Sunday, June 15, 2014

Electric Lindsey Violin

Electric Lindsey Violin 

There are certain times in my life when I’m convinced that certain people are angels, or angels in training. Lindsey Stirling is one of those people. There’s a light and warmth that radiates from her. It travels through her well-honed fingers, and into the elegant violin that rests under her chin. And from those four strings she is able to create an entire spectrum of sound. It’s as if the notes themselves are like colors. And Lindsey is painting her emotions on the air with a sonic brush.

I had the opportunity to meet Lindsey on June 13th, 2014--just one week after my thirty-fifth birthday. I felt that this would be a late birthday present for me. I’d never met any of the musicians I’ve been a fan of before, and so this would be something very new for me. But also, it gave me a chance to meet someone that I both admire and respect as an inspiring figure; musically, spiritually, and personally. Needless to say, I was nervous.

I was so nervous a week before meeting her that I told my therapist, “I hope I don’t sneeze on her, cough, break wind, or say something stupid.”

“That’s a lot of pressure on you.” My therapist joked.

But she was right, it was a lot of pressure. Mostly, I just didn’t want to stand there with nothing to say. I may not get this opportunity again, so I wanted to make the most of it.

I then proceeded to tell her a mini-biography of Lindsey and achievements. I also, if I may brag a bit, converted her to the Stirlingite faith. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. One cannot help but share some of the greatest music in the world. It’s also a “faith” that transcends boundaries. Music can overcome any boundary, as it is one of the universal arts. And as Lindsey’s music is frequently instrumental, there’s no language barrier either.
I was happy to see this diversity of fans reflected in her audience that night. Parents, families, children, single adults like myself; they all gravitated to see a woman that means so much to them. It added to the tribal aspect of it. It also made for a crowd that was in a good mood. I’d been to other shows where people hardly talk to each other, or are in a brooding mood the whole time. I’m happy to say that this show was warm and inviting. I can certainly say that Stirlingites are the friendliest and most dedicated fans in the world.

Getting to Stage A.E. was a Herculean effect in itself. As I typed in my phone’s notepad that afternoon, “I have braved the fires of the sun, the rains from heaven, and The Bridge of Doom. Actually, it was the Clemente Bridge, it’s quite nice. I was on a quest to hear the impassioned sounds of Miss Lindsey Stirling. My friends, I have succeeded! My quest is at an end…now, press ’play’ to start again!”

It was ironically appropriate, since Lindsey did play her Zelda medley that night, complete with 16-bit Link! And yes, it was epic!

And much like some hero quest, I had all sorts of gear on me. My iPod, my camera, my cellphone, a copy of Shatter Me for the meet and greet, and my ticket--which I’d put in plastic incase the rain returned. At one point, the rain was so heavy that I feared the buses wouldn’t run on time, and that I’d miss the one-on-one with Lindsey. But I had faith in the public transit system that day, and it paid off. I was vaguely aware that it was Friday the 13th, with a full moon, but I gave little heed to it. Besides, I had my lucky Buddhist bracelet from San Francisco. I’m not a Buddhist, but I need all the karma I can get, so it didn’t hurt to wear them.

It wasn’t until the girl at the box office handed me the backstage pass that it all actually became real to me. Now, I’d been to book signings--like when I met David Sedaris (another story for another time). But this was very different. I was meeting someone famous as well, but this was someone that felt I could relate to on a personal and creative level. Lindsey Stirling is someone that I empathize with, and feel inspired by. So, needless to say, I felt even more nervous. I took a photo of the backstage pass, and then sent it to Facebook. The reason for that was that I hardly believed it was real. It’s like I needed proof this event was happening. I went from just listening to her music, to actually meeting Lindsey! I could hear the sound check as I walked up to the venue, and my heart jumped inside my chest. I then must have smiled broadly. If there was a mirror at hand, it wouldn’t be able to contain my grin.

It began to rain again. The couple behind me where kindly enough to let me stand under their umbrella, and all it cost was a conversation.  They were very nice people, who I made laugh a few times--mostly when it came to a discussion about whether the lady’s purse was waterproofed or not. They decided to play it safe, and not tempt fate with an experiment. But our exposure to the rain soon ended as we were let in to Stage A.E.

