Last night, John Heart Jackie and Danielle Ate the Sandwich played at Everyday Joe’s in Fort Collins. John Heart Jackie is from Portland, Oregon and amazing (seriously, you should check them out), but what really mattered to me: I finally got to see Danielle live.
Danielle wore a rainbow rhinestone clip in her hair and a matching bracelet around her wrist, and had silver waves of sequins on her shirt–she sparkled on stage, even before she started to sing.
Her violin player, Chris Jusell, stood on his tippy toes when he played, like a musical ballet dancer.
Her bass player, Dennis Bigelow reminded me of my favorite side-talking comedian, Jim Gaffigan.
Danielle talked about how making music was her job, was what she did, but that she kept expecting the mayor to knock on her door, say he’d reviewed her file and this couldn’t continue, she’d need to get a part-time job. She’d applied once at KMart for a job in the Garden Center, but they wanted her to work full-time in the Customer Service Center. She stopped herself and thought, “I don’t want to work at KMart, I want to be a musician.”
Three CD’s later and it seems to be working out. The music alone would sustain her, but if you see a live show, you essentially get an entire improv comedy skit as well, with banter between the musicians, as well as between them and the audience. Danielle makes use of silly voices, and questions her bandmates in a way that reminded me of when a comedian asks “where are you from, what do you do?” and she can make a whole bit from it. Last night, some of the banter was about road trip snacks (“canti” bars, peanuts for sure, beef jerky and pistachios) and music, demands for compliments, grown-up goosebumps, reality TV, three bandmates on a deserted island, food poisoning and pizza, and Paris, France.
Danielle played three of her new songs, one that I’d heard already because the day she posted it on YouTube, I posted it here and played it over, and over, and over. She said it was hard to play new songs for an audience, that she wanted to sit on them, keep working on them, not wanting to finish or accept them as done. And, there’s a 14 year old girl inside her still that says “But what if they don’t like it?” [What if they don’t like me? Oh how well I understand this!]
A friend of hers, who makes her think about hard things, challenges her to think differently–which she joked she’d never do, she’s too lazy, would rather watch TV–asked her “Why do you care if they like it? That’s not why you are doing it, is it?” It’s like what Eric said to me about writing this blog. Danielle’s answer was something like, “Well, yeah, but I want them to like it [me]. And they need to like it so they’ll buy my CD’s and come to my shows, and I can keep being a musician and won’t have to go work at KMart.”
She’d asked Dennis earlier in the show to give her a compliment, demanded one from him, said that her bio should just say “Danielle needs approval and appreciation” and nothing else. When she played one of her new songs, she gave the audience a hard time for not having a stronger, louder reaction to it, especially since just singing it, she’d given herself goosebumps.
What struck me about the show–besides the music, besides the discovery and joy of seeing her live for the first time–is that she said “yes.” The Universe, Art, Music called her, and she said “yes.” And yet, she still struggles, at least a bit, with needing the approval and adoration of an audience, a very personal but also practical need.
She might still feel a little timid, have that 14 year old girl inside her that worries that people might not like what she’s doing–but she does it anyway! And she’s amazing. There is no other Danielle Ate the Sandwich, not even close. She’s been my writing muse for this past month, as I struggle to write something of worth every day, she’s been my doula for the birth of this blog and my own public voice–and she’s a real girl. Her willingness to be vulnerable and brave with her art, her voice, her heart, soothes the scared 14 year old in me, the one that wants so badly to be liked, to be complimented and supported. I am inspired by her as a fellow artist, and grateful to be part of the audience for the art she makes.
And this summer, I am finally going to dust off the ukelele I’ve had for the last four years and learn how to play. And I’m going to keep writing, keep moving, keep developing my own voice, my own space, my own audience, with Danielle Ate the Sandwich on the soundtrack.