Friday night I finally got to see Dar Williams live. It was everything I’d been expecting and more. She was wonderful musically and far funnier with the between song patter than her live album suggests.
I picked up the 3 CDs that I did not already have and was hoping to get her to sign them after the show. The Sheldon volunteer staffing the merchandise table said she was going to.
The show consisted of 2 sets with an intermission. Set 1 started off with The Babysitter’s Here, while Set 2 began with The Christians and the Pagans. She played a few songs from her newest, My Better Self (Teen for God, Blue Light of the Flame, So Close to My Heart, The Hudson), along with songs from probably all of her albums. She did not perform My Friends to my minor disappointment, but she did do After All, for which I was extremely grateful.
After the show, she was supposed to meet with the Sheldon subscribers, and then with whoever had donated a certain amount to the cause she was supporting in St. Louis, Missouri Coalition for the Environment and St. Louis Earth Day. Dave and I, along with a woman who had bought Dar’s childrens book, Amalee, and her friends waited around the merchandise booth. Time passed. The volunteer told us to go backstage. A big, burly security guard said otherwise, rudely. The wonderful Sheldon volunteers tried to figure out what to do for us. Anyway, a couple who had donated to the cause gave our group 2 passes to the backstage meet and greet. So the lady with the book and I went down. The guard was super sweet now! A few minutes later he figured out we had friends waiting for us and said we had "escort privileges" with our passes and that they could hang out too. What a dick!
Our two little groups were the last ones in line and it took a long while, but we did get to meet Dar. She was wonderful and very, very warm and engaging after what must have been a long night for her. She autographed my three CDs and we talked for a few minutes. I don’t think I gushed or said anything too stupid, but then I’d had an hour or more to think about what to say. Among a bit of chit chat, I thanked her for all of her music, but particularly for the songs After All and My Friends.
I told her how After All helped me to understand a fundamental truth during the darkest time of my life, and that I was pretty sure no one could have written those words who had not personally been severely depressed and suicidal. She said that, yes, if she died right now she’d "be really upset." I told her that I knew exactly how she felt; one doesn’t struggle to crawl out of those depths just to have fate or an "act of God" take it from you.
Go ahead, push your luck, find out how much love the world can hold,
Once upon a time I had control, and reined my soul in tight.
Well, the whole truth, it’s like the story of a wave unfurled,
But I held the evil of the world,
So I stopped the tide, froze it up from inside,
And it felt like a winter machine that you go through and then,
You catch your breath and winter starts again,
And everyone else is spring bound.
And when I chose to live, there was no joy, it’s just a line I crossed,
It wasn’t worth the pain my death would cost,
So I was not lost or found.
Cause when you live in a world, well it gets into who you thought you’d be,
And now I laugh at how the world changed me,
And I think life chose me after all.
I crossed that line, at least once, and as bad as it sounds it is a very positive thing. This song helped me to realize that. Now? Well, now I do think that I am finally spring bound.
I also told her that My Friends was equally important in that it reminded me of the utter and unfathomable importance of true friends at a time that I could not feel the love of my friends. I knew intellectually that they were there for me, and I was relying on them, I just could not feel them. Here is what I said before about My Friends. I must have cried the first 100 or so times I heard this song; the first few times I completely broke down. Luckily I was at home. Even today, if I really am listening, it produces a tear or two.
Sometimes I see myself fine, sometimes I need a witness.
And I like the whole truth,
but there are nights I only need forgiveness.
Sometimes they say, “I don’t know who you are
but let me walk with you some.”
And I say, “I am alone, that’s all,
you can’t save me from all the wrong I’ve done,”
But they’re waiting just the same,
With their flashlights and their semaphores,
And I act like I have faith and like that faith never ends
But I really just have friends.
Dar Williams is simply a beautiful human being and she writes the most lovely songs; songs that are full of power, truths, beauty, joy, and questioning. Thank you so very much Dar, for helping life choose me.