The Fucking Fringe Fucking Rocks
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
writing in planes seems to have become a habit, but it makes sense to me.
i barely thought about blogging when i was in edinburgh and when i stop to think about it, i realize why: i have no desire to keep a running of my life and actions.
did this. went here. met so and so. greetings from….
it’s not the events themselves that i’m interested in writing about, it’s the reverb.
memoirs, not chronicles.
it’s been so sublime that to write ABOUT it DURING it would have seemed like a violation, as tasteless as stopping incredible sex to discourse thoughtfully with your partner about how incredible the sex is.
at the beginning of august i flew to london for the bush hall show
and then to edinburgh and just left yesterday (by way of one short show at the pride festival in manchester, which was a disaster, though fun, and not part of the story).
i’m flying back to boston. in total i spent about 3 weeks at the fringe festival in edinburgh. i booked 8 shows at the spiegeltent and played a few extras as the opportunities came up.
it was the third year i’ve been in edinburgh during the fringe. the first year it was just for a day or two. i vowed i’d return. last summer i managed to stay 3-4 extra days.
from now on, i’m there all month every year. it is no less than perfection. it is disneyland for artists. it is heaven.
this is the fringe:
wandering lost in an city transformed into an altar to theater, music and art. old stone and brick buildings in the center of a twisted and cobbled fairy-story city that lie in slumber until fringe time and are then transformed into damp and dark spaces where art-makers compete for your attention, every one of them attempting harder than the next to plunge their hungry fingers into your heart and make you bleed so profusely that you have no alternative but to promote their show by word of mouth to all your friends.
everywhere the walls are damp and everywhere there’s laughing and it smells wonderful and everywhere things happen now now now until 6 in the morning and profanity and profundity walk smack into you in the street.
on the third day steven (from zen zen zo in brisbane) came. we’d been hatching some vague plans to put action to music with him at the helm and a collection of performers he would wrangle from australia.
he introduced me to the performers from a show running at the fringe called “six women standing in front of a white wall”. they were friends, some of them old students, of his and they generously lent us their performance space so we could rehearse the ridiculous lip-synch performance to “umbrella (ella ella eh eh eh)” that i had dreamed up on the plane ride over. it involved reggie beatboxing. reggie came over. game on. art started.
here’s what we came up with:
the next day i saw the performance of “six women…”. it was exactly this: six women, wild-haired painted white butoh-style and wearing pink prom gowns, standing in front of a white wall in a dark brick basement venue that is usually a hallway. they stand behind velvet VIP ropes with signs that read “please do touch”. they stand there, writhing in wait, every muscle of their body tense, waiting to be touched. music alternately manic and heartbreaking plays through the speakers. maybe somebody crosses that rope and walks up to one of them touches them. and when touched, how they respond, all gleeful and wild and wordless and explosive, happy but terrifying like a baby in a state of shock in that moment for bursting into tears. the performance was attended by 10 or so people. steven and i touched them. i smiled, it was sweet, it was art, i knew these were my people. we invited them to come perform during my spiegel show, they’d be perfect during “material girl”. let them writhe in front of the audience in their terrifying dresses and why not let’s put blood capsules in their mouths and have them start oozing during the “living in a material world” section of the song. so every night these women, along with steven and the danger ensemble, all australians, would be packed behind the tent putting on white and laughing, what heaven will look like for me. steven and his crew put together a piece for my song “strength through music” that broke my heart so hard one night i wept while i watched them, hands on heads, all attending columbine and virginia tech, freezing and falling to the aisle of the tent while it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop every night. during “coin-operated boy” they paraded in the audience with “pash for a pound” signs. pash, i learned, is british for Making Out. they had many takers and often made out (no pun intended) very well. someone made a twenty one night. during “the assistant” they created a striking tableaux of twisted circus magicians and assistants. steven is like pope: he sees straight into my head and straight into the music and knows what goes where without me barely having to utter a word. chalk one more point up to Rock Love. we have it. we call it Art Love. i played off of them and their energy the way i play off brian, they fed me, more and more every night.
