“I’m essentially wandering through this country of yours to visit my daughter, who is eleven, and lives in New York City…”
With that half of a sentence, an intro to a song new enough that I can’t find it online to link to, Tim Rogers flipped some switch I didn’t know existed and turned me into an emotional wreck.
Rogers said it offhandedly, like it wasn’t a big deal, but it felt like a huge deal, this Australian with a bottle of white wine and a green jacket, playing a small show in a tiny gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana, just trying to get east.
The power of Rogers’ intro to the song was lost on the five-year old girl sitting with her father in the row in front of me. Rogers addressed her throughout the night, apologizing for curses and at one point going as far as to ask her to cover her ears so he could say “beautiful people don’t know how to fuck.”
Which was pretty great.
But as Rogers launches in to this song about his daughter, I’m sitting behind this little girl and just losing my shit. Rogers gives off this vibe that lets you know he still feels all of it, each and every choice he’s made that led him to this place, playing guitar and drinking wine and waiting on that next train to take him one step closer to his daughter.
I can’t remember any of the lyrics to that song, just this overarching theme of “please tell me I did something right or, if you can’t, please tell me I didn’t fuck each and every thing up.” It’s one thing to hear a song like that on the radio, it’s another thing to hear those words coming from the person who wrote them, knowing he’s basically on a journey to ask for those same favors.
He won’t use those words, of course, but they’ll run underneath every action he takes, everything he does to try and show his daughter that he loves her, it all comes with that silent plea.
Tell me I didn’t fuck you up.
I’m hearing this and thinking about my relationship with my father, and feeling so, so badly for Rogers, having seen that look so many times. I’m feeling for his daughter, who may never figure out exactly what the “right” response is because, if we’re all being honest here, I am a little fucked up. And she probably is too.
When the song’s done, Rogers tries to make it so we can’t clap, launching immediately into his next intro: “So I was in this band called You Am I…”
We see what he’s doing, and we try and stop him. We applaud over the protestation of his ongoing intro.
He did his best, bringing up The Thing He’s Most Famous For, but he can’t get away from that little girl in the front row. Later in the show he asks her if she likes dinosaurs like his daughter does, before launching into another song, called Dinosaurs.
The first light that peeks round the night sky is there for you to wish by
or is that just our little thing?
And I got a big house, just us two and it’s a crowd
Your momma’s cooking’s still the top of the town
but I’ll try to get it right.
I’ll just put it to you: Is my voice still familiar?
The fridge is stacked sky high.
But if not to be tonight, well please say sometime
Then there’s “Happy Anniversary”, a song about all the ways you’ve fallen short of your wife’s expectations, which includes the line “take me out and get me real, real shickered” and, I swear to you, Rogers at one point changed to “take me out for some Coney Island”… this coming two days after Pye and I shared Anniversary Coney Dogs, and at the concert that served as our anniversary gift to each other.
I don’t know that anyone else had the same sort of experience, that they fought back tears for basically the whole concert, or that their first words in the parking lot were “yeah, I was not emotionally prepared for that.”
But as I’m sitting here at The Big Desk, trying to get my thoughts to make enough sense that I can e-mail this to Pye in the morning and she can do what she always does and make everything better, one thought keeps popping up, over and over again.
All these emotions I’m dealing with right now were brought up by one person with a guitar, and the only reason that worked is because he told the truth. It’s his truth, but tonight that connected with me in a way few other people’s truths had.
Creatively, truth is the goal. No Matter What.
I am so incredibly lucky that I get to spend every day with a partner who helps me tell the truth. Whether it’s a dumb tweet or something bigger like a Ted talk, it is beyond empowering to be able to take an idea, hand it to this other person and trust her to tell me whether or not it’s true.
Pye told some fantastic truths on Monday about who we are and how we’re looking toward our second year together. It’s possible we’ll never reach the level of truth telling we saw from Tim Rogers Wednesday night.
But now we know where the bar is.
At the end of the concert, Rogers says good night and holds his guitar in the air with one hand, by the neck, the sort of move that wouldn’t seem out of place on a festival stage in front of 60,000 people.
And then, almost as an afterthought, he looks directly at the little girl sitting in front of me, the girl he asked to cover her ears for the curses and talked to about dinosaurs, maybe the most important person in that room to him on that night, and he bows.
Happy Anniversary to my Creative Partner. This was not the worst idea we ever had.
Update: Joel Faurote correctly identified the song I couldn’t track down as “Part-Time Dads.” There’s a video of another performance of it here. Thanks, Joel!
Update 2: Joel also took some fantastic photos of the show, which are up here.