Purely an outlet for my overwhelming nerdism, before it starts to get serious.
Sometimes I'll be very interesting and write about things that I think are amazing, but other times I'll be whiney and patronising and maybe see if anyone notices some Blink 182 lyrics chucked in whenever I feel like it. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out...
The Daily Mail
makes me ashamed to be British. The fact that it is so popular in my country
makes me feel somehow associated with it, and that makes me feel dirty. And not
in a fun way. But not for the obvious reasons. The bigotry, the quack
pseudoscience, the gossipy approach to ‘news’ and the shameless right wing
propaganda all irk me, but in a harmless-old-fart sort of way. In the same way that
most people’s grannies are a little bit racist, I don’t really care that the Daily Mail is a bit shit. I generally
assumed that the people who are affected by it are the people who are dumb
enough to read it, that they inflict it upon themselves, that if they really
choose to believe that divorce causes cancer then that’s up to them. They’re
most likely the same people who will choose how many lottery tickets to buy
based on the horoscopes in the back of gossip magazines. Generally, I’ve been
happy to let them go ignorantly on and to wait patiently for natural selection to
take its course. As long as I don’t read it, I reasoned, it won’t get to me.
And, on the odd occasion I want to vent about the stupidity of the world with a big fat facepalm,
I accept total responsibility for looking at anything written by Samantha
What I actually did on my birthday.
But there is one thing that does disgust me – the personal
attacks. In general, I think it’s despicable that a respected newspaper would
be so childish about anything, but there a particular one that gets to me on a
personal level. This one. (As much as I loathe publicising this drivel, I think it's only fair you know where I'm coming from.)
Earlier on this year, my trusty Google machine informed me
that Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra would be playing at the
Camden Roundhouse on my 20th birthday. With no celebrations yet
planned, I lost my proverbial shit. I was then promptly and politely informed
that, with very good and somewhat heartbreaking reason,
that part of the tour had been postponed. Instead, I got drunk with my friends
on my birthday and ate pizza and watched films and suppressed the little
fangirl that had come prancing out of me when she had seen the chance to party
with Amanda Fucking Palmer.
The show was rescheduled for July 12th. In what I
hoped was very much the AFP spirit (and on the back of some kind person
offering me cupcakes), I decided I would take biscuits. For anyone unfamiliar
with Amanda Palmer, she has a huge Twitter following and she makes a genuine
effort to make her followers feel like they are part of a community. This tweet
from just before the show, for instance, encouraging her fans to talk to each
other is a perfect example. I promised her that I would speak to all of the strangers –
and what better ice breaker than an offer of biscuits?
So I arrived with a carrier bag full of biscuits and walked
from the box office to the end of the queue and offered them out to everyone
waiting. It was indeed a great ice breaker. My friend and I got talking to
loads of cool people. Random compliments flew. People standing near each other
started chatting after discovering a shared passion for ginger nuts. A girl
from France was delighted that she had got a chance to try a chocolate
Digestive. Some people were genuinely hungry. Some people just really fancied a
custard cream. Some people hugged us. More promised to find us inside and hug
us there. Some did.
AFP with her loving fans.
From the start, the night was incredible. Having both
attended and staffed such performances, I expected to have to punch my way to
the stage and stand in an awkward crush for an hour and a half before the warm
up act kicked off.
But, of course, AFP does things her own way. A better way.
Ten minutes after the time the doors were officially opened,
an astonished ring stood on the floor of the Roundhouse around the first warm
up act, who were already playing when we arrived. They were fantastic. They were
energetic and colourful and exciting – just like everything else. And one of
them gave me a hug. I suspect that more of them would have, but I only asked one of
them before I went off to tell a fantastically dressed man that I loved his
Over the next hour, I was introduced to some incredible
musicians. AFP appeared on the balcony and, without microphone or
amplification, accompanied the entire audience singing ‘Creep’ on her ukulele. She
came onstage to introduce us to each one of her warm up acts – that is, her
special guests. She told us where she had found them and why she wanted us to
hear them. They were all incredible.
When at last Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
took their places, the crowd as one screamed and clapped and stamped and
jumped. In the first song, AFP waded out into the audience, letting us all paw at her, stroke her, touch
her, hug her, dance with her as she cut through us. Mad rushes to brush her
with fingertips swept the smaller people – myself included – along in her wake.
Propelled away from my friends, I ended up right at the front. For a moment, I was
face to face with her while she waited for two security guys to haul her back
onto stage. The whole time she had been tugged at, she had not missed a single
note. Her voice was perfect the whole time. She had no problem cutting through
people when she wanted to get back to the stage. She was powerful; in those moments, she was
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.
She told us stories about being at Glastonbury, about
meeting Liam Gallagher from Oasis,
about being exposed to English swear words. The music was amazing. The gorgeous Chad Raines
threw himself to the front of the stage, leaning over the audience so that we could
reach to stroke his sweaty back while he riffed – even dripping with hours of exertion, he had
the fluffiest curly hair (I know, I touched it). He and the delicious Jherek Bischoff danced together as they performed, hugging
and sharing guitars and creating a miniature show within the show of their
adorable bromance. AFP had her special guests back on to perform, to duet with
her, to dance with the band.
She sent her band off for a break and performed for us with
just a ukulele. She performed a new song about being strong when all the world
is going to shit around you. It was perhaps the most beautiful song I’ve ever
heard written for the ukulele. About half way through, tears started to stream
down her face. She did not miss a note; she did not stumble over a single
syllable. She just kept singing and playing perfectly through until the end as
tears dripped onto her chest. Seeing her cry broke my heat. I managed to hold
my own until the end of the song, when I thought I would be safe.
then she played ‘The Bed Song’,
another beautifully sad, sadly beautiful song.
And I broke down. I bit my
knuckles until a woman in front of me hugged me. The people behind me found my
friend and dragged her to the front so that she could hug me too. I wanted to
hug Amanda Palmer. I think we all did.
She just got on with the performance.
Towards the end, AFP played us a brand new song, exclusive to
the night, one that she said maybe she would never play again, one that we should upload and share. It was a gift. It was a direct response
to the judgmental article about her Glastonbury performance in the Daily Mail – that had not even tried to
critique her music or her performance – that she had finished writing only an
hour before the show had begun.
It was bright, bouncy and funny. She proudly and properly used one of the new British swear words
she had learnt. Half way through, she flung off her kimono and finished the
song completely, comfortably nude. It was fantastic and I adored it – I have
already described it on more than one occasion as my favourite thing that has
And meant it.
(Enjoy that video while it lasts; YouTube will take it down for the nudity sooner or later. Dicks.)
But at the same time I hate that it had to happen. I hate that someone had to make AFP feel so objectified, so bad about one little
accident, to make it seem like it eclipsed all the effort she had put into
putting on an incredible show. It is horrible for anyone to say such a thing about anyone,
but to do it in a public and respected forum and to try to pass it off as ‘news’. And about someone who does no one any harm ever, who spreads only joy. It was hurtful and unnecessary. “Boob glimpsed briefly” is not news. It is
definitely not a review.
And if people think it is, then maybe someone needs to start reviewing the reviewers.
I don’t mind if the Daily
Mail and its writers and readers don’t like AFP. That’s totally up to them.
In fact, if AFP were the kind of performer that the Daily Mail approved of, I probably wouldn’t care for her all that
much. Simply put, I don’t trust them to have particularly good taste.
don’t need to be dicks about it. They’re supposed to be professionals. And I have
never known a professional anything to fail more monumentally.
Fangirl though I may be, I am under no illusions that Amanda
Palmer is perfect. She's human. But I do think that she is a wonderful role model and a
great person to look up to. I wish I had her wit and energy, her bravery and
creativity, her perseverance and dedication. I wish I could connect with people
the way she does, could make people feel special like she does. I wish I had
her strength, her courage, her joy. I wish I could pull a Neil Gaiman (but
frankly, she has earned him – and he her). Through her music,
her writing, her talks and, I think most importantly, her behaviour, she has
taught me a hell of a lot about life and what it is to be a good person. She
has taught me that the most important thing to be is myself. She has taught me that if you don't like the way things are done, you can go out and do them your own, better way, and if you're on the right track then you'll get the support you need. She makes me want
to work harder at everything I do. She makes me think it can be worthwhile to do
what I love.
She makes me want to buy biscuits for total strangers just
to see them smile – and she makes me actually do it, too.