panic! at the mindfuck
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
three days ago
i’m on a plane on the way to washington DC, to start the panic at the disco tour. we’ll be opening for a band i’ve never met, never talked to, and whose music i barely know. it should be interesting. and they’re almost half my age. my god. it’s sort of the flip side of the NIN tour. who knows what.
i never really got to come home after the european tour. i had enough time to start opening the mail and doing laundry and we left for a 48-hour trip to london, where we played on jools holland. television appearances are so fucking nerve-wracking. there i was, jetlagged, tired, disoreinted and caffeinated and all of a sudden…look wonderful. play wonderful. i ain’t that sort of performer. i ain’t the dixie chicks. they were very nice & friendly, though, and they went out of their way to say hello.
i had never seen this show (for those of you int he dark, jools holland’s music show ont he BBC is the equivalent of saturday night live…only much more musically respectable). so i went to youtube. i have become a huge fan of youtube and have been gluttoning on old adam ant videos. i digress: so i went to youtube a few hours before we played and started downloading random clips from bands who had previously appeared on the show. radiohead. tori amos. whoever. just to see how they were shot and what the vibe was. and it struck me: my god, everybody is just as nerve-wracked as i am. there are little hints. you can tell. television is scary.
it’s a strange land back there, backstage. i did have a wonderful walk around the BBC television headquarters, somewhere in london. it’s like an army-base, you need special passes to get in and the entire building is shaped like a donut with a large ring road running around it. since they wouldn’t let me out to take a walk (AAAAHHHH) i just walked in circles. there were sheds with entire dismantled situation-comedy sets. i saw an entire soda shop on it’s side. fake wallpapered walls everywhere, laying on their sides and stuffed into holding tanks, waiting to become part of a room on a set next season. entire fake worlds, the backdrops of unreal situations. that was a nice walk.
we flew back exhausted and i faced my apartment and my non-ness in it for another 48-hours and then we got on a plane headed for bonnaroo, a huge hippie music festival in tennessee. upon landing we took a surreal walk through a forest in nashville with a lawyer and then i escaped my life for a while and went to see doni from …and you will know us by the trail of dead (my favorite press on them lately refered to them as “…and you will know us by the length of our name”.) he had a piano. i heard some roughs from the new record (which i sang a played pianer on, a while back, in austin) and it’s fucking amazing, but i expected no less. we played along to a skipping ravi shankar record for a while. it was in 12/35. a difficult time signature.
bonnaroo itself was, as festivals go, pretty beautiful. it’s situated in Really The Middle Of Nowhere, and there were tens of thousands of hippies and freeks. beautiful to see, even though i was, as usual, too spent to actually get out there in the crowd and shake my boot-ay to the guitar meanderings of beck. i watched quietly, in awe of his greatness, his royal beckness. when i saw the puppet show he had choreographed, i decided that we should be soul art lovers in some alternate universe (some alternate universe in which i don’t need to deal with scientology, which creeps me out). radiohead came on and failed to hold my interest, but this was probably due to the fact that i was about .4 miles from the stage.
we killed more time throwing a tennis ball around and videotaping ourselves (you will seeeeeeeee) and didn’t take stage til 2 am. which was fine, because people were up, and primed and obviously ready to be Rocked, so we Rocked. backstage at bonnaroo was a trailer next to our friends in the bindlestiff family cirkus, so i got to feel nice and at home – despite the trailerness, there were men juggling discs and girls applying bizarre make-up. this always cheers me up to see, no matter who is doing it and for what reason. then slept and went home in the morning.
then i crashed completely. this was when things got a little weird: i got home, again expecting to throw myself into the fervor of Home and Happy and Oh, and instead i plummeted into a wicked funk of PMS proportion (certainly at the wrong time of month). i found myself crying every time i lay still during yoga, i found myself crying over a four-page biographical introduction to a book of photos by robert capa. i didn’t even really feel sad, i just felt sort of strange and dissociated, and angry at myself that i let my sacred time off get once again eaten by This Is Really Important You Should Do It obligations. i was finally home and i really only had six days off until my next show. on top of it, i had to practice practice practice for the film and solo nights, which i hate hate hate doing. i need to come to terms with this at some point. anyway. don’t get me wrong, i fucking love playing the thing. but it ends there. practicing and playing for me are two separate issues. at some point i will write about this, and it will take up page after painful page of valuable blogspace, alienating you forever.
two days later
last night was a completely beautiful mindfuck.
