I felt like shit before we went out to play. Hopeless, helpless. I can’t work on my play. I’m trying to think of ways for us to make more money, but there are none I can think of. No quick fixes. Patreon, but who would support us in the way we really needed? We’d need a significant amount of support to be able to support ourselves. I could ask people for help, my family for example, but don’t want to rely on them for help. I’m so scared and I don’t know what to do. We can’t survive on tips alone. It is barely enough to get by right now. It’s weighing heavily on my mind every day.
I got ready to play and did my makeup as always, but eventually I sat down wondering why I was even bothering. I’m worried about turning any lights on continuously, as it will add to the always unexpectedly ridiculous electricity bill we can’t afford at the end of each month. I snapped this one and only photo of the day. You can read my feelings on my face. What are we going to do? I just wanted to cry. I don’t know why I was putting makeup on. It doesn’t do anything for us. It doesn’t increase our money. It doesn’t help us. It can help my mood, but not today. My mind was elsewhere. I am preoccupied by money these days. I hate it. I need to pull myself out of it, but I can’t seem to. Usually I’m thinking about being creative and trying to write and draw and prayform beautifully. I have managed to keep my thoughts away from money since we got here. Just do my very best and things will get better, but two months of doing so badly it’s finally getting to me.
When we bike to the park to play, there is hope today will be different. There is hopefulness. Today was the same. Tori arrived all dressed up and so did Pascual. He had his hair slicked back and was wearing spats and a tie. Very nice. Both of them would help to sell CDs as best they could. While I was talking to Tori, a man and his wife bought two CDs and a download card from Thoth, That always lifts my mood and gives me hope to day will go similarly in terms of people’s generosity. I was more bubbly and full of good feelings as we started, but it didn’t last. We had a crowd for the first song, but it again was very slow. Crowds here and there, but not generous. I remember writing about these kinds of frustrations in Edinburgh in 2014.
I got more and more frustrated as we played. Same old same old. We were trying our best, people were watching us, but not coming forward. Every time I said we have our music available after a song, no one even inquired about it. The couple who’d bought two CDs came back to watch us for a while and bought another one. We told them they were making our day. The wife keeled next to me and I explained how hard it is for us not to sell CDs and we can’t survive on tips alone. “No, God no you can’t.” she said sympathetically. A sympathetic ear for once! So compassionate, and she didn’t really say much else than that. Just a little compassion goes a long way, especially right now when we’re struggling like this.
Bill couldn’t come today as he sprained his ankle on Monday slipping in the rain. Poor thing! We missed him. I hope he heals up soon so we can see him again. He is struggling too. Everyone struggles. When things are bad like this, the worst feeling is feeling alone, because no one can help us. Only we can figure it out. People could step forward and be especially generous all at once, but that doesn’t happen. We survive by a few people being generous for the many others who choose for whatever reason not to be. It’s been this way as long as I’ve been prayforming, almost 10 years. It hasn’t changed. People are greedy and ungenerous. That’s why I hesitate putting any of our music up for free online, as people would just listen to it and not give anything back, as most do in the park. I don’t trust people to surprise us by being generous.
I don’t know how we manage to keep things going. How do we manage to keep traveling and living in all these beautiful cities. NYC, San Diego, SF, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and London only from prayforming in public. I always fear that will end somehow. The only way it would end is if we stopped doing it. We’ve been to San Diego, San Francisco, Lisbon, Amsterdam, London, NYC, Malaga and Nashville just this year alone. I don’t want to stop traveling, no matter how hard it is, because it’s the only way we can keep playing. I hope things get better. I hope we can find another way, a way to fix this problem. We’ve been in worse experiences. When we finally find success, people will be wishing they supported us more. We need to figure it out. We will be stronger in the end. What won’t kill us will make us braver, stronger, more polished, more shiny and more beautiful. There has got to be a way. Please God make things better for us.