The first thing I did was look at the merch table. The second thing I did was look at the stage. I saw Gavi’s keyboards, neat! I saw Drew’s drums, which were obscured by a black curtain--also neat. I then saw Lindsey’s violin placed in a stand. I tried to take a picture of it from where I stood. I then tried to imagine all the notes that have resonated from that tiny wooden body with the big sound. It was like I’d seen Excalibur pulled from the stone. Was that a significant dramatic image? I thought so. Answers on a postcard if you agree.

I stood in the autograph line, and faced the backdrop--the cover of Shatter Me, but with the Lindsey ballerina missing. I thought, “Perhaps that signifies that the ballerina is no longer held captive?” Or, Lindsey wanted to talk with us as all in a giant snow globe! I’m fine with it either way.

And then, I looked to my left, and heard a familiar voice. I saw Brooke, Lindsey’s adorable, practically identical sister. I then saw Gavi, the quick-witted keyboardist, with a sharp sense of style. Then, there was Drew, the fiery drummer that provided a living heartbeat to the stage. They all flanked around one person…Lindsey herself. I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing her in person, instead of just in photos or on video. I’d see her a million times on a screen, but was now seeing her in real life. Lindsey and Co. looked exactly as they do on camera. They were also, I’m happy to say, just as nice in real life.

Now, this brings me to one of the awesome parts that evening.

There was one person ahead of me, and then it was my turn to meet Lindsey.

I found that I was a little nervous, full of excitement, but doing much better than I expected. None of the aforementioned disasters were about to take place. I was cool and collected, but still felt a massive surge of adrenaline running through my veins. Drew was to my right, Brooke was to my left.

“Do you have something to be autographed?” Drew asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I reached into a cargo pocket, and tried to pull out my copy of Shatter Me. It was stuck on the pocket flap.

“You can do it, man!” Drew said, encouragingly.

I gently yanked it free, and then handed it to him. I then shook his hand.

“It’s really great to meet you.” I said. And Drew returned the pleasantry.

I then handed my camera to Brooke. I even addressed by her by her first name! I showed her where the shutter button was, and then thanked her.

And then, I was told to step forward.

“Hullo!” Lindsey said, in a faux British accent.

“It’s an honor to finally meet you.” I said.

I could feel at this point that I was smiling. I turned into a total nerdy fan boy at this moment. I was like Charlie Brown around the little redheaded girl. Indeed, she is a little redheaded woman, so it fit the scene perfectly.

“It’s nice to meet you too.” Lindsey said. “What’s your name?”

“Riley,” I said.

“Riley,” she repeated.

She then gave me a hug, and said, warmly, “Thank you for coming to our party tonight.”

She held me for a moment, which seemed like an eternity. And during that hug, I said, “Thank you for being here tonight.”

We then turned to face the camera, an arm around each other’s shoulder. And that’s when Brooke snapped the picture. I thanked her, and was then escorted to the autograph table. Lindsey signed my copy of Shatter Me, and then a free poster that was given only to V.I.P. pass holders. Gavi stood at the table, and I asked him if he could sign the poster.

“Sure,” he said. He then added, “I like the hat! Great minds think alike.”

I thanked him for the complement. Much like me, Gavi is fond of newsboy hats and trilbies, and frequently wears them on stage.

As both Lindsey and Gavi signed the poster I said to them, “After all this time watching you guys on video, it’s really great to finally meet you.”

“Awww,” Lindsey said, “It’s great to meet you too!”

I shook hands with Gavi, and then introduced myself. Then, Drew came over, and signed my poster as well.

I walked over to the floor in front of the stage, and felt the adrenaline breaking down in my system. I texted two of my friends, and could feel the surge in my fingers, but kept my composure. I then looked at the photo Brooke had taken. She had actually taken two photos! The first was when I was talking with Lindsey. The second was taken when we both posed for the photo. Lindsey projected warmth and light with her incredible smile, and sky-blue eyes. I was smiling from ear-to-ear in the photo. I too was projecting light and warmth. I don’t think I’d been that happy since my niece, Miranda was born. I was into the cosmos at that point.

