Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Amanda Fucking Palmer Down Under- the tattoo....

yes. i did it. and as it was the topic of such heated debate...i thought i'd share some stuff.

somewhat frequently... over the course of tour, amanda and i would discuss the human desire for familiarity. and the need for symbols of that familiarity. the need for a relate-able visual stimuli. even if it's just the sign for one's favorite cafe on some corner in some city of the world. symbols are comforting.

and it's not that we are godless generation. though the popularity of mainstream religion amongst the young might be in slight decline- we still cling to the symbols, the rites, the familiarity of a new spirituality. the marriage might be an act of socio-religio-political commitment. but it's the wedding party (and maybe the rings) that seals the deal. for the community. the actual rite. the symbol of that union.

my tattoos....per john irving...i'm a collector. each of the tattoos i've acquired over the years- they represent a time and a place and an event or passion that registered deeply at the time. the road map of my adventures. the celebration of the life i'm living.

yes. jack terricloth said it best, "you'd do better living more...and commemorating less...those tattoos are gonna fade." and he's absolutely right. but even better, he said "because i can. 'cause no one can stop me. 'cause it makes up for things i lost. 'cause i'm addicted to bad ideas. and all the beauty in this world."

a glass raised to you jack....but...

upon my first trip to australia and new zealand, on tour in 2008, i knew i'd stumbled on something special. a place i'd return to often.

and having been raised on boats and possessing a healthy nautical fetish...the southern cross became the perfect symbol. an astral asymmetric storytelling device for australia's aboriginal peoples, and then later appropriated for oceanic navigation by traders and explorers and wayward pirates.


here's where it get's trickier. especially in regards to how we adopt and adapt our symbols for personal use.

in the wrong hands...symbols become dangerous. prior to hitler and the third reich...the swastika was and still is a powerful representation of luck and auspiciousness to all manner of indus valley peoples and religions. central to hinduism and buddhism and jainism. you see it all over india everywhere. and it's beautiful...

i'm fuzzy on this one...but at one point...the "peace sign" made by the two uplifted fingers of the right hand was originally a gesture used by american troops in wwii (or wwi?) to mean "victory". the counterculture of the american fifties and sixties re-appropriated it to mean "peace". not so bad this time. but what about when the circular peace sign of the sixties was then re-interpreted as a fashion staple of the 1980's? and it was everywhere. suddenly void of it's intended meaning. re-imagined as a symbol for wealth and excess for a culture redefining itself with outward decadence.

and on a similar note. one could easily make the argument that malcolm mclaren et al. over-stepped the line when adopting the mohawk as the iconic punk haircut de rigueur. i think in college i told my mother that i was re-appropriating the mohawk to take a stand. to re-affirm my stance and brotherhood with the mohican nations of old...in a "lest we forget" kinda manner. i thought coming from rural maine with a strong native american population...this sounded good. but she felt otherwise. and rightfully so...that said...i still sport the mohawk now and then...we have to make the the definitions on our own...

...but those definitions and decisions must be well-informed as well.

so the southern cross...i wanted to get it tattooed on that very first journey to oz/nz in 2008....

turns out the symbol itself is more controversial than i ever imagined. for the last two months i approached aussies everywhere, of all different walks and creeds and skin tones, with my questions. and the answers were varied. some were pro. some were con. others indifferent. but most opinionated.

yes, the southern cross appears distinctly on australia's flag. there's also a strong political movement to redesign australia's flag. the aborigines themselves have their own flag, sans cross.

but in recent years the flag itself and the southern cross in particular have taken on nationalist and racist connotations. similar to kids in alabama getting dixie tattooed on their shoulders...please read this article about the cronulla riots of 2005.

surfers and bogans told me the idea was great. the concerned literatti at shows and on twitter begged me not to, and pointed me towards this little ditty by waiting for guinness:

but in the end...my heart was set and the decision was made. m at iv in sydney was concerned, but agreed to do it. and it's beautiful. and it's everything i wanted. and honestly... 70% of aussies interviewed in the last 7 days don't even recognize it.

i'm not a racist or nationalist. just a short kid in love with your hemisphere. taking pride elsewhere...:

the axes are straight...and bonds makes me an official citizen, right? photo by jim batt, 03.07.11

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Amanda Fucking Palmer Down Under- The Melbourne Forum Edda

us. melbourne. 2.26.11 photo by marianne @ mankissingbird.com
wow. just. wow.