the first night of the tour – in DC – was fine, strange to be back in it but the boys in the panic at the disco band are total sweethearts, like lambs. i tried to prepare myself for how young everything would feel but walking through the crowd i almost feel like something was illegal. there are not going to be a ton of our fans at these shows, definitely something i was expecting and something i tried to remedy by booking these simultaneous “fuck the back row” film festivals at which i’m also playing solo: to give our fans a place to go if they a) couldn’t get tickets or b) didn’t want to deal with the situation only to watch us play a support set for 40 minutes. that’s why i booked it. it seems that it’s going to be serving a far more medicinal purpose.
we showed up yesterday in new york to the typical flurry of activity that greets us here, always a little more to deal with than usual given it’s the home of All Press, Our Label, Our Manager…we went to sirius radio in teh morning and i didn’t see howard stern walking by our studio until it was too late to flash my tits at him. next time. the venue itself left much to be desired. though clean, it was too clean, and completely sterile, and reminded us of a cross between an aquarium and a movie theater. there were cell phone advertisements installed everywhere. it always takes me a while to realize what’s missing and then i realize there is nothing going on offstage and nothing to fucking do in the lobby….and that these fans are not dresden dolls fans. the sense of community is so different, so remote and impersonal. no brigade. I am starting to realize how much I take it all for granted, our fans, the community, the feeling in the audience. I’ve never known it any other way. I assumed NIN was some sort of excpeption (music about isolation and anger = isolated and angry crowd, n’est pas?). I’m starting to understand. It aint no fucking accident. for years now, our own opening bands always tell us how overly kind our crowd is, how supportive, how open-minded to their music or band. and I’ve never paid that much attention, thinking: well, of course. why wouldn’t they be? they are people, they like music, they will listen, they will be respectful. to disrespect the opening band would be disrespecting us, because we are allies, comrades. Simple. and we take great care in picking our openers so that we can maintain the trust of our audience.
back to our story. so the panic crowd last night seemed to me to be tepid, but decent. i did notice one asshole flying his middle finger when we first came out but I told him where he could stick it. meredith joined us on violin (as she often does) for “missed me” and i left stage feeling like we’d played a great set. but why were all these people backstage giving me timid and sympathetic looks? it turns out that my in-ears were providing with with a sonic wall of ignorant bliss, because there was a contingent in the audience shouting at us throughout the entire set. meredith was yelled at, called a “fat troll” and was threatened with fat kidn sof ass-fuckings, and there were multiple requests for her – and us – to get the fuck off stage. and to shut up and go home, etc etc etc. brian was livid and bashed the fuck out of the drums. w’ere not used to this. we’re used to the land of Art Love. this is the sort of shit we were expceting on NIN but luckily missed out on. my god, is it karma? but i was ignorant while it was happening, i found this all out after the show, in the dressing room and in a taxi on the way to the Fuck The Back Row show at the Brooklyn Lyceum. i was troubled, upset by all of it, wondering if we’d made a terrible fucking decision to come on this tour. and then oh
so i arrived in brooklyn, all verklempt, to a land that looked like oz to me. everywhere there were people laughing, making art, performing, being humans….i flashed back to the nokia theater from 24 minutes before where i was walking by 13-year olds screaming at each other while cell phone ads on giant TV screens blazed in all of our faces. i had certainly been through hell to arrive in heaven. films were running, people were drinking, even the brick walls looked beautiful like i’d never seen. everything breathed like it was alive. while the projector ran, the upstairs loft above the space was covered in huge paintings and black emptiness with an old player piano in the corner that i tried to practice on. only every other note worked. mali showed up and we decided to sing delilah together, so we practiced on the incredibly out-of-tune piano, laughing at it. meredith came up and brought her violin. peter brought over a clip light and illuminated the inside of the piano and filmed. titler (hitler in drag, who showed some AMAZING films and played some songs on piano) brought his two dogs up. it was real. i looked around and i saw people i cared about and who cared about me, saw people i wanted to know, felt like i could live here, stay here, catch this moment forever and bottle it. i’ve never felt more grateful for our fans, the world that we’ve accidentally on purpose created. and then the films ended and i played my fucking ass off on the piano, knowing that i needed to prove nothing to anybody, that i could just sing and play, that defenses weren’t necessary. the audience wasn’t really an audience, it was more like a living room of 300 people. so if this tour will teach me anything, it’s that i’m fucking lucky for what i have. some bands don’t have it, some people may never know it. i feel like the luckiest girl alive, trapped in a lesson in the shape of a sports arena.