  After the photos and autographs came the Q&A. As Lindsey approached the stage, she said, “I’m power walking, I’m power walking, power walking!” She then made sure her violin had its “seat belt” on. Her quirky sense of humor is always on--I approve of that.

There were many great questions that night. The best of which was, “Who’s your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?” To which Lindsey replied, “I was always April. I’d have to say now…Michelangelo!”

Good answer, everybody likes Mikey! The question was asked by a young lady wearing a TMNT shirt, appropriately enough.

There were questions about “how best to play the violin?”

“Scales and arpeggios,” Lindsey replied. “I practice them daily when I can.”

I took that advice to heart, and found it sound. I’d been doing just that with my guitar playing.

I then got to ask her my question. I had a fan boy moment when she pointed at me. I said, “Oh, me!” I tipped my hat, and then asked, “How does your faith influence your music?”

Lindsey gave a very heartfelt answer. She said, “It influences all aspects of my life; my lifestyle, my music, my career, my choices in life. I believe that God has given me a voice through this violin, and so I believe my talent comes from God. Whenever I’m scared or nervous, I’ll pray to God. I’ll ask God for guidance when I feel lost.”

She then added, “When I was writing this album, I was a little scared. All my music is personal, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there--talking about things that were painful, like my experiences with an eating disorder. And because my first album was doing so well, I wasn’t sure if I could top it. So I just prayed to God, and I felt he carried me through this.”

Lindsey is a member of the Latter-Day Saints Church (Mormonism) and it has had a positive influence on her life. She was, at one time, a missionary in New York. But I must add that while Lindsey is open about her faith, she’s not preachy. Instead, she encourages people to seek out God on their own terms, and evaluate their spiritual beliefs--if they so choose. I think that’s the way to go about sharing one’s faith, just be open-minded, and realize we all have our own path to follow. The spiritual element of her music is very strong. I feel that it enriches her music, and shows that one can be spiritual and still be one-self--a unique individual. And being a unique individual is something that Miss Stirling encourages in all her fans.

At the end of the Q&A, Lindsey, Gavi, and Drew performed an acoustic/instrumental version of Shatter Me. It was very moving, indeed. This was repeated later on in the show, when the full “electric” version of the song was played, with a video of Lzzy Hale for vocals.

There was a little break between the meet and greet and the show. It was in this time that the venue really started to fill out, as the doors had just opened. The show was then opened by D.J. Scott Gold, who’d work with Lindsey on my favorite track from Shatter Me, Roundtable Rival. He did a high energy set, and showed his chops as a club DJ. He got the crowd nice and amped.

In the break between the opener and the start of the concert, I got to talk with a certain Miss Riley, and a certain Miss Kassie. They were both extremely nice people. And seeing that Riley may have difficulty seeing the show, I made a space for her to move up front. We were all at the very front of the floor, right up against the stage! Only a barricade, and about four feet separated us from the stage itself.

It’s funny to introduce yourself to someone, and find out you both have the same name. This is the first time that’s happened, so it made for another unique experience. Miss Riley is a college student as well, majoring in technical theater. She was so excited that night that I thought she might actually take flight. She was beyond stoked, to the point where nuclear fuel rods must have been ingested by her. She was ready to rock, and rock she did! She didn’t stop dancing the entire night. Neither did I, for that matter. Though we were packed in tight, there was a little room to groove.

And then…the show began. There was a black curtain, or veil, on the stage. From behind that curtain we could see the silhouette of Lindsey. The familiar strains of Beyond the Veil started. And then…the curtain dropped! And there stood Lindsey, in a black body suit, with magenta and blue sequins on one side, and a glittering skirt at her waist.


I didn’t know a violin could break the sound barrier until that moment. A massive sonic wave poured from that stage, and engulfed us all. And from that moment on, we were taken on a journey we’d not forget.

It would be impossible for me to give you a complete song-by-song breakdown. I don’t want to spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it. You really do have to experience a Lindsey Stirling concert for yourself. But I will give some highlights.