Friday March 3rd 2017
I had another difficult sleep last night. Tried to take less Meletonin than the nights before, but the panic and fear about sleeping is so strong, I had to take my usual dose. It feels unnatural to take anything to sleep. Last year I had to as well and it messed me up for months. The fear of sustaining our lifestyle plagues me most at night. Two specific things fill me with worry. Lack of CD sales and park rangers bothering us. I try to think of ways to fix the problems, but I can’t. The park rangers may always bother us and we may never be able to sell CDs like we did before. We may also never have stability. It’s terrifying to me. Selling CDs is a major factor to our lives being sustainable. I wish we had somewhere else to play in the winter, but we don’t. These months have always been bleak, but right now it’s worse than ever before. It’s not like we sell lots of CDs elsewhere. People don’t buy them much anymore, and there is nothing to replace them. I don’t know what to do about it either. It’s not just something that sustains us, selling our music puts it into people’s lives and minds and hearts when they don’t see us live. It keeps us with them. Without taking away our music on CD, people won’t hear it again (unless they film it, but that isn’t the same as listening to our professionally recorded albums.) Our yet-to-be-released album has music on it no one has ever heard, but why release it if we can’t find a way to make money off it? Why does everything have to be so frighteningly unstable? Sometimes I just can’t take it anymore. I didn’t work on anything creative this morning. No play writing or drawing. Just fear.
I talked to someone close to me about how I was feeling and got to feeling even worse. I felt like it was our fault that things aren’t going well for us right now. That it’s because we don’t sing in English or because our music is simplistic. That’s not why, I know. It can’t be. We’re not going to change the core of what we do; singing in a made up language with our two voices, two violins and foot percussion with magical makeup and costumes. We change every day, as our most dedicated fans know. Lots of artists have had success not singing in English or their music being simple. Cirque Du Soleil and Philippe Glass are the first things that come to mind, two very successful, famous and well respected groups/people. We haven’t gotten worse either. We’ve gotten so much better. Our albums have gotten better too. It’s easy for someone to blame how we make our music for our lack of success when we’re not successful. If we were successful and had something to show for what we’ve done, no one would say that. People love our music and used to buy it in droves. If everyone who was uniquely making art/music/theater in their own unique way changed in order to possibly find more success we wouldn’t have all the great unique artists in the world. Somehow feeling like I did I managed to do some really beautiful makeup for today’s prayfomance. It helps my mood to feel pretty. I put together a really beautiful outfit, too. I don’t call it a costume, costume implies falseness and fakery to me. I am always me when I prayform, the heightened, expanded and outrageous me, even if I’m feeling sad, like today.
As we biked to the park, I started saying positive things to myself. “I’m lucky. I have Thoth. He’s never going to abandon me. I have my sister and my mom and dad who love me. I’m never going to starve or be homeless. I have my voice and all my talents… Drawing, acting, makeup, costuming, writing… I’m so lucky to be able to support myself by playing music. Things will get better. Everything will balance out. We’ve been through much worse. I need to stay positive. I have a dream, a very specific goal. Who at my age knows exactly what they want? I know exactly what I want. I want to perform our operas with Michael Chiaravelotti, our hand drummer friend and James Swanton, my brilliant young British actor friend. We have this beautiful work we’re doing. Something could happen at any moment. We just can’t stop prayforming. We have to keep the dream alive.” Last night while Thoth was making dinner, we were talking excitedly about this goal, how we could make it happen. It seems impossible. We’d need money and a venue and an audience. All things we don’t yet have. It’s got to happen. I’m chomping at the bit these days, raring to go. I’m not going to be 29 forever. I’m in my prime.
As we were getting ready to play, a police officer on a motorcycle stopped by every street performer on the Prado and asked them to produce a permit. He didn’t see us as we didn’t have a crowd. We watched, feeling very scared as we have never seen police officers bother the street performers before. Officer Morales is our friend and I think he is head. As we played, I began feeling like sh*t again. We had nice crowds and the weather was amazing, but the interest in CDs or in any interaction with us at all was almost non existent, as it has been for months. We need a patron, or patrons. We can’t survive off tips alone. We’ve had dry spells in the past, but not like this, and it’s just getting worse. Thank God we’re healthy enough of body and mind to keep trying, despite it feeling sometimes like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. Today I did. I felt so alone today. Even though people were watching us and clapping, I felt like we are completely alone and people could care less about us. No one in our audiences can help us other than saying a kind word or throwing in a few bucks. I have this feeling that I wish our audience would step forward and do something. Our friends do that just by being there. Tori was there. She cared. I knew she did. We were terrified of the officer coming back and bothering us. He went by again, but we were taking a break and again he didn’t see us. Lucky, but we’re not safe. What a horrible feeling. No safety net. My armpits were sweating as we continued, the thought at the back of our mind we’d be arrested or harassed at any moment. I don’t want to talk to police ever again. It makes me feel helpless and horrible. We’re not doing anything wrong. We shouldn’t be afraid of police. They should be protecting us, not threatening us.