there’s a great video reggie took of our daytime rehearsal of “creep” with the six women, you can really get a sense of what the tent looks like:
vimeo rocks, it’s youtube for artists.
this is the spiegeltent:
stained-glass & velvet & gold vaudeville tent that seats 300 people and travels the world, a magical ship of cabaret and drinking that delivers atmosphere in such large doses that it’s almost intoxicating. it’s like stepping inside a gingerbread house or a movie that you love, you can barely believe that it’s real. there were two tents set up at the fringe in a garden of tables and umbrella-ella-ellas and bulbs strung on tress. one with wrap-around booth-seating and a dance floor (my tent) and one with old circus bleacher-style seating (the bosco tent). there were dozens of acts, all rotating from afternoon til late late at night and the turnover was tight. we all shared dressing room trailers and the bathrooms were portapotties smelling strongly of cigarettes. it was one of these portapotties into which i accidentally jettisoned (and from which i vainly retrieved) my blackberry last summer.
we were all all all over each other, everyone fast friends, everyone in awe of the next person, everybody checking out each others acts and the whole place feeling like family.
i’ve never had so much constant exposure to such an abundance of my kind of talent and people in my life. it was what i’m always trying to make. already made, and there, for me.
the staff, including all the door people and backstage crew, wear old-school 1920s and 30s attire: hats, suits, vests, garters, skirts, boots, everybody truly loving it. fucking class.
wine in the morning, coffee at night, cider all the time.
i shared the stage with Bob Downe, a hilarious seventies throwback and with Camille, a french-irish beauty i’ve seen for years at the tent who does a nightly show of kurt weill, nick cave and jacques brel. not up my alley at FUCKING all. she was an inspiration and we would bump into each other every morning and share hangover woes and she would give me pieces of french apple pie. late at night there was the shuffle club, where the tent would jam pack and we would swing dance to a smoking band playing jazz standards. sweat everything off and slip down drunk on all the beer on the floor. (http://www.myspace.com/theshuffleclub)
at the bosco tent was meow meow, one of the premiere cabaret performers from the new york scene and she was an instant hero, just add water. i’ve never seen a performer like her…. in love and in awe. she crowd surfed to the lighting booth every night.
there was suitcase royale, which was a junkyard paradise combination of monty python, terry gilliam and, as the reviews said, “wallace and gromit meets david lynch”. sxip showed up and we went together and clutched each other in hysterics the whole time and kept saying all day that we wanted to live in the set with the butcher the doctor and the newsman. they’re coming to pittsburgh in the fall. go or die, i’ll try to remind: www.myspace.com/thesuitcaseroyale.
at the end of every night starting at one o’clock a password was spread and bosco tent would turn into a speakeasy where only the performers and the staff would knock at the backstage door. some band or another would kick out the jams and the drinks were served in teacups. the first night i went was almost the best, meow’s piano accompanist and i took over the grand piano and played a 15-minute version “ice ice baby”/”under pressure” while the doctor from suitcase royale tried to channel vanilla ice. my last night i showed up with a song i had penned that afternoon to play for the assembled patrons: an ode to the spiegeltent. it was a tango, the lyrics began:
“i want to live inside this tent
i dont care how much rent they want
i want to curl up in a ball
forget the worlds out there at all
and fall asleep each morning plastered underneath a wooden bench
i’ll drink my breakfast at the bar
i’ll never change my clothes or shower
i’ll hire a desperate local child
to fetch paninis from outside
and keep me stocked on cigarette papers and
underwear and i’ll be best of friends with all the staff
we’ll share our sorrows and a laugh
they’ll be oblivious at night
when they are turning out the lights
that i am sleeping in a pile of their 1930’s hats….”
