Words By: Molly Schmidt
I left Mojos after the Washington gig with a note from her written in my notebook. It is now one of my most prized possessions.
“Poetry scribble books are very important, they’re where all the good ideas live. Don’t ever throw them out,” she wrote. And a heart, followed by “Megan Washington”.
I am now no longer ashamed of my inability to remain cool, calm and collected in the face of any musician that I even remotely like. I have always loved Washington, but particularly in high school. I was under the impression that I was old enough and mature enough now that I would not fall all over her when I met her after the gig, and I most certainly would not blurt “Ahhhh I’ve loved you forever!” in her face. However my complete lack of cool, calm, collectedness meant
a.) I walked away with a notebook containing a note from a musician I love,
b.) I walked away with a signed record (can we just note on the side here, my lack of cool, calm and collectedness sort of exploded when Washington wrote in my notebook, and out of this bursting gratitude I bought a record, despite not having a record player of my own. Anyway.)
c.) I got a photo with her, and
d.) It actually made Washington smile.
Sadly, Washington didn’t actually smile much during this gig. And I started thinking, so what if I constantly make a fool out of myself when I talk to musicians I love and respect? All I’m actually doing is being honest about loving and respecting them, (albeit rather inarticulately). And guess what? Maybe sometimes, it makes them feel like the fantastic musicians they are, and they can walk away all warm and fuzzy too.
Washington was not the world’s happiest musician on Thursday night. I was expecting the full band, and it was a surprise to see Washington walk on stage alone.
Sitting at her red keyboard and solemnly opening with “Skeleton Key”, her wistful energy and lullaby voice filled the room beautifully. From the beginning of the gig Washington’s music was heavy with emotion. There was something fragile and pure about this—in her sadder songs, we also felt sad. There was this very raw, breakable energy about the room.
Washington did this funny thing to the crowd. We stood there, still, for almost the whole gig, just listening. It was a completely different experience to previous times I have seen her live, when her bopping energy and real pop-rock feel of her more upbeat songs had the crowd jumping around in their brightly coloured converse. (This particular memory is from Groovin the Moo in 2011, back when I’m pretty sure the only shoes I owned were converse of varying colours.)
Back in high school, Washington’s music felt fun, rebellious and exciting. We listened to “Sunday Best” whilst drinking brightly coloured alcohol in each other’s gardens, and “Clementine” on the bus home. I remember when her album Insomnia came out, we were all surprised at the sadness it held.
Something about seeing Washington play it live and solo in the crowded bar of Mojos made me understand it. A lot of Washington’s music is filled with a yearning and maybe even self-doubt, that as teenagers we didn’t recognize behind the bopping beats and her punchy haircut. Seeing Washington live on a night that she seemed to feel a little blue, reminded me how human she is, and that even musicians are allowed to have bad days.
“Begin Again” was a song that stood out for me. Washington told us it was about the time she “was engaged, and then she wasn’t anymore,” laughing in a miserable, dry kind of way. It was a song that was full of regret, and it amazed me the extent that I started to feel regretful and sad, about a situation that didn’t involve me at all. Her music was really beautiful, full bodied with reverb heavy keys and Washington’s stunning voice, with incredible vocal range. Her slightly flat mood did not affect the quality of the music she performed, and with her wry sense of humor and natural ability of story-telling, Washington connected nicely with the crowd.
When she played “Cement” I couldn’t help but smile, feeling nostalgic and happy. Washington’s Doc Martin’s were wiggling like mad under the keyboard and in her dark purple lipstick, she had a pretty great smile on her face herself. If I had to put the whole gig down to one word I’d say tender. It was honest and raw and heartfelt and yes, a little sad.
But I left feeling glad that Washington had shared with us the reality that we are all human, rather than putting on a glossy musician’s mask. I left holding my signed record out in front of me, careful not to smudge the silver texta. Hope tomorrow is a happier one, Washington.