As the play continued, I got more and more sad. Same thing. No CD sales. I said we have CDs and download cards after every song. No inquiries. It gets old. I don’t know what else to say. I feel like I’m giving away my very soul when I sing and people don’t even bother to say anything. At least we had an audience, unlike on Wednesday. We played a beautiful improvisation. We’ve been coming up with a lot of new music on these very dark, difficult days. I don’t know how or why. I hope things get better somehow. I do like the honest, eye to eye, hand to hand way we live our lives. It’s genuine and raw and honest and beautiful. We’re one of the last artists to be bringing something so unique to the public and only a few people understand how lucky they are. Our friends do. I’d like to be surprised by our audience for once. Surprised by their generosity and kindness and going the extra mile. We need it so much right now. We need some help.
Donate to Tribal Baroque: http://www.tribalbaroque.com/donate
Wednesday March 1st 2017
I finally slept well last night. I fell asleep when I went to bed and slept until 10, just to get fully rested. I was able to work on my play again for the first time in a week. Writing is something that keeps my head straight and out of damaging thoughts. It was a really hard day for me. I have a lot of fear about our inability to sell CDs anymore. We used to sell a lot every day and people clamored for them, not anymore. People don’t even ask about them. It has had an impact on our income. Our albums are beautiful, but I know people don’t buy music anymore. They listen on Spotify and Youtube. When I was a teenage if you wanted to buy an album or rent a movie, you went to Tower Records or Blockbuster. Both stores have shut down and disappeared. The first time I listened to “Phantom of the Opera”, we went down to Tower Records to buy it. Now you just look it up on Youtube, as well as countless bootlegs of the show. When we wanted to watch a film version of Phantom, off we went to Amazon to buy a copy. Now it’s all on Youtube. Sure, it’s convenient as hell, but all artists and musicians are suffering because of it. Even though our music isn’t available anywhere but through our website and from us in person, there is no demand for it. We’re going to have six albums out after this new one is released, but it was our very first, the live version from the Angel Tunnel in 2009, that sold the most copies. It was the least good quality of all of our albums to date. It was live. People even complained about it. There is little motivation to release new albums when people rarely say anything about them and we don’t know how to sell them.
This is how I felt as I was doing my makeup. Scared and unsure how we will survive if the one thing that gives us any amount of stability is disappearing right before our eyes. We biked to the park and sadly it was really empty. My hope that the prayformance would cheer me up went right out the window. We played and gathered a crowd, despite that there weren’t many people around, but they just stood there when we finished, or walked away. I realize that a lot of my frustration comes from what other people do (or mostly don’t do.) I can’t control what people do. I can only control myself and my reactions to what people do. Today I felt like I’m wasting my voice singing outside for free for anyone to listen, yet I don’t know of any other way other than doing what we do to make a living and continue to perform and be creative on a daily basis. We should be performing indoors. Playing in public truly is beneath us, but the market is so clogged up with bull shit and untalented hacks fighting for fame and glory, there isn’t any room for our work to be seen other than in the street. We are pushed to the side. Our beautiful, unique and completely original music in the whole world is pushed into the street to be heard. I don’t know of any music or theater festivals that would touch us. We have so little to show for what we do. People have to see our gifts and hear our work for what it is and know in their own hearts we are gifted beyond measure. Is it our fate to be street performers until we die and struggle to be able to continue our lifestyle forever? We like to be able to do nice things for ourselves, but we can’t these days. We have to lay low. Work on our projects, go play in the park, make just enough to survive and lay low. We don’t like lean times. We’ve experience them before, much worse in fact. In Marrakech and Barcelona and Edinburgh and Berlin, even in NYC, and we were always OK eventually. It all balanced out in the end. The deep fear is that eventually we’ll hit such lean times we won’t be able to bounce back. If we were allowed to play our music freely without fear and sell our albums and travel to any city we wanted to, we can take care of ourselves. It’s when the limitations come upon us that we face fears of our work not existing anymore. Even if we were homeless and starving on the street, we would still prayform. People have their own problems. People just want to think we’re these magic fairies who play in parks all over the world and have no worries or woes. People think our life is a dream. News flash friends, it’s not. I am aware how blessed I am. I am. Thoth is here. He will never leave me. My family is here. They love me and will help if things get really bad. We have fans who care about us. Not many, but they do love us. I wish we knew people who had influence who could really help us and lift us out of the life of street performers. We know James Lapine, but even he can’t help us, even though he loves us and he loves what we do. Can anyone help us? People have over the years. Friends who have given us places to live in Barcelona, Porto, Marrakech, Amsterdam, London, Santa Cruz, Oakland, San Francisco, even Portland and Eugene and Gold Beach. People have hired us for performances in Madeira and Malaga and Sao Paulo and ALMOST in Rio and Martha’s Vineyard, even one time in NYC. We keep ourselves alive through our public prayformance. It’s the only thing we know.
