Ninjas in Perth
February 6, 2011 by ausmerican
Last post I mentioned that I’d recently seen Amanda Palmer in concert. It was at the Fly By Night (a most excellent venue) in Fremantle and we’d bought the tickets for our 8 year wedding anniversary celebrations. It really was an excellent show. It being the Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under tour for her album which she described as a “love letter” to Australia, she came out on stage wearing a Union Jack corset and an attempted Southern Cross drawn on her breast in a hilarious mock up of the Australian flag. Whatever else that can be said about Amanda Palmer (and I will touch on that in a minute), one must admit that she is an entertaining performer. She’s theatrical and over the top yet still manages to convey a feeling of authenticity and familiarity with her fans. It’s a delicate balance and one that I’ve seen very few pull off well.
As far as the other things that can be said about Amanda Palmer, I got into a conversation of sorts about this when a friend (and fellow Ani DiFranco worshipper) posted the above video on Facebook yesterday. She said she didn’t much like Amanda Palmer and thought she was a bit overrated before she saw this video but now she thought she was starting to see what all the fuss was about. I responded with what I think now is probably my best attempt at summing up my feelings about this controversal performer. So, please excuse me while I pull a Richard Dawkins and reference myself (I drop out of italics occasionally where I’ve edited my original words to better convey what I meant):
I’m not a huge fan, tbh. I enjoy some of her music and don’t really own much of it. I do, however, enjoy watching her. She’s like Peaches or Madonna … I just like watching what she’ll do next. I don’t think she’s as edgy and radical as she
seems to think she is or that her fans
seem to think she is. I also think she can be an entitled douche occasionally. However, she is a performance artist worth watching just for sheer entertainment value and occasionally, just occasionally, she hits on Truth in her songs. Map of Tasmania is one time. The Vegemite Song is another. She’s often hilarious and fun to watch … which is why I’m also going to her free ninja gig in the city tonight. It’s a good excuse to go out and enjoy myself at any rate.
My friend basically concurred with me here and then I added:
Also, I think that she’s an interesting/important figure historically merely because of the way she’s harnessed social media to drive her career. Social media: She’s doin’ it right. A lot of up and comings can learn from her in that regard.
At this point my friend claimed that that was one of the things that irked her about Amanda Palmer and that she was basically a Big Brother era star. To which I responded:
That’s what I mean by doing it right, though. She’s *not* all that much like Big Brother in that she’s pretty authentic, not fake, etc. She puts herself out there and is, really, just being herself (which is at times quite prentious, but you get that). She makes herself really accessible to her fans in a way that not many people do/have done/do well these days and she uses things like Twitter to do it very effectively. I really think that people studying the social media phenomenon will be using her and Neil Gaiman as examples for a long time. They didn’t necessarily break new ground but they hit upon the way to make Twitter/social media work well for them iykwim.
Again, she’s not a fucking saint or necessarily worthy of the unconditional worship that some of her fans bestow upon her (but then, I’m sure people say the same of how we worship Ani DiFranco) but she is a significant figure nonetheless.
Damn, somebody should do a thesis on this shit.
The conversation went on and I did mention that we all can be entitled douches sometimes and that was pretty human. I’m not sure Amanda Palmer has always managed to gracefully own her privilege/entitlements when she cocks up but, again, that’s pretty damn human as well and just adds to the point I made about her being really authentic and accessible to her audience. Let’s face it, we’ve all cocked up (sometimes spectacularly) in our lives and dealings with others and not all of us deal with said cock ups gracefully all of the time. Hell, I’m sure there are some of you reading this who think that I have cocked up by even writing this. It happens. Sometimes we learn from it, sometimes we don’t. I try not to pass judgement as I know I’m not perfect or innocent, either.
In short I still enjoy her performances both on Twitter and on stage; I enjoy a good amount of her music though I am not a hardcore, obsessive record buying fan (though, I rarely get to buy anyone’s records these days & rely mostly on TripleJ for music); and I really admire the ovaries it takes to go out and do the kind of stuff she does. I am a very self conscious person and I always admire those who can put themselves out there and perform especially in the way that Amanda Palmer does.
But enough about that. Let’s get on to the ninja gig fun! Amanda Palmer does this thing she calls ninja gigs. She announces via her blog and Twitter when/where she will do a free impromptu “gig” that usually consists of her, her ukelele and whatever friends she happens to have with her at the time. I missed the first one she did in Fremantle two years ago because I had two small kids and it was really hot that day. I decided that the effort of getting both kids out & keeping them contained during a ukelele gig in a park on a sunny, hot day was just too much hard work. Afterwards, I found out there were only a handful of people who showed up and she’d gotten Neil Gaiman on the phone (this was before they’d even announced they were romantically involved though it was pretty obvious)! That was when I vowed to make it to the next ninja gig near me even though I knew it probably would never be that small or that awesome again … I had missed a golden opportunity.
Yesterday, I texted my friend, Joni, and arranged to meet her in the city for the gig. Amanda performed outside the Art Gallery at 9:30. She even brought the band, Michaelangelo and the Tin Stars (from Melbourne), who opened for her the night before. It was great. She put on a hilariously entertaining show and it even culminated in a 28 ukelele (yes, 28 ukeleles!) version of Creep by Radiohead which I got on video. Amanda tends to do meet and greets at both her concerts and her free ninja gigs and this time I managed to get in line early enough to get to meet her. It was a little awkward as I didn’t really know what to say and ended up just babbling about the Vegemite Song (which I do love). You can see the picture at the top of this post. But, bloody hell, if I babble incoherently when I meet someone like Amanda Palmer, who I like but am not obsessed with, then what the fuck would I do if I ever found myself in the presense of someone I really, truly worship beyond all reason (and blindness to her faults … of which I’m sure she has many but I don’t want to hear them) like Ani DiFranco? I’d probably just drop dead from the excitement.
Enough of my rambling, though. It’s time for the grand finale: My not so great video of a moment of awesome involving 28 ukeleles, Amanda Palmer and a man made pond in the middle of Perth: