- April 11th, 2015
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Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer “Heartbreak Hotel” Review
By Raven Terrapin
The magic and historical Tampa Theater is a show in and of itself. It’s winding and immense and features much majestic decor that one is instantly transported away from the normal world. The stage was set for one of this generations most inspiring and quirky couples, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.
They held the audience in rapt attention for nearly four hours including an intermission that had fans lined up liked shambling cattle trying to grab some swag.
Palmer had played the Tampa Theater with Dresden Dolls and seemed to be in prime form throughout the night performing on an open topped grand piano. Percussive hand strikes, a sense of timing that would make drummers envious.
Gaiman would regale us with chosen poems and stories of loss throughout the evening in his darkly smoky English accent.
From the opening “Making Whoopie,” the couple acted a bit like a Gothic Sunny and Cher, leaving the sold out audience in guffaws. It should also be noted that Palmer has the kind of fierce fans that sing every line of her songs and choke back sobs directly behind my seat.
Gaiman is quite the contrast to the much more animated Palmer, bringing a much needed gravity to an event that lasted about the same time as a typical Springsteen show at just under four hours. Sitting in the old seats in the balcony I am reminded of an early era, when people would travel and pack theaters like this one to hear someone speak. No flashing lights, no drums, no movie screens or special effects. The power of words. The power of the spoken word. Gaiman read poems about heartache and loss, stories about Jinn, tales of statues coming to life and the world coming to an end while you stare at your cell phone.
It was a glorious celebration of broke hearts turned glad through the power of laughter. Palmer broke into giggles trying to read a poem from Sylvia Plath. Gaiman sang us songs about Google. The faeries and sprites and ghosts crowded all the spaces which weren’t occupied by adoring fans.
Props must also be given to set design team, making it look like the performers were in a living rooms decorated by “Oddities”. “Two lava lamps,” Gaiman quipped. Palmer played covers by Robyn Hitchcock, solo material and ended her section of the evening with a encore rousing “Coin Operated Boy,” complete with the robotic-puppet breakdown hook.
Palmer’s lifetime of street performing and theater work helped to anchor the show. Both performers would whisper into each others ears and help to guide the next segment of the evening.
They also shared stories of past Valentine’s disasters.
In the end, it was a magic evening, made of the best kind of magic. The crazy ramshackle not quite planned out balancing on that edge kind, the kind of evening that makes your toes tingle and you suddenly and once again remember that words have the power of worlds. That Gaiman and Palmer are both storytellers of the highest order. They shape the ether of ideas and dreams, tears and monsters, ghostly statues that just may or may not be looking at you. Or not. Or, yes, they are looking at you. The ghosts stand alongside us the audience as we rise from our seats, minds brimming with stories and the hallowed halls of dreaming. The Sandman is waiting.
Love is ramshackle. If it is honest, then real love brings both joy and sorrow. In this age we seek to redefine the context of marriage. All around us is changing so rapidly. Our society flexes and we must also leave room in our own spirit for growth of our definitions of love itself. “Heartbreak Hotel” brought all of this home. One can only hope that Gaiman and Palmer return next Valentine’s day to Tampa for another run at a most unconventional evening. We love them.
By: Tommy Jordan of Urban Fantasy
I took almost a full year off to become a better person. I realize that’s a pretentious sentence. But you see, previously a lot of the music I made was fueled by anger, revenge, heartbreak and of course the egotistical streak of anyone who is brave enough to venture on stage and proceed to rip your chest open until the crowd can see the palpitations of your heart beat. I’d spent most of my life writing a large cannon of spiteful male odes to heartbreak, and just kept getting myself into situations that only provided ample ammunition to that cannon. The rest of the time from essentially middle school to my early twenties, I made my name as a battle rapper, choosing random monikers and hopping on stage to spew more of my teenage angst that trickled into my adulthood. I’m not saying that period was this dark phase full of self pity, war, and reckless abandon, but rap wasn’t exactly the easiest form of art to promote and advertise yourself. So without getting into the nitty gritty, dropping names, or really exploiting some of the events for the sake of internet hits, that’s what happened.
Anyone who knows me, knows that in all things, especially art, I’m constantly on my grind. I always maintain a decent sized fire with several irons heating up in it, in the hopes that one of those irons will lead me to a moment of breakthrough monetary success, so I don’t have to be in my mid-thirties trying to explain why I’ve never sought higher paying jobs, and have no real education. It’s all a gamble. Sometimes it seems like I have a gambling problem. My greatest singular success to date is a song called “Ella Fitzgerald” which is a three part male ode to breakups. It’s achieved some radio play from reputable college radio stations in the Pacific Northwest, and features Chad Fox of Keaton Collective, The Variations, and Chrome Lakes fame. While this is something I can brag about in the food service industry as I was dishes and prepare food for for the upperclass, it’s not exactly something I can write home about. Taking that year off gave me some time to not be on my grind. To really write and write and write, then trash most of it. Time to remember that it isn’t polite to always say the most snide thing one can say in any situation. Time to realize that thinking everyone is judging you constantly is actually the biggest act of judgement of all. Time to go to town with my family’s cow and return only with three magic beans. These magic beans grew up in a cloud, in that cloud I killed a giant with an icicle from Michigan, then I stole some type of poultry that shitted out gold, and a women, and climbed back down the beanstalk holding both of them with my godlike muscles, and that is how Urban Fantasy was formed. Long story short, it was a good year off.
I met Jacob at Skylarks, where we formed a friendship under the eye of security cameras that kept that good old stench of mistrust between employer and employee thick in the air. I kept my head down while there, and tried to not hate my life, and find nice moments and the bright side in everything. I think in a way I treated my desperation and lack of speaking to be positive, as some type of penance. In the metaphor, Jacob would turn out to be the gold-shitting poultry.
In my old house I would lock myself up in my room and start making beats out of weird indie songs. I’ve never really been into the whole ‘basic chord structure strummed down while a man sings in a tenor range about cancer and alcoholism’ thing in music, but they always make quality samples. I sent all those beats to Jacob, who is a synth player, and bam, we started working on songs. My girlfriend Dani, who is a stellar vocalist, spent a lot of time at the time sitting on my bed watching The Walking Dead, and somewhere in there Jacob heard her sing some words, and bam we ended up putting Dani in the band.
Jacob took over all the instrumentation and then I was able to focus on lyrics. I started getting back on the grind after we recorded a demo, which we did post on the world wide web and got a surprising amount of attention from it. I started booking shows.
I have the booking shows process on lock down. After years and years of booking shows, I know what is and isn’t working. I know what to write, what to say. Who to try to get to play with us etc. However launching a new project with a stained reputation is more like starting at -10 as opposed to square 1. However I pushed on and like the anti hero I am, I succeeded.
First Four Shows. Lets skip the detail. Went good. Just built up. By our second show, when we started playing, there were already more people than any new band should really expect at all, and after that, we added on some more at the next shows. Our friends really supported us, in every way. We got the gratification one gets from people quoting your lyrics, and having songs stuck in their heads. I didn’t have to beg, bribe, or black mail anyone into liking us. It’s been good. Lucky, really.
We are moving on to a new era now, working with multiple producers, with me and Danielle holding it down. You can expect several music videos from us this year, all of which we will be sharing super hard on the usual networking sites, as well as a EP/LP depending on how many songs we decided to keep after studio vocals which are slated for early February.
I am straight up stoked for the opportunities we have coming our way, I’m excited about the collaboration we are hoping to do with some visual artist and videographers. The possibility of working with professional promoters and publicist. I feel like I finally found the right dress to wear to the prom and it’s making all the heads turn. Go on and look fellas, shit…take a picture, my dance card is filling up.
I was at work a few months ago and felt a familiar feeling down it my pants. My phone buzzing. It was a short text message from my own lovely lady (Dani, who’s also my bandmates). It said her dad had given a ride to a badass dude who made music under the name NTRL, and that her dad showed him our music. He dug it. So clinging to my long-standing business philosophy of seizing EVERY opportunity that ever comes my way, I hit him up, and he offered us a show. At Barboza.
The two months preceding the show date were a little rough around the edges. Mostly first world problems, but still, rough around the edges. Life hadn’t been filled with band practice really at all, and a lot of projects we were working on collectively as Urban Fantasy sat stagnant in their own juices. I spent time hoping that the juice would just make it better, or aged, or more mature. I’m not positive if that happened but I like to think so.
Jacob took a step back from doing shows with us but he’ll still be around, and we can expect to hear his sweeping synth with those classy-ass danceable rhythms on future Urban Fantasy tracks. Since Jacob left the live set up, under a time crunch I started the long process of putting together the beats for our live show. This was a large amount of splicing, editing and mixing in the week before the show. Richard Sandbom really bailed me out there, made us some leveled-out show mixes to melt some faces with. Richie, who I consider my longtime music cohort is just that type of dude. The type that bails me out when I take on too much and have too little time.
We emerged from this process revamping the live set as Urban Fantasy, with a computer, a digital turntable, an actual turntable, a collection of a capella rap records, children’s records, an old radio programs for samples, and cross fader. This has put me back in the helm a DJ/rapper, and I gotta say, I still got it kinda. I mean I have a long way to go in the world of becoming an excellent DJ. But I still can rhyme circles around Dr. Seuss and look good while I do it. We had a few days to practice, and hammered out everything we could, including a few new tunes never done before. We practiced everyday, and one day all day long.
Some background: I’ve been an indie musician actively working in a live setting in various acts in the same town for five years. I’ve never broken into the popular trend of my local town, but I feel as though I do have the respect of many of my peers, and many of them have seen me go through several artistic manifestations, and all agree that Urban Fantasy as an act is “the one.” The one to ride into hell. So thats what I’m going to do. In the the immortal words of Sage Francis “imma ride that horse till it bucks me off and I’m forced to shoot it down.”
Barboza is a venue owned by Neumos in the heart of Seattle. Neumos is one of the bigger venues which many of my heroes have played. It’s a seat that up and coming bands long to sit on. It’s the throne. A throne I’ve been watching. So to get offered Barboza was a huge deal for me. I had never played a venue that respected and was really excited to have that opportunity. It made me nervous and giddy, and excited to have a soundcheck beyond an on the fly one in a dive bar. P.S. I love the dive bar as well.
We made it down there in one piece and nervous as hell. My friend James allowed us to use his truck and we can’t thank him enough for that, as we are still saving to purchase a vehicle. We hit soundcheck and the first person we met was ZNI, his DJ, Charma, and his drummer, all of whom were incredibly nice. I walked around to the front of the stage and watched NTRL’s sound check. I made eye contact Jason Whitney and he gave me an affirming nod. I started to feel less nervous. Everyone around us was so kind and excited to hear us, and the little voice in my head, the one that fills your head every time you do a public display of art, that tells you things like “their not gonna like you.” Well, he shut the fuck up this time.
We had an awesome soundcheck. The sound technician was amazing, and very kind. Dani and I got some coffee, meandered around in the rain on Capitol hill and then hit the venue to perform. This was our first time without Jacob and I used my laptop and a turntable for samples, which went pretty well. I think we killed it. I barely saw Dani but I heard her voice strong through the monitors and every time I glanced over she was smiling and dancing. We played some new tunes, although I imagine all the tunes were new to the crowd. This included a song called “The Anthem,” the lyrics of which are a serious tongue twister and about as fast and complex rhythmically as I have ever rapped. We dedicated one of our most popular songs, “Holy Shit Mom!” to Dani’s mother, who was there (she and Dani’s dad have been incredibly kickass and supportive of our indie ventures). She loved it. It went stunning. We closed off our set with another new song called “The Future” which both me and Dani are feeling splendid about. Dani did a lot of improvised singing and ended on a beautiful acapella stanza. We left the stage and were greeted warmly by the crowd. Nothing but handshakes and love from everyone including the security people and the venue folks.
ZNI hopped on stage next. It was ZNI, the emcee himself, a DJ and a drummer. They killed it, with danceable songs and undeniable hooks, I literally still have one of them stuck in my head. I was singing it to Dani last night. He took the opportunity to point out that it was the eve of the NFL playoff game against the packers and that if nothing else we should be celebrating that. The football industry has been great for us in Washington this last year, good for the economy for the morale of the people who live in 8 months of rain and darkness, and I feel as though we all really needed that boost. The crowd went wild. ZNI killed it. Really fun party music. It was totally Vegas.
NTRL the headliner took the stage with a three person act. The sound was exciting, reminiscent of The Prodigy, with some Beastie Boy-like harmonies on the more hip hop parts. They had an industrial sound that was a throwback to the late 90s and Jason, the lead singer/emcee gave more than one hundred percent on stage. But I imagine thats what he’s like at everything. He had the whole crowd laughing at banter and participating in songs. The guitarist was incendiary, and had a stellar voice that really added to the overall juxtaposition of the chorus and catch phrases. The base lines were
phat and rolling like Hennessy mixed with anarchy, a mix of class and chaos. We watched from the front and had a hell of a time. When they finished we grabbed our shit, and left the venue into some of the most serious rain I’ve seen in years. We made it home in one piece, woke up late, and watched the Seahawks win a very very tense game. Fireworks went off on the drive back to Bellingham. I was tired, glad to be home, but I really felt like we had emerged victorious from this whole venture.