1. Heist--This song is incredible. I remember the first time I listened to it, and thought, “This sounds like music from an action film.” And that night, as Lindsey played and danced, it was set to computer images on the screen behind her. It was like a scene from a Tom Clancy-inspired techno-thriller.

2. Roundtable Rival--My favorite song from Shatter Me. This mash-up of delta blues, country, and Celtic violin was expertly brought to life by Lindsey and Gavi. That man can rock a keytar! Yes, keytars are metal! The call and response between them was electric!

3. Lindsey’s awesome backup dancers. They were brilliant on stage. There were many points where she danced in formation with them while not loosing a beat.

4. Take Flight--Lindsey told a very personal story, one that brought tears to my eyes. The song is about hope, and reaching for that hope. You have to hear Lindsey tell the story in person. Trust me, once you hear the story behind this song, you will be moved as well.

5. Swag--”Everybody in this building tonight is sexy. Confidence is sexy. And I call that sexy confidence, swag!”

6. And then there was the part where we introduced ourselves to each other. That was how I met Kassie, Riley’s friend. This was then followed by a rousing chorus of All of Me. In which Gavi praised us all for being in harmony. Nice!

7. Finally, the live version of Moon Trance. Lindsey was bedecked in a glittering corset for a large portion of the show. And the live version of Moon Trance gave us a chance to see Lindsey stomp with her undead counterparts on screen. Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon would be proud!

I felt that euphoric rush that comes with a concert like this. It continued into the next day. And here’s how it stacks up to some of the old pros I’ve seen. I have seen Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. I have seen Eric Clapton, twice. I have seen The Eagles, twice. I’ve seen The Who, The Stones, and The Dresden Dolls. I can safely say that Lindsey Stirling performs the best concert I’ve ever seen and heard! I would love to see her again on a future tour. I most certainly will when the next album comes out. And I hope Misses Riley and Kassie will be there as well.

Meeting Lindsey and her band was a hugely emotional experience for me. She was exactly as I imagined her: kind, loving, talented, intelligent, and authentic. I see her as not only a great musician, but also a great role model. At a time when role models for young women, and men, are few and far between, I see Lindsey and Co. as a sign of hope and change. She’s a rockstar that adores her fans And she loves to give back to them with the best music in the world.

Oh, and she gives the best hugs!

Copyright Riley Joyce 2014. All images Copyright Riley Joyce 2014, but you can repost them. Just make sure to give me credit.          


Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Finger Snap in Time


                                                             A Finger Snap in Time 

I’d normally write some sort of introspective piece about my impending birthday. And this is no different. 

I’m not where I expected to be in life. I don’t think most of us are where we’d like to be; either emotionally, physically, or geographically. I don’t ascribe to clich├ęs about “life dealing us a hand.” Instead, I feel that life is half of what you do, and half of what it does to you. There are choices that we make, and consequences that follow. Not all of us had the same opportunities in life, and so we don’t all wind up where we’d expected to be. But that doesn’t mean that one has to stay where they are. 

I’ve found that since turning thirty I’ve had a minor collection of, “Oh my God, I’m an adult,” moments. I’ve also had a few “Now I feel old” moments as well. These are few in number, but never fail to scare the hell out of me. Examples include: explaining a floppy disc to someone younger than me, and hearing Pearl Jam’s Jeremy over the P.A. at K-Mart. 

I don’t mind growing old (it beats the alternative) but I must also keep in mind that I’m not exactly old (except by medieval standards). I’m turning thirty-five in a matter of hours. That’s still very young to me. I pictured thirty-five as being “middle-aged” when I was in my twenties. And most of my peers in high school saw it as “nearing the end of one’s life.” I guess that means most of them didn’t expect to see thirty. I’ve realized since then that age is a relative state of mind. However, the one thing that shocks me is the passage of time. 

I had a very interesting conversation during my most recent visit to San Francisco. I found a place called We Say Tomato, a British-themed grocery store. You can find jelly babies, Yorkshire tea, and Tayto crisps on the shelves there. But the centerpiece of the place is the vintage Dr.Who pinball machine. It dates back to the Sylvester McCoy era, and is one of the best pinball tables I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. But to trump this nostalgia/fandom moment was the conversation I had after playing. 