….and so on and so forth. it ends with us all dying and meeting up to get pissed in a spiegeltent in heaven.
it went over very well.
then me and tom dickins sang “hallelujah” together and tried to make each other cry.
this is the fringe. it’s the best place in the world.
there was my apartment.
which i found through the dentist(who-fixed-my-tooth-that-i broke-beatboxing-at-the-fringe-with-reggie-watts)’s son
sam. sam ends up being an amazing musician in his own right and i got to see him play and sing a few times over the course of the fringe.
sam had a friend named jo who had an empty room in her house for the month.
i rented a shitty keyboard and put it in the corner so i could practice. rohan practiced on it. i think max played it before he found tonsillitis.
i’d wake up in the morning with new thoughts in my head, ideas that maybe i always have but because of the change in climate and shift in lifestyle i finally did things i don’t do.
i wrote two poems. i don’t write poems. i’ll share them later. one is called “broken-heart stew” and sounds like a dr. seuss book and one is called “how to hold a man with no arms”. they are both good.
i wrote a children’s story. it took 30 minutes but it’s not really finished. it’s about a boy who keeps changing his name.
i ignored everything coming in. i dealt with the essential but i have, at last count, approximately 567 emails (after spam-deleting) in my inbox.
i don’t care.
everybody texted. i had a UK cell phone left over from last year and it became my new lifeline.
everybody always had somewhere to go, and if there wasn’t somewhere to go, you could always find someone at the forest.
this is the forest cafe:
one day i walked in for a sandwich and there was a girl from pittsburgh playing “oh comely” on guitar and instead of ordering my sandwich i sat down in a chair and watched her and within about 2 minutes i was in tears. ok, so i was having a sensitive day anyway but what the fuck. her voice was like an angels, i talked to her afterwards and she came along that night to hanover street and played the guitar part for “two-headed boy” while i sang. we practiced in the basement. (http://www.myspace.com/autumnayers that’s her).
the forest is the world’s best Again cafe, co-operatively run and volunteer operated by everyone around, with plates of vegan salad, mad painting on the walls and indie music at all hours of the day and night. they only play music that is sent to them by unsigned bands. where everybody is, thinks, talks, sits in rotting armchairs with disintegrating springs that sink you to the floor. where the abandoned presbyterian church upstairs finally opened up as a forest cafe annex for a few weeks and miraculously the giant pipe organ up in the balcony was still working. the collective that was anarchically taking over the church space was a mass of 20 kids from london, and they put up gorgeous photos everywhere and made music for the end of the world. the sounds were like the old Birthday Party live recordings. the group was called “What They Could Do, They Did”. the place was packed and dark with light creaking in from the street lamps breaking through the tin foil that had been plastered over the two-story stain-glass windows and i played “will” on the organ for the crowd down below as max worked the foot pedals with his hands.
max. and rohan. the two of them sleeping like homeless angels on the wooden floor of my room and we would all scrape ourselves up sometime after noon and walk down to the cafe on the corner where we had, all three, fallen in love with the waitress who was so frazzled and terrified every time she took your order that you had to, just had to, deliberately slow your speech to watch her slowly self-destruct in agony. we were sadists, trying to inflict jedi zen on her and it never worked. the orders always came wrong, i always tipped, which you don’t DO in scotland. from then when i was alone there, i would write. i would curse the draft from the door which was always kept open even though, for the first two weeks, it was always freezing and raining. from bush hall to edinburgh, max and rohan and i ate many meals together and always ended up in the same seats on the same topic of technical skill losing out to passion no matter what the application. about how there are no rules for life and you realize this gradually. rohan finally made me an associate member of the guild of funerary violin players and i attached the golden plaque proudly to my ukulele.
some pictures of the forest:
i took jogs through the meadows near the apartment and listened to the songs that becca left on the iPod i had lent her that she named Maggie.
one day my heart broke.
i had my heart broken, mostly, i think, because i needed it to be so i could fix it and feel my own blood pumping. i’ll never know. i keep forgetting what it’s like to feel even the remotest shallow heart pains.
that day i was hung over and i gathered up all the energy i could muster and left the house for a run. maggie was on shuffle and “everybody’s gotta live” by the band Love came on. i had never heard it.
