Amanda Palmer and the Art of Asking Philadelphia 2014 Tour Stop

Amanda Palmer and her ukulele

Amanda Palmer and her ukulele

Amanda Palmer stood on stage talking with her friend Kyle Cassidy and they were talking about fame, being a celebrity and social media. Amanda thought a moment and said that she remembered a time in which the random thought in your head could not be shared instantly to the world via Twitter, Facebook, or the social media platform du jour. I took that moment in, but she was too fast for me and went on saying that there's a self-fulfilling feedback loop in which you post on social media, want to share something important to the world, but then you're waiting for that validation from your followers to reply and, if they don't, there's that moment of sadness because you wonder if people still listen to you and care for you.

It's a moment like this that made my wife and I waiting out in the rain for an hour on a Thursday night on November 13th, 2014 worth it. But let me back up and tell the story from the beginning.

I like Amanda Palmer. Her critics name her controversial, bawdy, loud-mouthed, opinionated, and crass, but she's not for everyone. Through social media, I learned that Amanda Palmer was coming to Philadelphia to promote her new book "The Art of Asking" and I was lucky enough to score tickets. After waiting outside in a cold and rainy night, my wife and I went inside the First Unitarian Church, sat in the last pew and shivered, trying to get warm. Amanda came onstage a little after 9 p.m. and I was a bit grumpy. I had been up since 5 a.m. and standing outside in the rain for an hour when the show was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. made me a bit of an unhappy camper. But when Amanda came out on stage, she did not disappoint. 

She sang a few songs (the Bed Song, Delilah, and Ukulele Anthem) through the course of the night and did an unveiling of the Bed Song book to the audience. She covered topics about dying, growing up, friendship, fame and even answered the question: "Should I stay in college?" from a woman in the audience. Before she could answer, she asked the young woman if she wanted to stay in college, heard the "no" response and then replied, "Take a year off."

The night was filled with music, intimate stories and I felt happy to have two moments of just pure joy. When I listened to Amanda talk about social media, it struck a chord with me because I agree with her take on it. I really do love social media, but also know that it can pull you down because you see all what's being done by others and everyone's life looks so wonderful and amazing. And when you share something of your own, if it doesn't get an immediate response, you stop and wonder why people aren't responding to that amazing thing that you shared. It's funny because it's creating a world of people who know of nothing else but having the immediate ability to share every thought to anyone, anywhere. It will be interesting to see how people are affected by this. Amanda commented on this saying that she believes it's important to unplug from the internet when she's writing or needs to finish work for a deadline. It's too distracting and she admitted that she's too concerned about trying to compose tweets to her detractors rather than focusing on finishing her work. It's not everyday that you're given such an intimate view into another person's creative process. I could really identify with that pull of social media and have been trying to distance myself so that I can spend my energies on finishing my next book rather than tweeting out my next "great thought."

But the most moving moment of the night, for me, came when Amanda sat down to the piano and played the song Delilah with her tour manager. I don't have the full song recorded, but do have about 40 seconds. I had never heard the song before and I sat there wet from the cold rain, tired and I just let the music waft over me. I remember looking up at the ceiling, realized that I was in a church and I had this spiritually, uplifting moment. I felt transported by the song because once I knew what it was about, I felt my memories crashing in on me. The times of my childhood with my mom being abused by my dad and then, as a young teenager, my struggling to find love and looking in all the wrong places--on a dangerous course to becoming an abuser myself. I sat and listened and let the music transform me. I identified with both Delilah and the boyfriend in the song. 

When I write my books, I put a lot of myself into them, having come from a broken home and been in dysfunctional relationships when I first started dating. I was like Delilah going back and back and back again to a broken relationship because I just wanted to save the person I loved, that I had the ability to do that because I was young, smart and could change the world. But what I didn't see, could never truly understand back then is that I needed to save myself first. That's why I decided to write the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series. But there's also the dark side too. I always find it interesting when someone reads my books thinking that they'll be about Princesses and little, cute fairies and then they realize what the book is really about.

When Amanda Palmer finished the song, I applauded along with the rest of the audience, but I just wanted to know what the hell the song was. Thankfully, I was able to take the video clip above, get some of the lyrics and look it up so that I could buy the song (again, The Dresden Dolls' Delilah). After the question and answer portion of the show, Amanda sang some more songs and ended with one of my favorites: the Ukulele Anthem. I like the song because it's irreverent and filled with positive energy.

My wife and I left the show after midnight. Amanda invited everyone to stick around to see the Bed Song book, but we had to be up for work the next day. I will admit that I slept in to 6 a.m. on Friday and I definitely needed it. I did a lot of people watching that night and I saw a few old couples like my wife and I and a ton of young people dressed funky, being witty, cool and smart. It gave me hope for the future seeing such great people there and what fun we all had. In the end, I felt more committed to my own art. I know that might sound odd, but I wanted to write more after seeing her show. I just wanted to take all the emotion, bottle it all up and then share it with other like-minded people. I know you're out there because I saw you at the show. And that really made me smile.


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Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.