Spoiler: There Was an Intermission
I interrupt my blog travelogue to talk about the Amanda Palmer concert last night, a 4-hour epic event that reminded me that compassion and empathy are complicated, and often come from where you least expect it — and simultaneously don't come from where you might.
The scene: a packed O'Shaughnessy Auditorium. The mostly female, overwhelmingly white, audience is varied in age from goth teens to stately grandmothers. The lobby has tables from Planned Parenthood to Amanda's merchants and Patreon tables. Everyone knows they are here for something extraordinary.
And extraordinary it is. The concert is not long because Amanda *Fucking* Palmer plays thousands of songs. It's long because each song is long (6-11 minutes), and because for every song, she sets the tone by telling the story of how it came about. Each story is a nautilus of a piece that winds back around itself and leads you somewhere unexpected. It's an incredible look into how they were written and how her thoughts work, that makes each piece 1000x deeper. That access to the creation of the art is generous, and heartfelt, and very meaningful.
There's some back and forth with the audience that heightens that feeling of commonality, as well. You feel that you are on the brink of conversation, though if we had entered into that, who knows how long we would have been there...
And at the same time, it was a strong reminder for me about how artists are their own people, and that that Amanda's conversation from the stage was just one part of her, one (very controlled) persona. I seem to know dozens of people who know her (and Neil), and whose experiences are very...nuanced. She referred to that dichotomy herself, many times during the night, where she talked about writing one thing that seemed very clear to her in intent, and was taken completely differently.
Ultimately, I think that complexity makes me respect Amanda Palmer as an artist, much more than I did before. I'm glad I went to the concert (and it was a great date night!). But do I feel that I got to sit and have a glass of wine with the "real" Amanda Palmer, as much as her carefully curated event might have led me to believe I was? Not at all.