" duo, The Dresden Dolls, which I hadn't heard of and didn't really take the time to investigate. The Dresden Dolls were/are comprised of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione.

Part Two: In my first year of teaching in Richmond, I struck up a friendship with sister geek and bibliophile, Mitch, and she quickly remedied a huge gaping hole in my literary consciousness by lending me the audio book recording of Neil Gaiman's "Fragile Things". I took the recording with me on a bus trip to the Okanagan soon afterwards and fell in thrall to Gaiman's wordcraft, imagination, and voice (He often reads his own audio books but I would probably pay to listen to him read a phone book.)

Part Three: Twitter happened. I joined in early 2009 so I can't really call myself an early adopter. I think I joined after seeing Biz Stone on The Colbert Report. In Vancouver terms, I think I was probably part of the earliest group using Twitter regularly. I base this on the fact that in the first six months I was using Twitter, I won nearly every Twitter contest I entered for the Vancouver area. I started following Gaiman on Twitter as he was both an interesting and prolific Tweeter. That year, he and Palmer announced their relationship and, since they had the most endearing Tweet-versations (still do) but one must follow both to be privy to the convos, I started following her as well.

Part Four: In 2010, Palmer came to Vancouver with Jason Webley to perform as Evelyn Evelyn a set of troubled but talented conjoined twins with a dark traumatic history. I attended as a photographer for the Vancouver-based website (known then as Guttersnipe) The Snipe News. My galleries for both the Evelyn Evelyn and the Amanda Palmer (solo) portion of the evening are still online.
Probably my favourite concert pic (that I took) ever
Part Five: Neil and Amanda got married and decided to tour together as "An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer", Kickstart the whole shebang, and included Vancouver in that tour (Nov 6, 2011).

Backtracking to Part Four-Point-Five: In the spring of 2011, Mitch underwent a liver transplant. The operation and the period of time that followed was a frightening time for her, her family and her friends, with whom I am honoured to be counted. When I reached out to Mr. Gaiman over Twitter to garner a well-wish for her, he responded immediately. When she came through, we let him know and he cheered with us. When the Kickstarter offered a chance for supporters to meet him and Amanda backstage before the show, I bought the Starry Night level and had my Early Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Hurrah-She-Has-A-Working-Liver present for the year at the ready. (Of the things I am able to do on the bus with my iPhone on the way to work in the morning, shopping is probably the most dangerous. In this case, though, I kow-tow to the gods of technology)

Part Six: Great fun was had at the Vogue Theatre. Mikala (aka Backstage Rider) was in the house and has an incredible gallery of photos to show for it. Mitch, husband J, sister D and I were all seated in the front few rows for a show that clocked in at over three hours and, although Mitch was tuckered by the end of it (it was her first big outing since the operation, after all) that crowd would've blissfully hung onto their every note and word for another three. I wore my Evelyn Evelyn t-shirt to the show and Amanda signed me afterwards (still have that shirt but not sure it still fits) and brought an issue of Sandman that Jeff didn't have yet and Neil signed it for him.

So every once in a while, I peek in on Amanda's website and see what's out and about. Loved this t-shirt and bought a couple of them, not just for the Shakespeare, not just to support her, not just for the fact it says something coming AND going. I like the main sentiment. Haters suck and deserve to be bear food. Yes, she's made her career on "dark" images and inspirations but I find AFP's approach to Life, music, love and art intensely positive. She is arguably the poster child for crowd-sourcing which spawns from her life-lessons as a street performer and a belief that music and art belong to the people. She offers her music on both a FREE and PAY AS YOU WANT basis on her website with a clear and concise mission statement:

(To be clear, her newest album is entitled "Theatre is Evil" but "SPREAD THE EVIL" is a heckuva tag line for any campaign.)

Recently, there has been a controversy in AFP country. To be sure this isn't Palmer's first controversy, but this one, involving a request for fans to come perform with her voluntarily, seems to highlight the divide between the "business" and the "art". It's not a debate of right or wrong. It's a difference of world perspective. So however it hashes out in the end, I don't think that it'll change where people sit on the issue of creativity versus monetizing. I have a ticket to her next show in Vancouver on Sept 29. I paid money for it and some more money to Ticketmaster (speaking of evil...). And I'm going to have a a grand thievin' evilly good time. And THAT is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help my *Asian-born-Canadian* a$$.