the melbourne forum gig was epic. totally epic. easily one of the best shows i've done in my career. or that's how it seems from where i'm standing. i can't believe we pulled off so much. though maybe i can. 'cause we did.

in my brain i had imagined writing this blog a ways back for the opera house. that one didn't exactly go as planned. now maybe the time is right....:

for those interested... you wanna know what goes into a production like this? here is the short answer to almost everything that went into setting this one off like a frog in a sock- in MY world. (tnx afp for the language!). it might start real dry, but hang in there- it should get better...i hope this comes off as informative and not arrogant....

routing- (september/october/november 2010)
this entire tour was the germ of an idea that tumbled around amanda's brain until it polished itself to the gleaming pearl it is today. once the dream was born- it's up to the agents to make it happen. fall 2010 was spent routing the oz/nz tour, including the melbourne gig on feb 26th.

its a process- it involves massive communication to rooms and promoters all over the world to see what venues are available when in which cities. you can't just say you wanna play melbourne on the 26th at the forum. maybe the room isn't available. maybe there is a giant festival in town that saturday and nobody will come. maybe all venues have been leveled by an earthquake....it's a long arduous process of deductive reasoning and i have absolutely zero interest in it. then there's contracts to write up and exacting haggling over money and show costs, dotted lines to sign on. i'm glad the agents of the world do this for us. thank you f and j and m at high road! a tour is  born.

advances/pre-production (november/december/january 2011)
once the cities and venues and dates are locked- i'm handed the show itinerary and i set to work from there. i put together giant worksheets with all our travel dates, how we are traveling, when we are traveling, where we are sleeping, where and when we will do major promo like tv shoots, where our shows are, when we should plan for ninja gigs and awesome adventures or private bbqs. the works. by january this one page worksheet will become a 75 page workbook that operates as the "tourbook"- a massive tome of knowledge that contains every ounce of show and travel and lodging info- right down to individual meet and greets per day and which new zealand journalist afp must talk to on the phone on january 27th at 2:pm. one page per day of tour. the forum show is merely one sheet in the book. but it's there. amanda will never read this book ever. it's sent to her every day...but...it's kinda a joke. and i don't mind. all the answers are there in one place to facilitate the easy transfer of info amongst our team. SK reads it. she is the best.

meanwhile i'm booking our flights and cars and trains to all these places. melbourne included. i'm lining up our support artists for every show.  i'm finding hotels and working with team chaos on fan lodging options, thanks you h! i'm starting to field emails from our publicist on potential promo dates, thank you mrh! I'm working with our internet team to make sure all the initial info on the afp website is correct (date, city,venue, ticket price, ages), thank you s! i'm in the initial stages of planning merch drops or bundle options, thank you b! i try to determine what we will need on the road to maintain our sanity, thanks sk! it's all planning. and nothing but planning. and lots more planning. planning is good. it makes melbourne happen.

by the beginning of january- its time to start the "advance" process. i reach out to every individual venue production manager with an initial greeting, our tour rider with all our show details, tech specs and stage plots. i have a list of questions i need answered about every venue for the tourbook. how many dressing rooms are there? where are the load-in doors? can we throw confetti? fake blood? when is curfew? etc etc. it's a long list....it's invaluable. the infrastructure of the room determines how a lot of work gets done for every member of the team. h can't approve 5 people to deliver fan food if there is one small dressing room. s has to redo the website if the ticket-price info we got was initially wrong. we have to adjust the light show if the venue system is weak. if there is no wireless internet...afp and i will likely spend the entire morning in a cafe around the corner- we can put out all these fires...but i have to see them smoking from the distance first. 

on a tour this size. my advances usually go out 3 weeks before the actual show. for each show. but as the melbourne gig was tied in with the other frontier shows- the melbourne advance was first sent on jan 5th. and we started rolling the ball. like sysiphus. the boulder always rolls back down. there is always some minor setback or kink that needs undoing. and pre-production never stops. i will be working on details in relation to the melbourne show from jan 5th, right up until february 25th- the day before it all goes off. and this is all occurring while we are on the road. while the tour is actually happening. on top of all the other million and one amazing things that go into any afp project. the show is just a fraction of it all. what about the video team we've hired for the shoot? are the go go dancers available? is our merch in order? what's the promo schedule this day, does it interfere with soundcheck? and this is why we are ALWAYS going on and on about the damned wireless internet and work-parties and my garbage phone that can't do email well.... we live on our macbooks. the sandwiches are fucking wicked....

show day
and it all comes down to the day of.

np, our promoter rep on frontier's side, picked kbb and jb and i up in collingwood at 2:45 pm and we were off. thanks for everything, np! (it's been a wild ride.)

