My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Oct 17

Baton Rouge: Backstage at the Manship Theatre 2013

Category: Life

So, the show’s over, people are filing out of the theatre, but not us. In about two minutes we’d be quietly ushered through a maze of twisty hallways toward “the band,” as we’re told by some theatre official.

I decide to not plan anything I would say to Aimee and whoever might be with her. I don’t pre-type anything. No, “Hi! It’s great seeing you again!” No, “Thank you for not doing a song for that Shrek movie, it probably would have damaged me… emotionally.” During the show, she talked about being approached to do a song for a Shrek movie, but everything she tried ended up being too dark, so that project got scrapped. Instead, she stripped down her Shrek song and wrote another creepy fairytale song, Borrowing Time, which would be on @#%&*! Smilers. I won’t mention it. The conversation will be fresh, totally grounded in the moment. I decide I won’t can some phrase and end up having to robot speak it because people won’t know to look at my screen. I figure, if I’m typing something right then, someone will get curious, they’ll ask my brother how I communicate, they’ll ask to look at what I’m doing. Action, Reaction is kind of my thing.

By the time I’m done thinking about all these things, we’ve reached the center of the maze. Fortunately, rather than getting our skulls busted open by a minotaur, we come upon Aimee Mann, Paul Bryan, and that piano fellow whose name I don’t remember and can’t seem to Google.

First, Aimee is a genuinely smart, genuinely nice person. She’s not all facade, “Oh my God, it’s SO good to see you! Enjoy these free t-shirts, I have to go, bye!” She’s the essence of shy coolness and style. She says, “Hey, how’s it going?”

She sees my hands, “Wait, are all those tattoos real?” but from her it doesn’t sound stupid or ignorant, it’s more like she’s just surprised to see her own words permanently etched into to someone’s flesh. I have three of her song titles/lyrics tattooed on my hands, “Wise up” and “It’s not” and “Who knows?” A song about facing your problems before you can ever fix them, a song about realizing someone can’t fix you, a song about not knowing if you can ultimately be fixed at all. I’ve lived these words and I’m talking with the person who wrote them and she’s looking at her words written again, on my skin. The art of words, in full-circle.

My brother tells her I have bunch of her lyrics as tattoos, he asks if he can show her the tattoo I got the night before. I eyebrow, “Yes!”

Aimee Mann and Paul Bryan noting my tattooed hands…

Aimee Mann and Paul Bryan noting my tattooed hands…

Brian (my brother) showing off tattoo #73: "…kicking is hard, but the bottom's harder…"

Brian (my brother) showing off tattoo #73: “…kicking is hard, but the bottom’s harder…”

Aimee says, “Wow, I’m honored.” I feel like she means it, I don’t feel like she says it just because she thinks she should say something. She’s just not that kind of person, she’s not a fakey fake celebrity. She’s a lyricist whose trade is honesty, honest words.

Me telling Paul Bryan, "I like kitties!" or something, it was a blur…

Me telling Paul Bryan, “I like kitties!” or something, it was a blur…

Just as I’d hoped, if I was typing right then, people would be curious and read my screen. Paul Bryan gets curious, he and my brother do the reading, I only use the robot voice once, I think.

So, at this point, Aimee asks something totally unexpected, it almost feels like a dream, even now. She asks if there was anything they didn’t play during the show that I might want to hear backstage. She says there’s a piano in the dressing-room, I can hear anything I want. I don’t even have to think about it, immediately I type, “Yes! Looking for Nothing would be fuckiog awesome…” Paul ducks in, reads my typing aloud, and laughs, “Excellent choice.” He produced @#%&*! Smilers, he loves the record too. Aimee says she hasn’t played it in a really long time, but she’s down, she’ll play it.

We’re in this hallway, she’s strumming on her guitar, quietly practicing the song. She asks if anybody has a phone and can “Google the lyrics to Looking for Nothing.” She has such a collection, eight studio records, she’s bound to not have every single song ready at any given moment. She’s not an iTunes Library, she’s an artist, and above all, a regular person. That’s what I like about her, so much, she’s just very real, and kind. She can’t totally remember her lyrics, she doesn’t tell me, “Yeah, I don’t feel like playing that, pick something else.” She picks up her guitar, she Google’s the song, she doesn’t let me down. While she’s warming up, I jokingly type, “If you wait long enough I can type you the lyrics…” I just want her to know that I really love the words, I know them by heart, and I really appreciate that she’s taking the time to sing them for me. I don’t know that I actually conveyed all of that, but I hope she got some of it. There isn’t time to type more, she’s ready to play.

Now, I have a beautiful HD video of Aimee and Paul spectacularly singing Looking for Nothing, me singing along with a voice no one will hear. The spectacular fellow on piano, it’s all captured in 1080p. I could post it right now… but I won’t.

Aimee and Paul didn’t sing for Vimeo or my blog, they sang for me. I feel like it was private, a sacrament not for the entire world, but only for that time, in that room, for those who were there.

I will, however, post pictures…

Are we rolling?

Are we rolling?

Gorgeously singing…

Gorgeously singing…

Toward the finish…

Toward the finish…



If I didn’t have these pictures, or the video I still watch every day, I might doubt that it really happened. How could anything that good really happen?


7 Comments so far

  1. josh October 17th, 2013 1:08 pm

    “Me telling Paul Bryan, “I like kitties!” or something, it was a blur…”
    Haha! So incredible, what an experience!!

  2. Monica October 18th, 2013 6:45 am

    Wow! Awesome experience, awesome post. Your last few paragraphs were so lovely, I reread them a few times.

  3. maria X (Mrs. Xenick in your school life) October 18th, 2013 3:28 pm

    THIS is awesome!! What an experience. I’m sure you will never forget it, video proof or not. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Tim WW October 18th, 2013 11:41 pm

    Wow. And now I remember why I’ve kept on checking your blog, even when there’s been nothing posted for weeks. When you’re on, you’re on. It’s been worth the wait. Thank you.

  5. Brian October 21st, 2013 2:25 pm

    Are you still in Louisiana?

  6. Jim October 21st, 2013 10:41 pm

    What a magical experience! It’s great when an artist’s real persona is true to their work.

  7. Chad November 6th, 2013 4:36 am

    Wow! I was just thinking I hadn’t seen Aimee on twitter lately and checked her page and ran across this nugget of amazingness. Now I’m even more a fan of Aimee Mann, and a new fan of you, Michael. Your writing conveys the magic of that moment. I’m happy you had it, and I’m happy I got to experience it vicariously through your words