The owner of the shop was a British immigrant. He’d moved here about fifteen years ago. And like most conversations I have the topics were broad in scope. We talked about healthcare, aging, the expense of education, and the passage of time. 

One of the things he said to me was, “I tell my daughter, ’Go outside on your birthday, look at the moon, and then snap your fingers.’” 

He made a sharp snap of the fingers, and then said, “You do that this year, and then the next year, and the year after that. You’ll find that the time between snaps is less and less each year. You’ll say to yourself, ’Didn’t I just do this a few months ago?’”

He looked a bit like Eric Idle, and sounded like him too, so I’ll follow his advice. This year, and next year, I will snap my fingers while looking at the moon (if it’s visible). If the moon is not visible, I’ll just rig something with a light bulb, a glow in the dark tennis ball, or a photo of the moon. I’m curious to see if this works, so I’ll try anything to make it happen. 

The ersatz Idle is the first person to mention this ritual to me. But this isn’t the first time I’ve talked of the subject. My therapist and I often talk about how quickly time moves as you age. It’s a long-running conversation that scares me. I don’t want to close my eyes at age thirty-five, and then open them to see an old man in the mirror. Or, as Dave Bowman experienced in the film 2001; he sees the old man version of himself on his deathbed. When I look back on times in my past when I did have suicidal ideation, I think, “People die so quickly, why rush things?” I decided a few years ago that I’d take my time in getting to the great beyond. You miss out on things if you punch your ticket too soon. 

It’s not been an easy road, these past thirty-five years. There are times when I do feel like I’ve failed, and that success has passed me. I would look at younger classmates, and sort of envy them their youth--no, I’d envy them their time. They have the advantage of a few more years to mess around before they have to “grow up.” I then console myself with the thought that, “I have something they don’t have--experience. I know things that they don’t know because I’ve been through the combat zone of life.” I’ve seen things they’ve only read about.  

To paraphrase Rutgar Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner, “I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. I’ve seen dust devils in Utah. I’ve seen a redheaded angel playing violin. I’ve seen people chained to the ceiling, and loving it. I’ve seen a baby with eyes like the sky. And when I’m gone…it’ll be forgotten…like when you wake up from a hangover and find someone in bed next to you. Sure, it seemed like a good idea when you were drunk. But you just know that whoever it is won’t as attractive as your pickled consciousness told you they were.” 

Except the things I’ve seen won’t be forgotten. I have this compulsion to either write about them, or talk about them. And so no one will forget them, even after I’m gone. That gives me some comfort. I know that in the blink of an eye the next thirty-five years will pass quickly. And I know that when I’m in my seventies, I will have more stories to tell.    

There are times though when I wish I could take a time machine back, and fix certain things about my life. That being said, if I did not make the choices I did, I might not have met any of my friends. In fact, I don’t think I’d be alive today. I wouldn’t have seen the dysfunction that I’d come from. Instead, I would just assume it was “normal” to go on living with anger and resentment toward my own existence. It’s taken a lot of work to cast off the influences I was raised with as a child. It’s taken even longer to replace those influences with a different way of seeing things. In the course of this process I have realized a few things. 

The first is that time always goes on. You may have a limited time on Earth, but there will always be another day after this one ends. Even if I’m bored to tears at work, I know that it’ll end eventually, and that I’ll be able to go home. 

The second thing I’ve learned is this…You can’t list the things that you’ve learned, because you learn them by doing, and not by notation. Everyone’s experience will be different, and so any advice I give would be specific to my own experience. That being said, you may take or leave what I’ve said in the above paragraphs. 

And so…while I lament the loss of time, and the passing away of certain things and people, I do not envy the past. I feel that while one may reflect on childhood interests, one may not dwell on them for too long. You don’t have to “give up childish things,” but one must also progress and grow. One must endeavor to be a better version of their self today than they were yesterday. That being said, I’m wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajama pants as I write this. And if anyone feels that is immature, then all I have to say is, “Cowabunga, dude!” 

Copyright Riley Joyce 2014