3:00- band equipment load-in at the forum. m and the ts w/ st. c. bring gear to stage and start setting set up.

3:05-3:10- introductory meeting with j, the venue manager.

3:10-3:40- tech meeting with venue foh/mons/lights guys. i rediscuss the entire stage set-up, show schedule, running order, our tech needs etc. etc. i get a tour of the 3rd story statues where amanda will wear the harness to start the show.

3:40- 4:05- i assign and post signs and redistribute our rider amongst the seven dressing rooms in the basement with the help of the backstage coordinator. thanks dude! sorry i forgot your name.

4:05- set up my printer and computer and production gear in my "office" off stage left.

4:05- 4:25- brief meeting with gj abouts the 4 camera video shoot, audio recording, and webcast. all was in perfect order. good work gj!

4:25- quick meeting with all support artists and managers to review everything that is happening tonight and how tight the schedule is. ck with the tinstar is a total rockstar. she gets it. her head is on straight. so glad i got to work with her on this tour. thanks for everything ck!  see you stateside soon i hope!

4:20- 4:40- take a machete to my inbox, process 15 emails poorly. type and print a preliminary setlist and show schedule for amanda and mikelangelo to review and amend.

5:00- amanda arrives on site. i have room tepid waters waiting. i've already had the room temperature adjusted. and the stage flowers are placed where she'll put her backpack down so she sees them. meanwhile the band is soundchecking and making noise. amanda joins in for two hours of rehearsal.

5:04- assign VIP tables for our special friends.

5:05-5:28- i take inventory and update my accounting spreadsheets to reflect our merch sales at the evelyn hotel the night before. i set some comps aside for give-aways and charity auctions. i return the unsold merch to our vendors at the forum.

5:30- run back to merch counter with printed mailing list sheets! grab a copy of the book and cd for stage.

5:35- meeting with jason. we decide tonight is an excellent time for evelyn and evelyn to make a brief appearance and hopefully play a song. the twins don't love the idea...it was very last minute and took them by surprise...but in the end...i had a twix handy...we convinced them to do it.

5:40- 5:45- i go online for a 5 minute gmail chat with my boy. jgs is superman. he's the best ever. it's hard to be apart. it's harder when we don't even have time to talk as the road gets so busy. he is a super trooper.

5:45- 5:50- five minute shower/whore-bath in the bathroom attached to my office. sit around office naked for a few minutes. doing nothing. breathing. trying to relax.

5:50-6:00- make 7 phone calls and make sure everything is all set for the everything that is gonna happen between 6:30 and 8:00. things are about to go mental.

6:00- meet e and l, our awesome fan-fooders. get them downstairs to set up our delicious dinner...thanks so much guys! it was amazing.

6:05- assemble and print our 97 person guestlist. 10 are from frontier, 22 are from mikelangelo, 8 are from jaa and kbb, 19 are from m our incredible publicist,  the rest of the names are ours.

6:10- run to lobby to meet the various ngo's who are tabling in our forum. grab merch they need signed for auctions. way to go politicos! lobby that shnike!

6:15- review statue/harness situation with amanda and venue and camera crew. this is the moment we realize the harness will not fit over amanda's costume. she'll open the show mostly nude. at 6:17 we decide to do the "amanda get's dressed on stage" gag. this is how we roll.....spontaneous creative awesome sauce.

6:20- security meeting and media policy review with venue security staff. i explain our complete and utter hands-off approach to crowd control. thank you venue security! and thank you our audience for being so well behaved. venue staff are always amazed how easy our shows are. this says a lot about you guys! for the future, please understand- venue security staff are doing. their. jobs. they take orders from the law, the venue, then the band, in that order. they are looking out for our best interest, and yours. your. personal. safety. i understand how easy it is to get frustrated with burly security guys when you can't get your way. but for real. they are doing their job and they are good at it. do not take them for granted. ever. please.

6:30- give amanda and the band 20 minute warning. we have to get off stage soon. they still have 6 songs left to rehearse.

6:35-6:45- epic map of tasmania rehearsal and guest blocking. a giant plan is established. i keep our little surprise a secret- hoping it's so good that amanda won't freak out when i sabotage her entire map of taz plan hours later. band still needs to rehearse the remaining songs. we decide to push doors a few minutes.

6:50- kick everyone off stage. make sure jaa and kbb and jason webley have time to soundcheck- albeit so very briefly...