Since we didn’t have crowds today, we played four new pieces. One was the new 3/4 we’ve been playing for a while. The ending was beautiful. Just our two voices weaving in and out of each other, like making love with our voices. Afterwards people clapped, sort of, but they just stood there. Not wanting to show their support, but not wanting to leave. It’s as if they are in awe, yet unable to process what they just saw. Our voices are god dammed beautiful! You’d think people would be flocking forward to say something and thank us for what we do and show their support. No. They just stand there. People sometimes say I’m entitled to people’s support, but you know what? People are entitled to watching us and giving nothing back. Taking photos and videos, saying nothing supportive and walking away. The gall people have! Even if our fans can’t give us money, they hold space for us and talk to us and care about us and ask how we’re doing and spend time with us. That is something. There is so little people can do. The most our fans can do is come see us every day, which is amazing. We want to record albums with a band and a string quartet. We want to do shows with other artists, musicians and actors. We want to perform in beautiful venues with great acoustics. All of that requires money and lots of fans, neither of which we have and both of which we don’t know how to gain. This is the year of my Saturn Return. All of the feelings of wanting more success, wanting to be less invisible, wanting our talents to be recognized are coming forward strongly. I’m in a happy marriage, Thoth and I love each other. I am proud of what I do for a living. I am proud I am traveling around the world. I am proud to be working on creative projects like drawing and blogging and writing a play and a book and running two vlog channels. I’m doing the best I can. I get pessimistic because all the work I do seems to not matter. Things have got to get better. They do usually. We had a rough time last year at the same time, and then the documentary was made about us. Something good has got to happen. I don’t have it that bad. If I didn’t have Thoth I don’t know what I would do. He takes care of me. He’s watching out for me through this time. We know how to hunker down and lay low. We don’t like it, but we still have each other. We’re not going to starve or die or not be able to prayform. Everything is OK. I have to stay hopeful. Maybe this year will bring something incredible to us. Something I can’t even imagine. Maybe we’ll get a commission or a place to live and create new works, or maybe we’ll be given a beautiful place to prayform indoors, or maybe we’ll be given the opportunity to work with the people we want to work with. It’s so hard to be positive when the country is so f-ed up. I have to find a way. Thoth has been able to, so I can. I am blessed to be alive. Something amazing is coming. Amazing things have come, but something more amazing than anything before is coming. I know.
Tuesday February 28th 2017
I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last few nights. The night before last I got to sleep at 4am and got up around noon. Last night I got to sleep at around 2am. I woke up sometime when the sun was out and went back to sleep until noon. I finally feel rested. Finally, after three days. I need at least eight hours of sleep to be able to function normally. I wasn’t able to work on my play. I haven’t been able to write for a few days now. I’ve been too tired. I need to be fully alert to be able to write. It takes all of my brain power. Instead I painted my scary faces drawing with acrylic paints I’d been working on for a week. I painted all afternoon. Thoth took the bus to Sprouts to buy groceries. What a sweet husband he is. I started feeling really shitty eventually. Feeling like I’m immensely insignificant and that our work is illegitimate and unimportant. Fear starts to seep into my head. Fear that I’ll be forgotten, fear of Thoth dying, fear of being by myself and unable to cope with it, fear that no one will care, fear of how little anyone cares in general, fear of not accomplishing the things I want to in my life, fear of disappearing, and fear that none of it matters anyway. We have no stability. We have each other and we have our talents, but we have no consistency accept our will to go out and prayform in the park. We can’t be street performers forever. Being an artist for a living is so difficult, but it’s the only thing I know. I’ve never done anything else. I have to count my blessings. At least I can sing well enough to support myself. At least Bunny loves me. At least I have a family that loves me. I’m never going to be homeless or starve to death. All of that said, I want us to be recognized for what we’re doing with our life. We are worthy of more support and less fear doing what we do. All we can do is continue to do it and try to keep hope alive. By the time I’m 30 I will have been prayforming in the street for 10 years. That is the longest time I have done anything. It’s not that nothing has come of doing it either. We’ve made beautiful 6 albums, we will have traveled to Europe 5 (almost 6) times, we have performed in public spaces and rare private events all over the world, we have friends all over the world, we have created something that is incredibly unique, we’ve performed in front of thousands of people, we even have some dedicated fans who read this blog and the vlogs with open, nonjudgmental hearts. I want for us to be able to be so much more than be street performers. It’s hard to be grateful for what you have when you want so much more. I need to count my blessings and not give myself a hard time.
