Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra

Been listening to the new Amanda Palmer album pretty much non-stop since Tuesday morning (snag it here).  On the first listen, I wasn’t terribly impressed.  Of course, I think I was too distracted (fucking work) and not listening to it the way I wanted to.  Not that I thought it was bad.  It’s not.  Not at all.  Now that I’ve lived with it longer, I do love it.  I’ll admit, having been following the whole process my expectations were high; the album simply didn’t grab hold of me and shake me like, say, Howlin Rain did on my first listen.  And you know, I’m okay with that.

I think what I really love about the album, more than the music, is the spirit.  Everything from Amanda’s successful Kickstarter to the current controversy over her not paying backing musicians (who were called to volunteer on a city-by-city basis via an email sent out last month) has been a wonderful, fascinating experiment to watch unfold.  And it still unfolds.  It’s fucking amazing.

Not being a musician, there’s not much I can say about the imbroglio there except that volunteers typically aren’t paid in ANY situation.  I was under the impression that was the whole point of volunteerism.  I do think that if the folks showing up to play with Amanda had a problem with what she’s doing, they wouldn’t be doing it.  And for fuck’s sake, the exposure alone has got to be worth it.  Steve Albini called Amanda an idiot (he’s apologized).  He knows more about the business than I do and probably more than Amanda does.  He can say whatever he wants, but I got a problem with the name calling.  And yeah, there’s a shit ton of name calling.  How churlish.  I mean, really.  This is not to say there isn’t intelligent argument about it.  There is.  Both sides have valid points, and I think the intelligent discussion between all camps will only benefit everyone in the end.

One of my favorite things about Amanda is her willingness to experiment.  The music business is changing, undeniably.  She’s not on a record label.  She brought this whole thing to life through her hard work, her risk-taking and her unflinching dedication to herself, her art and her fans.  The woman’s got balls.  I love her for that.

I saw her in concert back in 2008 (I think).  I was only casually into her music back then.  After that show, I was so much in love it damn near hurt.  I’m going to her show tonight, and I can’t wait.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited for a concert (or anything; I’m not easily excited).  But again, though I love the music, it’s not the music I’m most looking forward to.  It’s the theater aspect; the performance, the set and (of course) the crowdsourced horn and string sections.  It all makes me wanna make my own art.  Or just play Beatles songs on my ukelele.  (I totally suck at it, but it’s so much fun.)

It makes me wonder why I sit here and play solitaire instead of writing.  I’ve attempted to justify playing with the whole “I need to win to get my confidence up” line.  Bullshit.  It’s not procrastination either.  It’s avoidance in a bad way.  I use the time to talk myself out of writing.  I convince myself that the things I’m working on are silly and worthless.  I’ve had bits of poetry running through my head for a couple weeks, but I’ve refused to write them down because I don’t think they’ll be any good.  Well, yeah, they probably won’t be.  So few of them are good the first time around.  It’s like the idea that a sculptor finds the shape the material wants to be and doesn’t impose his will on the material.  With writing, I have to create the block of marble before I can being to shape it into its desired form.

Which means I should never be afraid to write.  The short thing I started last weekend continues to go places I’m unsure of, but that’s the fun, isn’t it, following where it leads instead of saying to it, “What the fuck, story?  This is fucking stupid.  Why are you going there?  I should stop writing you.”  No, I shouldn’t.  I should keep going and see what’s really there.  Right?  Write!

I don’t want to be afraid of the things I love doing.  I want to embrace the whole thing, the risks, the successes, the failures, the hard work, the satisfaction, the learning.  There’s no point in it if I’m not wholly inhabiting it.  I’ve been miserable, especially lately, being half a writer.  Writing is not a hobby for me.  I’ve been treating it as if it is.

Don’t worry.  Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being the passive, sad-sack coward I’ve always been.  But just for tonight, I’m gonna grow a pair and inhabit my inner artist.

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