Last week I met theotherbaldwin in person! It's weird; I've known him through the Internet for over twelve years, longer than I've known most of my closest friends, and he used to live less than an hour's drive from me, but we'd never seen each other in meatspace. (He was a regular and eventually maintainer of the Cafe Eblana Messagebase, the first Internet community I'd ever been a part of, back when I was an attention-starved twelve-year-old messageboard troll.) He didn't look or sound anything like the pictures and audio he's put up over the past few years, but that may be because he's just been through an ugly divorce and that will mess up anyone pretty badly. Funny how in this day and age you can meet up with someone you don't recognize and in less than thirty minutes go on to reminiscing with him about the time a dude you guys both knew in middle school broke his penis in a tragic masturbation accident.
An exchange over chocolate egg creams and a BLT burger at a plywood burger bar in the Lower East Side:
theotherbaldwin: Dude, I would give my left arm to be able to write like you.
erf_: Funny you should say that, because I got my writing style from Eblana.
erf_: No shit. In high school I was president of the anime club, I wrote essays about communism, I argued with people about homophobia, I did all sorts of things I was first exposed to from flamewars on the boards. A friend described my writing style as "smart, but with swearing." You Eblanites may have thought of yourselves as just bored college kids shooting the shit but I really looked up to you guys. Maybe you weren't always the best role models, but you gave me something I wanted to be.
theotherbaldwin: Well, I am immensely flattered that I had a part in you becoming the man you are now.
erf_: You have no idea how validating it is to hear that. :D
That night was an excellent night for confirming that OMG Internet People Are Real, as we got to see Sophie Madeleine play live at Pianos, a tiny hipster/folk bar in the LES. (If you read my blog, she needs no introduction; it's no secret I'm a huge fan of her music.) There's something bizarre, dreamlike even, about watching your favorite YouTube star play a set in the same venue one of your old college buddies plays once a month, accompanied by a longtime Internet friend whose face you have previously only seen in livejournal icons. Especially when said YouTube star is wearing the exact same cream blazer, wraparound skirt, and purple leggings as she is in your favorite videorecording of her, the only difference being that she is extremely nervous instead of soothingly calm (this was her first U.S. show) and the venue is so empty that if you didn't know she was an Internet celebrity she would easily pass for just another obscure, underrated local talent doing her usual lonely weeknight act.
Sophie's set was very good. Not sublime, like the Crypt Sessions were--even a venue as quiet as Pianos couldn't compete with the intimacy of a basement set, or the small bedroom from which she became an Internet sensation--but despite the hair-scratching, skirt-smoothing stage terror she was understandably experiencing her well-honed musicianship and heart-rendingly expressive voice managed to carry her through. The acoustics were terrible, and the audience, being mostly small groups of smug New York hipsters who stared at me blankly when I tried to make conversation with them after the show, was largely too sober to be moved. But Sophie gradually managed to overcome this incredibly awkward atmosphere and just do her thing, and by the final song--a catchy and unusually upbeat new number Sophie hasn't named yet--she was just as in the groove and charmingly British as she is her videos, and she had even the hipsters bobbing their heads and clapping their hands to the beat. (Not the same level of perky cheerfulness as she has in her videos with Hannah Rockcliffe, but, well. The chemistry those two have as Rocky and Balls is magic.)
Short version: even in one of the loneliest venues in the world, Sophie Madeleine still managed to be Sophie Madeleine, and my heart went into that warm melty quiet little place it always goes into when I listen to her music. Was worth growing a beard for. :]
(On an aside, I hate it when random people my age at shows who seem to be on my wavelength just stare at me blankly when I try to talk to them, as if trying to start a conversation with a group of strangers is the sleaziest thing ever. You know how people do that sometimes when you say something so mind-bogglingly stupid that nobody knows how to respond? In New York, that mind-bogglingly stupid thing is "hello." And not a sketchy pick-up hello, but just, you know, a bunch of dudes and ladies are standing around talking about a musician you like, and you wander into the group and greet everyone, and EVIL STARE OF DEATH. Geez, guys! Is it something I didn't even get the chance to say?
Maybe it's not them. Maybe I'm just lonely and terrible at making new friends in the city and frustrated that everyone my age I meet immediately thinks I'm not cool or attractive enough to hang out with. Urg. These thoughts--it's like I'm relapsing into adolescence. Or, you know, just sullenly drunk.)