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We’re at the end of an era

“We’re at the end of an era”

The level to which one can prepare for their own retirement is impressive. Retirement accounts can be accumulated, tasks passed on, and future plans made. Jason Webley has brought retirement prep to a new level. At his retirement show last night the accordion-playing singer/busker/troubadour seemed to have written songs for years in anticipation of their poignancy on this transition. Perhaps he always felt like he had one foot out the door, or perhaps much of his touring life kept him always leaving friends, family, and lovers. Maybe he just liked the stark imagery of endings and finality and death and rebirth. But as I stood in the best people-watching crowd I’d seen in a long time, ready to embark on my own fresh start and new journey, leaving everything I’ve known for years behind and facing the uncertainty ahead, every line about goodbyes, about leaving the comfortable path, and about starting over rung true.

Webley’s finale was a grand one. He was joined on stage at points by his band, no one, twins dressed up in a conjoined dress and playing one guitar together, only candles, dancing number 1s, an orchestra, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, her husband Neil Gaiman, and performance art dancers. Songs were energetic, emphatic, soft, soul-searing, riotous, engaging, isolating, and militant. Everything was done with panache and without any apologies for absurdity or extremism. Through it all several pervading themes hovered. Webley showed nothing but appreciation and love for the fans who had kept him going as long as he had. “This cup is empty unless you all fill it up with your energy and love and support.” He maintained a level of symbolism throughout that kept folding back in on itself.* And though bittersweet for him to be moving on, he showed a level of excitement that impressed on me the necessity of facing my upcoming travels with joy. “[When I saw the full moon on that night, I made a promise that this would be my time to move on.] It felt scary and wonderful in a way that I knew was true and right.””

Two random highlights to end this thought:

Neil Gaiman read a poem he has written about his bachelor party; its relevance being that Webley was the officiant of his wedding and the organizer of his bachelor party. A sushi dinner, drinking wine watching a storm approach, a fire dancer, and a brothel of women one by one reading poetry, whom he was to tip $11 each, the 11th of whom was his bride-to-be.

The concert ended with a sing-along part of his perpetual last song, “Last Song”. The impressive part was that as he left the stage and walked out the front of the venue, the crowd followed. A mass of a thousand people walked about a mile following the pied piper holding balloons, the “da da di dadadaaa, da daa, da dada daaaa” echoing and repeating for the entire walk, then on the beach as Webley pantomimed, set his hat off with the balloons, stripped down and swam the freezing waters of the Sound to a boat waiting for him. As the crowd entered their final few rounds of singing, Webley raised the sails on the boat, the full moon was exclipsed by a cloud, and the night drew to the most perfectly orchestrated close possible.

*Webley has an obsession with the number 11. His final show was on 11-11-11. He shared a story about Armistice Day, then requested a moment of silence leading up to 11:11, followed by a solemn count to the 11th second of the 11th hour, and an explosion of jubilation at the arrival of this time. He detailed how the ones are parallel lines that have led him along the road to where he is. And he sang a song he performed at a friend’s wedding on July 11th where he detailed their companionship as two equals moving along parallel paths.

3 comments on “We’re at the end of an era

  1. Jonathan K T
    November 18, 2011

    I’ll miss that dude. He’ll always have a place to crash in DC.

    Unless we move. Or too many other people are crashing at our place. But, you know, whatever.

  2. Megan
    January 2, 2012

    Thanks for this post. It was such an extraordinary night, and it was great to relive it through your words.

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This entry was posted on November 14, 2011 by in Uncategorized.

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