Dear Amanda Fucking Palmer,
I hope you’ll read this.
With most other artists I wouldn’t really, but with with you, I do just a little.
Maybe you’ll read this just after reading one of those comments that miraculously started to appear on your blog this year, invading that safe space of free thought-sharing and understanding and support. I wish that for every one of those specks of malevolence and deliberate ignorance, you get to read something that makes you feel better about yourself and humankind, just like you make us feel better about ourselves and the people around us.
All that good stuff that happened Friday night happened because of you.
For starters, the simple fact that I finally got to see you and the Grand Theft Orchestra in Concert, accompanied by two people who mean the world to me: My boyfriend Dominik, who introduced me to Coin Operated Boy eight years ago when we met and fell in love, and my cousin Lena, with whom I have shared many a musical obsession over the years and who, through all the changes our lives underwent from childhood to teenage awkwardness to the pains of growing up, is still one of my best friends.
It was the second time that the three of us came to Cologne to see you. Last time, around a year ago, you played a few Ukulele songs in a media market and signed stuff. You were sick, and there were just too fucking many people waiting in line for you. I was incredibly nervous, and when it was my turn, I blanked and just stared at you, and then I kind of squealed, I guess, which was really embarassing. But you were patient with me and you wrote “Just Sing” on my arm, which was awesome.
I did speak eventually, but of course I had no time to actually convey to you why squealed at you and behaved like a moron. You never have in that kind of situation. I guess that’s part of why I’m writing this.
We didn’t have tickets for the show that night, so we went back home and waited for March. Then that show was cancelled, and we read your blog and hoped that things would turn out well. We didn’t feel let down at all. We understood.
That feeling of understanding and being understood is something that I felt very strongly last night, standing in the middle of the crowd at Gloria Theatre. I have seen you and Brian playing a festival a few years ago, just before the Dresden Dolls broke up, but I’ve never really seen a Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer show, and what happened in Cologne on Friday was very much what I imagined that would be like: It was a lot like a crazy kids birthday party, balloons and chaos and all.
There was the fantastic Brass Band Perhaps Contraption, making beautiful noise in the middle of the crowd, there was the weird Comedy-Punk-Duo Die Roten Punkte doing stupid things that inevitably made people laugh, and there was the amazing Grand Theft Orcestra bass player, playing an all bass song and just being generally badass. And of course, there was you, doing a very convincing robot dance and having so much fun with all of this colorful crazyness that I totally forgot about being nervous this time.
I was so glad to be there with those two people I love to bits, but I had to leave them. I didn’t plan to, but when you played that cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit and jumped into the audience and everyone started to freak out, I wanted to be right where the freak was at and just let the wave of wonderful Amanda Palmer people carry me into the heart of the crowd.
And there I was, at the perfect place, listening to you play Astronaut on that famous “Kurt Weill” keyboard of yours that I’ve never seen up close like that before, partaking in the choir to your Walk on the Wild Side cover and, yes, singing along to 99 Luftballons, something I have not done since… I can’t say, actually. I was sad you chose not to play some Brecht/Weill instead, but only for a bit – then I was happy, and then sad again. Just like a real birthday party.
When you asked for wishes from the audience, I didn’t raise my hand. Maybe I couldn’t decide. Maybe I was just a little scared. I would have picked Trout Heart Replica. It was okay though, since you played Runs In The Family, which is a fierce and brutal song that always grips me, no matter how often I’ve listened to it, and now I only remember that song at your show as some kind of weird frenzy of me screaming and shaking my head and being generally out of control.
It got worse after that. Halfway through The Bed Song I had tears streaming down my face. It truly is the saddest song on the record, and it’s a masterpiece. I always cry at concerts, but this was the first time the singer cried with me. And so did the girl beside me, I heard her sniffing gently, and I felt so at home and cried a little more. When the song was over, I turned to her and just put my arm around her shoulders for a second to tell her that I understood, and when you asked wether we wanted to keep being sad, we both voted a clear yes.
That new song that you played… Wow. It was frightening and heart wrenching in it’s honesty, it was an epic story of human suffering and still something so uttterly personal that it really felt like you were showing us the really dark spots on your heart and, by extension, our own. I’m so glad you chose to make us cry some more. I felt so close to you and the girl that was crying alongside me and to everyone else. I didn’t know any of them except those two people I’d lost in the crowd, but they all felt like friends.
You made us freak out to Girl Anachronism and scream every single word like maniacs.
You made us hold hands and sing, “I love you so much!”
During Leeds United, I finally spotted my cousin again. I gestured her to come over, and we danced together.
After the show the three of us found each other. We went out for a smoke and then stood in line. Lots of people wanting you to sign stuff, again. But I didn’t squeal this time, I wasn’t that nervous any more. I made you sign the Dresden Dolls skirt next to Brians autograph, and then I showed you my arm. Your “Just Sing” is still there, and it will probably remain there until I decompose. My right lower arm is now officially the Most-Touched-By-Amanda-Fucking-Palmer-Place on my body, and it is really happy about that.
When we went outside, we say that girl with her friends, smoking in front of the entrance. I asked her if she was from Cologne and I told her we were looking for a good place to hang out until the first train home. Her name is Nina, and after liking each other so much when we were both crying to your wonderfully sad songs, we just kept liking each other.
They took us on a little walk through rainy Cologne. We got to know each other as we went for tobacco and lemonade and made it to the U-Bahn, talked about music, about festivals, about our two cities, Mainz and Cologne, about carneval and, of course, you. Nina was psyched to have another hardcore Amanda Palmer fan to hang out with, and so was I. But it was not just that – there was no one in that group of about seven or eight people walking through the streets of Cologne with Amanda Palmer tunes stuck in their head that wasn’t a genuinely nice person, and everyone seemed like they could become friends. They led us to a nice little punk bar called Sonic Ballroom, plastered in stickers and graffitti and filled with loud guitar music, a place that instantly made me feel at home. We drank something called “Kettenfett” and lots and lots of Kölsch, we talked about feminism and fat-shaming, about films and philosophy, about how hard it can be to start something new and how we’re always scared things won’t work out.
Some time later, Nina offered us to crash on her couch, and we said yes, especially because we wanted to meet their two cats and because we were having so much fun together. On the way we got Pizza with loads of garlic, and we ate them in their living room. We listened to their band (called Cats in a Ghostworld) and they listened to my boyfriends‘ band, and then we decided on planning exchange gigs in Cologne and Mainz, and I think it could really work out. I hope so.
Then the three of us cuddled up on the couch and giggled ourselves to sleep, just like three really big, garlic-breathy kids.
I really don’t believe I would have had this kind of an evening at any other concert. There are a lot of other bands and musicians that I love just as much as you, Amanda, and I have met the greatest people at other shows, but there was a certain magic about Friday Night, and I think it was the magic of Amanda Fucking Palmer.
I really don’t think we were the only people in Gloria Theatre, Cologne, that got to see that magic work that night.
Thank you for bringing like-minded people together.
Thank you for making strangers open up to each other.
Thank you for making us want to be the best we can be.