i played it again. and again. and again. i kept running. i felt like that character described in Paris, Texas. i kept running and running and hitting repeat until i was so full of Yes that it was impossible. then i went home and showed and went out that night to see what would happen but i brought maggie and when things got hard i finally took her out and i put on the song and i walked by the throngs of people in the cloudy dark wet light and i felt my heart explode with every face i saw pass me. i wanted to grab my cracked heart out of myself and throw it in the river and i wanted to hold onto it forever.
i went to 99 hanover street to pick some money up from gavin. i’d had a variety show there the night before and invited all my friends to come play….sxip, reggie, rohan, steven and the other guys from danger ensemble, jessica delfino singing songs about vaginas, more more more, it was a juicy night everybody sat on the floor and we all rock loved and drank wine and ate indian food in the make-shift basement dressing room. i was tired from my jog and from my heartbreak and from the late night. gavin waved, he was just finishing up a band on stage and as they played their last chord he told me to hang on so he could throw a song on the turntable and he ran over while i got a cider at the bar and i heard
“EVERYBODY’S GOTTA LIVE…..AND EVERYBODY’S GONNA DIE…”
and i properly melted to a puddle of fucking mush on the floor.
i dragged my semi-broken heart around for a few days like a suitcase filled with top-shelf drugs, happy to have it but afraid that it might burst open and get me in a shitload of trouble.
on one of those days i went back to see the six women show. they’d gotten rave reviews, the show was now packed. instead of 10 people, the room was teeming but the crowd was just as timid and confused.
i was raw, tired, sad, happy, broken, leaving in a few days. they just stood there, writhing. i held onto a set of hands and i felt tears gush out, thinking this is it: this is your lover. and i knew i was right. and they knew i was right. and they held me and i held them, and in all the parts of my brain that were working i tried not to take any of it for granted. saying: there’s no rule that says that people are going to make mind-blowing art, no rule that you’re going to be there to see it. touch it NOW. NOW. and i left the theater without saying goodbye to any of them in words, my hands and pants and mouth and nose covered in white, and got in a cab to go to the dentist’s house for dinner.
the six women of little dove art theater:
more connections and more:
i knew andy, a bad-ass trumpet player, from last year and the next thing i knew he wrangled three of his friends and i had a horn section fro “leeds united”. they all played pants-less and i loved them.
photo by stuart barrett
i loved them so much i booked a day in a local recording studio and they brought along a bass player and drummer and we laid the track down. it is the sloppiest thing i have ever recorded. i did the vocal in one take and didn’t even warm up. i think it’s going to go on the record just because IT CAN! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA ha.
we had a good time in the studio:
the record has been on my my mind but i tried to ignore it all month. i went jogging and i realized that if you didn’t know me, you’d hear all these songs and just think i was just an incredibly morose and fucked up chick. that didnt’ sit well with me. i need to think about that.
this is the dentist’s house:
there is a house in edinburgh where a family lives that is the most wonderful family in the wolrd. i’ve never seen so much drinking and laughing and joking and shared love of music and life around a family dinner table in my life. instruments are played, spilled dessert from the table turns into an art installation and photo opportunity and the dying and lovable cat, pumpkin, shares time in everybody’s lap. i am now torn between living in the suitcase royale set or the dentist’s family’s house. emily came over for dinner the first time. we ended up all lying on the floor stuffed with food and wine watching alice cooper and tom waits and captain beefheart clips from the old grey whistle test DVD.
we spent the next day looking at each other shaking our heads saying “dentist’s house. Best. Family. Ever.” the encore dinner was just as wonderful and sam and i practiced “two-headed boy” together and then we all walked over to reggie’s late-night show and at 2 am we took stage and played it. then i played “what about blowjobs” with reggie and did NOT break any teeth this time. no pun intended ok next:
this is the fringe:
-heading to the spiegeltent in the morning and checking my email under an umbrella drinking cappuccino and eating banana bread while camille comes by and talks irish in her gorgeous wool coat and sxip comes by with someone from luminescent orchestrii and talks about how their show went and mark comes by and calls me darlin’ and sonya comes by and says how you goin’ and tom comes by in his suit with his big australian smile and tom’s mom gives me a massage in her trailer maked “zen central” and puts flower essence under my tongue and talks to me about love and life and makes my chest break open.