It’s been a hell of a few months putting together the live set, Jacob leaving the live scene and us reworking songs, and putting forth more effort as a team and as a couple. I’m really grateful to everyone on my team, and I mean everyone. From my friends at work who wish me good luck, to my boss who lent me her car to drive music equipment to practice spaces. To all the Shepherd Boy Records kids, out on their grind, fighting the winter blues with music. To my parents and family whom I believe really support me rapping after the release of a very personal album I did for them for christmas. I still get frustrated and jealous of my peers who have succeeded beyond me. I wish I lived in the city. I still wish I had my shit together more or felt more like a grown up. We had an opportunity to move last summer, but were low on finances and it didn’t feel right. But throughout this winter and all the people I’ve met, all the people who are on my team, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I learn more every day, and I’ve finally succeeded at making music I stand behind and that has a positive influence on the listeners. This year is going to be life-changing, and I’m so thankful just to be on this thrill ride.
I’m going to be less available in the near future since Dani and I are working hard on an EP and have several videos we are working on. So if you don’t see much of me, just remember I’m busy trying to pull the sword from the stone and it’s getting looser, and I think I got a fair shot at the crown.
Direwood show 44 blog
by Raven Terrapin
Show 44 brought us back to the familiar home base of the Venture Compound as host and head imagination engineer to head up the third annual “Edgar Allan Poe” birthday bash.
In celebration of the 206 birthday of my favorite American poet, I had my friend Adrienne Rain manifest a wonderful cake and we topped it with three birthday candles with that numbers I bought at Publicks.
Once again, the Seat of Your Pants production pulled the frying pan out of the fire. If you had a “backstage” pass for what goes through my mind the entire day of a concert I wonder what you would think? I am quite frankly quite a mess of emotions that resembles someone that might need adult supervision with the overload of stressing factors of setting up and coordinating events like this. It started early in the day when I watched my carefully constructed and planned lineup of seven poets and six acts start dropping like raven turds.
Indeed it seemed as the Red Death had started lopping acts off the bill as one by the poets that were featured were felled by migraines, colds and flu with 104 temps etc. Then the music acts started to fall. One at six cancelled just as I got ready to pack the car. One failed inside the venue when they had to bail for a family emergency leaving your host missing the first hour of his act.
So, we got to get a extended hypnotic stretched out ambient set that never bored or fell out of place from Tired Kingdom. These guys are the new type of “far out Kesey acid washed pranksters dripped in lysergy.”
This is the new 1967 and i have a front row seat.
Lilith followed and i sat transfixed as she wrapped her spell of Peter Murphy like wails and chants, also bringing the face paint and occult trappings of Jaz Coleman and Jarboe into one of the most cohesive and well played sets I’ve seen in quite some time. Brilliant. I can not wait to see her perform again.
The cake came out, party balloons were blown up and noise makers made the strange sounds of dying ducks in the kitchen as we all sang happy birthday off key and off tempo. A true moment.
A moment of poems from Wayne Williams and bassist Iatro called on the spur of the moment.
Smiles from the friends in the crowd, including my best friend from high school Jeff.
Direwood rocked the mic hard, played super solid, got all the cues spot on. We’ve become adept at this level. Sometimes I feel the pull of time and wonder if this is all it will ever be. Am I okay with that? No giant crowds of undulating adoration and groupies and ca-cane.
Not Motley Crue, But Tired Kingdom. Not Donkey Shows. Hell Garbage. Cake.
And a closing set of para theater from Whitey Alabastard closed the show. A contact mic, a table, scribbling on paper, coughing up fake blood that taste worst then real blood.
From the crazy person in his car singing “Would” by Alice in Chains so loud it was the only sound the air before anyone showed up. To the last screams and whispers of the the night as the fire built of trash warms the hands of the brave audience and players, all the same. No stage per say, no division exists between the acts and crowd. We are beyond gay or straight, man or woman, white or black, we are all the same. We are all very different.
I had a hard week this week. I lost a wonderful friend in a terrible accident. I didn’t want to celebrate death very much on Saturday night. Then I thought there is beauty even in death, even beyond death. Death does not pale beauty. In fact, when death takes a wonderful young one or dear friend from us, it only serves to enshrine and bring back the celebrated moments that make up a life worth living. I think Mr. Poe would understand that. I think Marc Atari was there too. I know he was there. I heard him in the wind. I heard him singing “Would” by Alice in Chains.
“Into the flood again,. Same old trip it was back then. So I made a big mistake. Try to see it was my way. Have I gone? Have I gone to far to get home? Have I gone? Left you here alone?