6:52- have 20 approved setlists and 30 approved set schedules printed and photocopied and delivered to every artist, every dressing room, every venue house and tech person, the video team etc....i printed 6 too many set schedules....

7:00ish- or maybe a few minutes later. we open doors. the crowd trickles inside.

7:00- our first scheduled meet and greet is unable to attend (kinda a relief!). he was one of the brunswick hotel gig auction winners, and as amanda was so sick...she was unable to fulfil his winning bid request that night. we had to make it up to him.  i am very glad we got to connect with dc in adelaide a week later. good to meet you! and thank you so much for the bottle of scotch! it is really fucking good...

7:02- i get amanda to sign all the merch for the various charities and ngo's.

7:04-7:06- the two of us have a brief meeting about all the various things about to happen.

7:10-7:25- we steal jaa's dressing room to film a video interview with mh. she is delightful. so glad we met her!

7:25-7:30- all too brief meet and greet with d, our guy at our merch company. he has been amazing. not a single merch problem the entire tour....and our style of touring can create incredible problems. he weathered the storm for two whole months with massive grace. thanks d! no more ninja gigs coming up...i promise. (actually...we do two more) wish we could have spent more time with you. we owe you big time.

7:30-7:40- ask amanda to eat some dinner. meet and greet with e and l. who are still incredibly forgiving that our schedule is so slammed.

7:40-8:00- inconvenience everyone so that j from brisbane can film a video in the stairwell with mikelangelo and amanda. sorry guys. it was all my fault. we really liked the stairwell...thanks for the video j! can't wait to see the brisbane footage.

8:00-8:15- kim boekbinder hits the stage and plays beautiful songs. jason, amanda, and i start getting the twins prepared for their song...i have already laid out their outfit and make-up. they need to do their laundry more often!

8:20-8:35- the jane austen argument hit the stage and play beautiful songs. so glad i got to meet t and j, and you too ad'e, they are all special people and i will miss them.
 we continue to prep the twins.

8:40- evelyn evelyn hit the stage and play a beautiful song. way to go, twins!

8:45-9:15- mikelangelo and the tin star with st. clare hit the stage and play beautiful songs....though maybe "shred balkan surf guitar dance hits" is more appropriate.
amanda and i take more instapix photos, get dressed, make-up, sip some wine etc.

9:20- changeover. i rush on stage to set up amanda's keyboard notes, waters, wine, stage merch etc. i drop her costume in a pile on the floor stage left.

9:25- jason webley hits the stage to play a beautiful song. meanwhile amanda is getting into her harness and climbing up into the statues with her ukelele.

this show is on!

makin' whoopee- i run backstage to check twitter on amanda's phone. i jump on my laptop to test the webcast quality. the audio and video seem fine. gj is doing a great job. i twitter the universe to get people to tune in to the webcast. i run to get mikelangelo and the tin star ready for their entrance. amanda finishes the song and we go into the "amanda gets dressed" bit....oh man. two months and i still can't tie her corset. i'm guessing none of you heard her whisper "get a girl to do it!" while we were waving that aussie flag around....but it wasn't my fault. she had put it on upside down! also, she forgot about her underwear...i had to run down to the dressing room and grab it while this was all still happening.

missed me (w/ M/TS)-  i screwed up here. i was supposed to hold the mic lead so amanda could walk out into the audience. but i forgot because...i run backstage to check twitter on amanda's phone. i jump on my laptop to test the webcast quality. the audio and video seem fine. gj is doing a great job. i twitter the universe to get people to tune in to the webcast. i run to get mikelangelo and the tin star ready for their entrance. sorry, amanda, i screwed it up...and i totally missed the bit where you fell into the pit. tour manager fail. for realz.

astronaut (w/ M/TS)- i don't even remember what i was doing. twittering about webcast again?...but i must have been busy cuz i missed this song too...i am always side of stage for amanda's whole performance in case she needs anything. if i wasn't there...something must have happened...putting out small fires.

dr. oz (w/ M/TS)- i run downstairs to get the jaa ready for their number with amanda. i also find out that my special surprise for map of tasmania has arrived. i deal with that very briefly.

bad wine and lemon cake (w/JAA)-  i run downstairs to get jason ready for his number with amanda.

icarus (w/ jason webley)- relax....breathe...

in my mind- run downstairs to get kim ready for her number with amanda...

such great heights (w/ KBB)- continue writing down the actual setlist in my notebook for apra. fortunately amanda is sticking tight to the setlist tonight...she frequently doesn't....towards the end i sneak onto stage to tape amanda's keyboard notes her kurtzweill. i had forgotten to do this during soundcheck....

australia- hang out stage left. cry quietly on the inside...this is easily one of my faves from amanda's newish stuff. the sentiment is so fucking touching...and our time in oz is almost up. i never miss this one during the set.

glass slipper- by audience request. holy moly! twitter about webcast again.