-a piece of physical theater called “the angel and the woodcutter” that it makes me cry not one, not two, not three, but four seperate times. by the last scene everyone in the house is fucking sniveling.
-sitting in the kitchen with my housemates, from all over, greece, italy, food being cooked, wine poured, conversation turning in circles and the record player always on. the back window lets you out into a garden with tiger lillies and fox gloves.
-three weeks of Noga
-a one-man play about technology and isolation in which everything morphs into a sick video game and i cry from happiness and not-loneliness and then the actor who is a friend of reggie and jason webley’s from seattle takes me back to his house under a cliff and makes me eggs and toast and we end up talking (surprise) about how technical skill loses out to passion no matter what the application.
-a walk to the spiegeltent one evening, decide to take the long way through the meadows and a group of four or five people are lying on a blanket drinking beer and i’m in a good mood and one of the guys is playing a hand-drum even though he doesn’t really look like a hippie and the beat makes me happy and so i smile and when i walk by i catch his eye and he doesn’t look away and i don’t look away and the whole episode only lasts 3 seconds but he ends it by saying “i love you”
-showing up at club noir with reggie and the danger ensemble to do a quick appearance and being backstage with a gazillion half-naked burlesque dancers and drinking GOD knows WHAT was in those pitchers.
-seeing fuerztabruta, the same folks who made “de la guarda” at a tent on the other side of town. me and steven and drew all cab it over. i grab steven’s hand within the first ten minutes because we both know that this is It.
in an hour, urban life sticks the arrow of decay through our hearts, world trade center towers crash over everybody’s heads, and tsunamis consume us as all three hundred of us agree to dance and scream and FUCK IT.
we leave drunk on the performance and take public transport back to town, steven produces a bottle of vodka from his backpack and we all feel 16 as we burst into spontaneous fits of laughter taking swing and making faces in the back of the top of the double decker bus.
-conversations about the end of the world in a bar with the staff from the bongo club after seeing the group 1927 create the most incredible fusion of film and performance i’ve yet seen.
true genius; i am determined to get them to come open up for the dolls this winter: http://www.myspace.com/1927cabaretmostcurious
-cider, whiskey, lager, wine, repeat
“You aren’t the sum of your experiences. You’re the whole fucking equation.”
whoever wrote this, you’re awesome.
“did you ever see a film called “paris, texas”? i expect you have, but i think youd like it anyway.”
this is not only one of my favorites (and i love wim wenders in general, if you haven’t seen his new one, don’t come knocking, it’s pretty good and bleak) but the soundtrack is oneof my favorite soundtracks of all time.
ry cooder, slide guitar, just ridiculously great.
i’m out to the mountains montana for a week with no phone or email again, finishing yoga teacher training so i can finally quit this ridiculous day job.
if anyone tries to message or email me i’m way backed up so be patient.
i finally put life first for a while and it means i have about 462 unanswered emails in my inbox.
i get back & then i’m spending all of september finishing up the record and then mixing the first week of october in nashville. i’m scared. it’ll be done and then i won’t be able to change anything. but then it will also come out and people will finally be able to hear what i’ve been doing with my life for a year.
oh p.s. miscellaneous plug:
YOU MUST SEE REGGIE’S NEW VIDEO for “WHAT ABOUT BLOWJOBS”.
me & him performing this song together at the fringe seems to have become a tradition, and this video is the funniest shit i have EVER seen:
go go go:
& hopefully we’ll do this song together at the ART shows in boston in a few weeks and everyone can sing along.
if you haven’t got tickets, get them http://www.amrep.org/hoc/, these shows are going to be epic and beautiful and never again.