On an innocent, unassuming Tuesday supposedly like any other I went about my lazy day. Perfecting my chai latte, and perusing the goings on of the world via my Facebook newsfeed. Nothing terribly exciting on the horizon before my imminent trek to work. Until I saw ‘Amanda Palmer’, ‘TED’, and ‘Vancouver’ all in the same sentence. I was suddenly launched into a tunnel vision focus obsession. Over the past few months I’ve seen a handful of Amanda Palmer’s spontaneous, free gigs happening over in the faraway land of Australia. Inaccessible to the likes of me. But Vancouver is close. Well, three and a half hours and in another country, but definitely closer than Australia. It was happening tomorrow night. A show featuring Amanda Palmer and her husband Neil Gaiman, as well as a cornucopia of TED speakers. There was no way I was calmly going to work tomorrow knowing that such an event was occurring a mere three and a half hours away from me. Amanda Palmer. I’m not the obsessive type, but I’ve recently been a little preoccupied with absorbing everything she has created and everything she has said and everything she does and stands for. I was ever so grateful to switch my shift on such short notice. NinjaVan, count me in!! It was decided, it was happening, I was there.
I left Olympia at eleven so I could explore Vancouver a bit before the show, and primarily so I could get there ridiculously early to ensure a spot. No way was I missing this. No way was I driving a total of four hundred miles and seven hours and missing this. Surprisingly spending those resources to attend a three hour event didn’t bother me in the slightest; I was unequivocally convinced it would be well worth it.
The border control was very curious to know why my car still has Florida plates, why nobody came with me, and who is Amanda Palmer?
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the seemingly superfluous mph to km/h conversion feature on my car actually comes in handy (when you don’t live in Florida).
Finding parking near the Vogue theater was a nightmare (I really would have nightmares about parking in cities; it’s one of my least favorite things). I arrived at six, and I was planning to stay until after midnight. My frustrating conundrum was that the metered street parking all had a two hour limit, and the garages all closed around eleven or midnight. In one of them I ran into a ticket checker guy on a bicycle and he tried, unsuccessfully, to help me with my dilemma. As I continued driving in circles and squares and squiggly lines I found more and more of the same. I actually ran into the ticket checking bicycle guy again a few blocks away and he gave me a sympathetic look. I finally found an open air lot that seemed promising. Until I actually parked and got out. There’s a whole story I could tell, but let’s leave it at: I’m pretty sure I almost payed a drugged out homeless guy for a spot. But my instincts kicked in and I left, and I’m very happy with that decision. I found a completely non-sketchy situation for only two dollars more, and it was pretty much in sight of the venue. Yay!
The theater reportedly holds around eleven hundred people. I couldn’t even begin to guess whether only fifty people would show up on such short notice, or if there would be thousands waiting to get in. I arrived two hours and forty-five minutes before the doors were supposed to open. People, as they headed towards the back of the line, kept commenting “we should be counting. We probably should have been counting.” I never saw the end of the line, but I know it looped at least all the way around the block; I could see the people queuing across the alleyway. By the time nine rolled around, I think everyone was hugely relieved to get out of the very cold (albeit gratefully dry) Vancouver night.
A Balkan brass band was playing by the time I got in, and played until the ‘planned’ show began. Amanda Palmer entered the theater without the introduction one would expect of a rock star. But this was an intimate gathering. ‘Amanda Palmer and Friends’, as the marquee read. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she said “welcome to our fucking mess.” In true Amanda Palmer style, that sentence pretty well describes both the evening and the woman herself. Real, direct, and rather inappropriate for genteel settings.
I really don’t know what I found the most exciting. Being in Amanda Palmer’s living room, I suppose. For the TED after party. It truly did feel like that. Not like a concert, not a formal event, not clean edges and polished surfaces. Everyone who performed that evening took their permanent seats for the evening in clumps around the stage. Which was awesome. You could see the amazement on Amanda’s face as Usman Riaz while he played ever-so-skillfully on his guitar, you could see several of the other performers taking selfies with Chris Hadfield, the astronaut, during Amanda’s performance of ‘Astronaut’, we watched everyone on stage leisurely sipping their whiskey and wine, and during a four-person musical collaboration most of the people on stage were coerced into dancing. I’ve never been a fan of meticulous schedules and hidden framework. Which is in part why I enjoyed this evening so much.
One of my absolute favorite aspects of this show was how much every person on that stage seemed so very much like a real person with a real life. Not some distant, different, celebrityesque, inhuman being. Amanda flitted around the stage during various performances and took pictures; Amy Cuddy was so excited at meeting (not to mention sharing a stage with) Amanda Palmer; Imogen Heap has what I’ve come to consider more of an adorable-older-lady british accent rather than a younger-woman british accent, which is probably really inaccurate, but it made me really happy. Something about the informal setting just allowed for everyone to actually appear to be the very real people that they are. I don’t know how to describe it. Other than it really felt like we were all just hanging out at someone’s home enjoying each other’s company, rather than being an audience kept at arms length from the performers in the theater.
So there were a lot of people who made an appearance. I think Amanda could have put anyone on that stage and we would have all been thoroughly excited about it. There was a standing ovation of awe for Usman Riaz , there was standing all throughout the performance of Chris Hadfield, Imogen got the audience to act as her background music, Amy Cuddy got us all to practice power poses, Jason Webley elicited a huge volume of laughter, Sarah Kay silenced us all with her spoken work poetry, Geoff Berner had really enthusiastic participatory singing from us, Neil Gaiman was brilliant in his performance of Elvis Costello’s ‘Psycho’. So much more. So much more awesomeness ensued. Apparently the whole thing was recorded and is now available for everyone’s listening pleasure.
It was an incredible evening. I am so glad that I heard about it, and that everything came together so that I could be there and participate. I am in awe of how Amanda Palmer makes things happen. Three days notice for a packed-out event? Amazing. I am convinced I will never attend a better show. But, convince me world.