I know what you’re thinking. What an odd title for a post a week after saying that I was no longer with the Indianapolis Star Newspaper full time. It’s not what you think though as while I do feel as though my exit from the paper wasn’t a bad thing I didn’t plan a party to celebrate it. No in fact this is quite different, and this story starts over a year ago in fact when I was looking for a birthday gift for my lovely Shannon. Let’s start there. Shannon is a big fan of the artist Amanda Palmer. (Amanda Fucking Palmer for long, AFP for short). She first mentioned AFP when we were shooting Joan Dark’s book “Knits for Nerds” up at AFP’s husband, Neil Gaiman’s home. The trip up to Neil’s was incredibly memorable, we shot a lot of really nice photos including one of Shannon which I have a 20×30 of hanging in my office, as well as one of Neil’s barn which I sent him on canvas as a thank you for letting us be there. I digress though because regardless of that rare experience, this was meant to be a once in a lifetime experience as well; spending an evening with Amanda F. Palmer. A very small group, an intimate setting; not a bad deal if you’re a big fan.
The whole thing started a little over a year ago as I mentioned. AFP wanted to release a new album but didn’t want to sign to a label so she started a kickstarter. One of the backer rewards was for an Amanda Palmer house party, where Amanda would go to a place of your choice and basically hang out, play a few songs, share a few laughs and ect. The cost was $5,000. Sounds pretty awesome right? I’m not sure I know of anybody that just paid the $5k to have AFP over for dinner, but most people did it as a group which is exactly what happened here in Indianapolis. Joan Dark was in touch with a gal named Allison who fronted the money and was selling tickets to defray the cost, and Joan hosted the event in her coffee shop; The Strange Brew. Once the backing was done, and the location was set it was only a matter of time before AFP showed up for the evening. When I found out about it, I couldn’t think of a better birthday gift for my Shannon even if I did have to wait over a year for her to enjoy it.
Food was done pot luck style, which was great and everybody was on kind of a sugar high thanks to the sheer volume of cookies and cupcakes that made an appearance on location. Someone even brought Gluten Free cookies, which were especially good. With every pot luck though one item that someone brings in good intention that just isn’t touched for one reason or another. At this event there was one cake which was aptly nicknamed, “John Carpenter’s- The Cake”, which of course Shannon and a gal named Ali Gator were the first to dive into using each other for moral support. They were also not the last to dive into it as anybody in the Roller Derby world would have to know that Dill Hero wouldn’t be able to stay away from it either. It was called quite a few things over the course of the evening, but the John Carpenter name is the one that I liked the best. Either way, it only added to the enjoyment of the evening considering AFP is kind of off the wall and something like this is really just awesome amirite?
After Amanda started to play she decided she felt that everything was a bit impersonal, so we all took a break from the music so she could get to know everybody. She got out her face paints and proceeded to ask everyone what they were afraid of as to draw it on their face. Really a clever idea, and it also answered the age long question; what would Neil Gaiman look like with a Mustache?
No, Neil isn’t afraid of having a Mustache. He did however wipe it off not long after Shannon called Bullsh*t on a word that he made up. It got a big laugh out of everyone, but that was the end of the Neil Gaiman Mustache. I suggested Illiteracy should be his fear, but AFP felt otherwise, which was fine as everybody loved seeing all of everyone’s fears. It really was a fun time to hang out, and laugh. It was a bit odd of a shoot for me since I’m not much of an event photographer. I’ve shot plenty of events yea, but it’s not my normal gig if you will. Most of the shots were without a flash which for me is wild. It was just the people and the mood, and the mood was good.
As I mentioned earlier, Amanda’s husband Neil Gaiman showed up to surprise her and to the surprise of the group he read a few stories for us. For me this was a highlight of the evening. Despite Amanda’s amazing talent and singing I think Neil has a fantastic voice and inflection for storytelling. Being the wordsmith behind the stories he told was also somewhat special as he knows the story so well; unlike a rehearsed monologue or speech, these are his stories. Imagine if I was to get up on stage and read one of my blog posts to someone? How terrible would that be? No, Neil isn’t just an author; he’s a storyteller too. Actually, he told a scary story while Amanda and his assistant Loraine played the mood music for the event. How cool is that?
The evening ended with me taking photos of everyone with Neil and Amanda (including Shannon and I), as Amanda requested having done this at other house parties. I really didn’t have any warning so against all fiber in my being on camera flash was the solution. The photographers out there reading this will know what I mean, but since I had no light kit in the car thinking this was just an event it was all I had. Dill offered to help me make a light stand out of beer bottles and toilet paper tubes, but I told him that would be an adventure for another day. Anyway, everybody who was there loved it, and for good reason as it was absolutely a memorable experience; even for me who really didn’t know all that much about AFP. I’ll always remember it for a few different reasons than most though. One being that it was a gift for the love of my life, and I’m glad she not only got to see Amanda Palmer play, AND hear Neil Gaiman read a few stories but she got to talk to them. Interact with them. Laugh with them. The next being that this is the first time I’ve touched my cameras since being Laid off from the Indianapolis Star Newspaper last week. This evening shall be remembered for a long time by all those around. Some will remember through my photos (which you can see the rest of HERE), which I was honored and humbled to do. Others like myself will remember for other reasons. Either way thanks a ton to Amanda, Neil, Strange Brew, and everybody else who made the evening possible. More Soon.
(Photo by Dill Hero)