Tuesday February 21st 2017
We usually wouldn’t prayform on a Tuesday (or Monday), but I wanted to. We needed to play a full four days. I love challenging myself to do completely different looks every day. I’ve never used to use red or black, now I fearlessly wear ANY color! I went for a reddish look today. Bloody. Like a bullet hole in my head and bloody tears streaming down my cheeks. Pretty, but a little creepy.
I assumed Tori would stay home today, but near the end of the prayformance she surprised us by arriving with a friend and a sign they made for us. Usually I take a slow day after a really energetic few days of playing badly, but I didn’t today. I did realize why I can get really depressed when peopled don’t respond (clap) for our work sometimes. That almost happened after Anya today, but people did clap. When there is no one leading the applause (it’s been a long time since that happened) people sometimes don’t know if they should clap. I know what we’re doing is just as beautiful as it was when tons of people were clapping and cheering. Our work is never less beautiful, the audiences and the days just change. We pushed through it and it got better. When Tori and her friend and Chet came to watch near the end, suddenly everyone had gathered in front to watch. If there aren’t people standing in front of us, people stand way off to the sides. It’s makes the biggest difference when people come and watch us in front without fear. It gives other people permission to do the same.
It’s amazing we can do this work and somehow survive and thrive and have a certain kind of success. Yes, January and February are notoriously slow financially, but it will pick up again in March. We just have to weather the storm, as we always do. My birthday is on Sunday. I’ll be 29. Si*t! Almost 30? Me? I don’t feel a day older than 17. It’s just a number anyway. Being home in Nashville made me completely feel like a teenager again. I haven’t lost that. I don’t think I ever will.
We have such good friends here in San Diego. I don’t know why here. More people come to see us prayform here than anywhere in the world. On Sunday we had 6 or 7 people who were fans that all came to see us play. Some of our most diehard fans are in this city. We don’t have fans like that in New York (only Dan and Josh) or in Lisbon. People come to see us, yes, but not with such consistency and dedication. We are part of people’s lives here. Even people who don’t come to see us as much we know love us and think about us. That’s why we can feel so alone in NYC or even Lisbon. People may love our work and think of us, but we have little to no connection with them. I feel like an island in New York. It’s strange because it’s the Angel Tunnel that Thoth played in for so many years. We’ve been in Lisbon a long time too, almost every summer since 2010.
Monday February 20th 2017
I was inspired by our friend Tori to try a mixture of a dark and light makeup look today, plus I wanted to be all dressed up for our interview with Skylar in Balboa Park.
Skylar met us at 2pm at the Globe theater. Barb and David had 4 or 5 cameras last year and two or three helpers. Skylar had only one camera and herself. She says it will be finished in the beginning of March. I’m so excited to see it! It’s really interesting to do documentary interviews. It makes me feel that our life is incredibly significant. Why do documentaries of our work get made in this city? Tori came and Skylar watched and filmed most of the prayformance. Bill came. He said he might, and he did. We had a lovely time. These days we really need to prayform. Taking days off is too painful. I get to work on my creative projects, but Thoth has been so scared and depressed it’s better we go out to play.
We had a lot of fun today. I’m having a blast singing solos. I’m not scared of them anymore. Singing solos takes a lot of bravery and guts! It feels like I’m getting the hang of it though. Solos are very different from duets. They take a lot out of me and tire me out quicker. I don’t know how Thoth did it alone for so long. 10 years, but doing solos these days made me feel that someday I may be able to do solo prayformances when Thoth is gone. God. I wonder what I will do when that happens. We never know what life will bring us. I just have to focus on today. Maybe he’ll live forever.