18 February 2007

Princess of the Air

What a thrilling evening right here in my town.

I feel so lucky to live here, now; people come to me and offer me experiences that absolutely make my day, my month, my life! I am high on the peak of my friends' film festival, and tonight I really became a part of it, made myself known. It was amazing.

Zzzzwwwp! Rewind.

Today I was at the film festival listening to a group of filmmakers discuss their work. I am volunteering to work as an assistant for the discussions and workshops this year, which basically means showing up, doing a little work, and getting to sit in on the films or discussions. This really is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world; it is so exciting to get all these movies and people who make them in one place. They seem like my people, all of a sudden, in a way they didn't before, perhaps because I'm immersed in my own creative endeavor this time around.

The people visiting town and here volunteering for the festival have reminded me of the ultimate importance of doing the work, getting to the creation; that's what makes all this other stuff tick. Without that, we'd have so much less to talk about. These folks have given us the gift of a launching point: something to consider together. So no wonder I love these events. They bring together so many collaborators in creative endeavors, which inspires me to collaborate -- even if I'm still awkward at it, usually more comfortable sitting at my desk writing alone, as I am now. Shouting into the void.

But tonight I got onstage!

Not as me, perhaps, but with soul.

But rewind a little again.

Tonight's premiere screening of The Astronaut Farmer, the perfect marriage of mainstream film and indie filmmakers, was followed by the Rocky Mountain premiere of Air Guitar Nation, a popular documentary on the festival circuit about some performers with no instrument except themselves. An air guitar contest was scheduled to take place after the film.

I had come prepared for this last event. This afternoon, when I left the house, I collected black high-heeled boots, velvet pants, velvet duster, and a high-necked, long-sleeved, white blouse to wear underneath. Before it started I told two people I would do it, both so I could back down and so I couldn't. At five this evening I was debating driving to a thrift store to see if I could find a ruffled blouse, and maybe a curly black wig, but I decided that didn't matter. When I was putting on makeup after donning my costume, I had the brilliant idea just before the contest began of using paper towels for the ruffle down the front of Prince's shirt in Purple Rain, which is the song I chose to sing at the "Aireoke afterparty." I stuffed paper into the neck of my blouse, got a friend to help make sure it looked right, and went up to the stage and wrote my song request on a chit of paper along with my "stage name," "The Artist Formerly Known as Princess," and I waited to see what happened next.

There was a blur of decent air-licking by women and men in about equal proportions to 80s metal and pop: AC/DC, Metallica, The Cars, The Who, and some Smashing Pumpkins, the Sex Pistols; World Air Guitar Champion (I believe that deserves capitalization) Zac Munro came on and played a 90s metal song I didn't even know but was perfectly good fun. I cheered on the other contestants until a couple of women got onstage and started doing a striptease but got booed off the stage (I was one of the boo-ers) because they weren't playing air guitar (to "Cherry Pie" -- when the DJ couldn't find the song, "By Warrant, you idiots," bitched MC Bjorn Turoque (geddit?), subject of Air Guitar Nation. After they left the stage there was another blur of 80s cock-rockers and some Queens of the Stone Age.

It was almost the end of the night; our MC warned us that we only had another fifteen minutes to make noise at the theater. I started to brace myself for disappointment that I wouldn't be called onstage after all. Just when I had started to think it was over, Bjorn announced my stage name. I firmly donned my persona and strode quickly up the stairs and onto the stage (I'd been getting in character strutting around in the audience near the front of the stage, as well as just dancing and doing my best groupie impression -- and I've had some practice, honey! just ask my closest friends!).

As soon as I heard the sweet, soft, reverberating strums that open the song, I knew just what to do. And I did it! I put some soul into it, and pointed at someone in the audience when I pretended to sing the line "and that means you, too." I wish I had been given a little more of the solo, but it was a long song, and I got to do a lot of it before it got cut off, so I was happy when I left the stage.

Next Bjorn invited the women back up to rock out together, inviting not just the women who had already performed but all the women who wanted to come up, and so I hopped back onstage and rocked out some more, giving a big hug at the end to "Betty Chronic," the performer who got the contest off to a great start. Then everyone got up onstage and it was fun to vamp around and play with people.

After it there was a blur of compliments and praise for the "bib" as everyone kept calling my paper-towel ruffle (which I got Bjorn Turoque to sign) and then a drink at the bar with people, and I met up with "my" filmmaker, the one I picked up at the airport after his ten-hour flight from London. People said this was the most fun they'd ever had at a film festival. It was great fun to participate, and to be recognized for something -- I saw why those guys go all the way to Oulu, Finland to compete in the World Air Guitar Championships.

And I can't resist drawing a conclusion or two from the way I feel now. I feel I've been on this sort of personal "ropes course." Did you ever do those? I worked at a company at which we took a day out and went to this place where we were challenged to do trust exercises. I found some of them easy (I climbed up a fairly tall pole and then jumped off it onto a net, but I was harnessed and roped the whole time so felt quite secure) and some of them were quite difficult (learning to fall back on someone and really let them catch you). But even after the ropes course, our boss remained a dickhead (oh, let me count the ways). But I digress. I've been challenging myself, really working on my confidence lately. Tonight was an example; writing my novel has been huge in every way. Going to England and interviewing my favorite band, Gomez, was one of my first big self-dares.

I've been doing wacky stuff for a while, though. At a radio show taping years ago I deliberately made sounds to participate -- once at a Del McCoury show when I did a perfectly high-lonesome aa-haaa sound at a key moment (and even made Del laugh), and another time during an Ozomatli segment, when I danced and did this percussive shriek along with their song that I thought sounded great, like it was supposed to be there. (I couldn't hear it on the taped version, though....) Then there was the time I was Mick Jagger for Halloween (but at age ten I was a little too shy to do justice to "Satisfaction" -- and I knew it).

Just a few days ago, a little circuit that had never closed in my life finally did when I saw someone I had briefly worked with over the summer. She gave me a DVD and on it was this wonderful video of a man speaking about the Tao, what it is and what it means. It's the kind of thing I've been thinking I'd like to copy and have to look at (being such a verbal-visual person and all). One of the things he said was about "answering the call." Tonight felt like that. Like I assumed a greatness I don't usually let myself have.

It wasn't until I sat down to write this that I realized what a gift I got in getting to do my number when I did: Bjorn Turoque let me help close the show. There were lighters and people swaying and everything when I was up there. It was fabulous. And the way he ordered the songs was artful in retrospect -- he knew just when to let someone shine on an obscure song and when to bring back an old fave like AC/DC's "Back in Black." So thanks, man. "Airing" Prince in front of a crowd absolutely rocked my world!

p.s. I really do rock. I not only gave the cute little reporter from the campus paper a quote after it was all over -- but I also gave her the promo card for the book Dan Crane (aka Bjorn Turoque) wrote, to make sure she got its title right: To Air Is Human. It's a good book (silly me: I told him I though so, adding I'd "read the whole thing").

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