(at this point amanda skips an item on her keyboard notes...i can tell immediately that she needs the band back...i run downstairs...)

drover's boy (w/ M/TS)- grab my first beer of the evening....remain stage left. write in my notebook. put out small fires.

guitar hero (w/ M/TS)-  breathe....relax...scribble in notebook.


coin-operated boy (w/ M/TS)- run backstage. grab go go girls for red cross reach out. put on my "costume" for map of tasmania...


formidable marinade (w/ M/TS)- collect the donation money that the go go dancers have collected for christchurch. way to go ladies! we raised $3240 or something like that.

runs in the family (w/ M/TS)- run  down stairs to get my prank ready for the encore.

oasis (w/ M/TS)- dance ecstatically off stage left with all our friends and family. run downstairs to grab one water and one beer for when amanda gets off stage.

encore: map of tasmania (w/ everyone)- i owe a giant debt of gratitude to Kim- she was napping in my hotel room in fremantle weeks ago when it hit me. strippers...i've always wanted to get strippers. and kim had the direct line. she connected me with ac and jd. they are the real deal. they design their costumes and have toured with peaches, the big day out, and other gigs around the world (watch out nyc, they are gonna destroy you this summer). we emailed. we put together a plan. it was a good one. i had originally asked them to get Australian Federated Police costumes...i shouldn't have even tried, and just trusted...they did me so much better. the bogan bit was a sweet touch. yeah....we sabotaged amanda's grand tazzy plan, but it was worth it. the video by jim batt says it all:

leeds united (w/ everyone)- get mostly dressed. continue dancing with everyone on stage.

2nd encore: the drinking song- run around frantically grabbing everyone again for more dancing on stage. skull the beer on the last note- a tradition that began on evelyn evelyn tour. i've stopped doing this actually... but amanda signaled me to the front of stage during the final refrain...and instinct kicked in. dirty-secret: the beer was only half full. i wasn't expecting to do it so i had been sipping the bottle while dancing....usually i had a full beer hidden on stage and i would pop the cap off on stage as proof....

11:24 or was it 11:44? show ends.

and believe it or not, everything only gets wilder from here. post-show is the fastest hardest part of the night. we're up against a venue curfew (it could be as short as 60 minutes in certain venues) and there is a lot that still has to happen. this is when my blood starts to race. the adrenaline kicks in. i'll be awake for hours from the energy generated by loading out....this is maybe a problem....the memory is a total blur. it all just happens in a frenzy and it bleeds together.

usually i would spend the next 30 to 60 minutes or so with the promoters...reviewing costs and settling the show and having a laugh....but we all agreed to skip this and do it at a later date. best. idea. ever. which left me free to: 

-distribute setlists to crowd.

-congratulate and thank all our friends and family and business folk for their hard work on the tour. hand-shakes and hugs all around.

-clear amanda's gear off stage.

-conduct two more meet and greets with business folk.

-take backstage photos for the merch packages b still needs.

-organize amanda's signing line.

-grab the poster making supplies.

-hunt down fancy friends in the audience to escort them backstage.

-hunt down more beer for our friends.

-discuss crowd control issues with the venue manager/ask if we had any problems.

-settle accounts with one of the support artist managers.

-settle accounts with our video team.

-try and chase down the earlier missed meet and greeter (i failed)

-take photos for amanda at the signing line.

-grab mailing lists from the merch table.

-pack up the costume bag.

-pack up my office.

-idiot check dressing rooms for lost items.

-locate mikelangelo's missing maraccas.

-coordinate everyone to after-party plan.

-get everyone out the door.

-sit down. exhale. swig some whiskey in the quiet of my now empty office.

-grab my bags and go.

...90 minutes after the show ended...

...other than the venue folk, i'll be the last guy out the door. but in minutes i'll be back with our people in the rain on the balcony of the supper club singing the collected works of michael jackson to the dulcet sounds of jw's accordion. i may or may not drink heavily....it depends. on whether we wake up and do it all again tomorrow....

and that's how we make the magic happen....hope you all enjoyed it as much as i did!