I woke up the morning of the show feeling like hot garbage, definitely not top-form. Like I expected, I slept in, and I didn’t feel much like hitting the town. I just kept saying to myself, You’re fine, everything’s fine, the show’s going to be awesome. We mostly just hung out around the hotel, went for a cajun dinner.
By evening I was feeling pretty great, it was like I got fresh batteries. My ear opened up, I could finally hear. I watched the Baton Rouge sunset thinking about someone I love, her touch, her smile… her kiss. She’s with me even when she’s not, I never feel like I’m completely by myself, even when I am.
Our hotel was right near where Aimee was playing, the very stylish Manship Theatre, so we decided to walk it. The early evening air was cool, but humid, a freshness unique to Southern October nights. It was a nice walk, though on that walk down a bumpy sidewalk, toward the Manship Theatre, toward backstage passes, I started getting nervous. It was a happy kind of nervous, I wouldn’t have wanted to not be there. It was just, the first time I met Aimee I didn’t have the little plastic tube in my throat, my language was voice, not text. I wanted to say so much, I was just scared I wouldn’t be able to type quickly enough, or maybe I would have to use my fake computer voice and it would just sound stupid. My computer does text-to-speech, but I try really hard not to use it. I prefer to have people read my text, or at least to have someone that I’m with say what I’m typing. The digital voice just makes me cringe, it’s cold, it mispronounces words, it’s definitely not the voice I hear in my head. I don’t like pushing the idea, disabled people sound like robots, and I really didn’t want Aimee to remember me from that night on as the first robot she’d ever met. I just wanted everything to go well.
Ted Leo opened for Aimee, and he was a great start. First off, he’s really funny. He’d tell a story between songs, and they were all pretty great. It was never like, “Oh, God, you’re more boring than Dune, either shut up, or go die in a fire. Please.” Of course, his music was great, that goes without saying. His guitar is super fast.
Then, Aimee joined Ted for a few songs, playing together as their new band, The Both. They’ve been hanging out so much on tour, writing songs together, that they decided it’s worth starting a band and putting out a record. Together, they sound really great, their songs are totally worth a record, totally worth paying cash for said record. Their stage chemistry was also fantastic. So long as Aimee doesn’t quit writing solo-records, I’m down with The Both.
Finally, Aimee took the stage all by her lonesome and opened with a solo, beautiful rendition of Freeway, and took off from there. I’ve seen Aimee play three times now, and this show that I drove eleven hours to see, drove eleven hours after a previous day in the hospital, drove eleven hours all the way from Tampa to Baton Rouge to see, was absolutely the best of the three. Aimee’s voice had never sounded so clear, so decadently lush, sadly beautiful.
After Freeway, Aimee was joined by Paul Bryan on bass guitar, singing accompanying vocals, and a really great fellow on piano whose name my addled brain forgets. It was an intimate show, the instruments only complimented the crisp vocals. They played a few new songs off of Charmer, but mostly she sang older songs from other records, which was totally fine by me. All her songs off of all her records are great, there isn’t a single song that would have had me thinking, Ugh, not THAT song. I only think she avoided Charmer because it’s a loud record, but this wasn’t a loud show. It was two guitars, a piano and vocals. It wasn’t a rock show, it was a cozy and close acoustic show. A pretty much perfect show.
Aimee Mann is a brilliant writer, none of her songs are throw-away songs. She writes beautiful lyrics, beautiful stories of addiction, loss, stories of people hanging on by the tips of their fingers. She writes stories about lives that bend sideways, lives that take bad turns, that don’t go the way they were supposed to go. She tells complete, beautiful, honest stories, in way under five hundred words. To me, she writes flash fiction set to gorgeous music. It’s the sort of writing I aspire toward. Her words are art, I carry them with me always, in my head and on my skin.
That night, she played so many songs, it was a spectacular setlist. She sang stories I know by heart, stories of loneliness that always make me feel a little less lonely. While I was totally happy to hear whatever she’d play, there was one song I really hoped to hear. For days before the show I kept thinking, I really really really hope she plays Looking for Nothing. Yes, I actually thought “really” three times. Looking for Nothing is my favorite song, not just my favorite Aimee Mann song, it’s my favorite anybody song. It’s off of @#%&*! Smilers (Smilers for short), which also isn’t just my favorite Aimee Mann record, Smilers is my favorite anybody record, it’s full of melancholy, vivid songs. Looking for Nothing is a song about feeling lost, something I’ve felt most of my life. I didn’t feel so lost that night, but the song will always be a part of me, will always resonate with me. I just wanted to hear it that night, in that place, a place that was very different from the place where I heard it the first time. Aimee played other songs from Smilers, she didn’t skip the record entirely. She played lots of songs, all great. She left the stage and came back for an amazing encore. She didn’t sing Looking for Nothing.
The show was over.
The evening, however, so wasn’t.3 comments
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