La Protagonista brings it home to the Curly Wolf
December 10, 2014
"What limits people is that they don't have the nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it." — Tom Robbins, "Still Life with Woodpecker"
Meri St. Mary doesn't have that lack of nerve or imagination.
Case in point: This year, St. Mary and about 200 hundred of her friends and supporters decided she should star on her own album — and debut it in Berlin.
And so she did. St. Mary performed "Protagonista!" live for the first time in the Oblomov club in Berlin Nov. 8.
It was a hit. Doing her best imitation of a German accent, St. Mary said club patrons came up to her after the show and, said, "That was so psych-o-delic."
Actually, it's not exactly psychedelic, and it's definitely not elevator music.
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"It's experimental, electronic, rhythm, weird stuff," St. Mary said proudly.
It's the kind of stuff you'd expect to hear in a German coffee house, actually.
Nevertheless, "This record was one hundred percent locally produced here in Nevada County," St. Mary said with equal pride during an interview last Saturday.
That's why she's bringing a live performance of "Protagonista!" to Nevada City at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"It's a party to say thank you to all the 200-plus locals who helped me get to Berlin," explained St. Mary.
Of course, she also hopes to sell some of her beautifully designed collectors' edition 7-inch vinyl records.
Get this bitch to Berlin
St. Mary is a walking contradiction.
She's kicking it old school with an analog vinyl album release, but she rocks the digital board in KVMR's Studio B, which doesn't even have the equipment to play her record.
That's why there is a little slip of paper in the album that gives you the code to download the songs (plus a digital-only bonus track) from http://bandcamp.com/yum, St. Mary explained.
"I'm not a one-trick pony," laughed the woman known as the "punk poet chanteuse" of KVMR.
And she's not shy, either. While many musicians resort to the relatively impersonal technology of Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaigns to raise money, St. Mary decided see how many friends she has.
She gave herself 90 days to raise the money she needed for her bargain roundtrip plane ticket to Berlin. It was a hard deadline: she was booked to perform in Berlin Nov. 8. Once again, she kicked it old school.
Launching a "conceptual art" campaign called "Get This Bitch to London," St. Mary wandered around the community with a bright blue plastic bag. Whenever she encountered somebody she knew, she explained her mission and asked for $1.
"Who can say no to a $1?" she asked with her winning smile.
"I didn't ask strangers," St. Mary stressed. She asked what turned out to be about 200 people she personally knows in Nevada County
Of course, some people gave more than $1, and by 80 days, St. Mary had "enough to get me there."
"It's about need, not greed," St. Mary said with dead seriousness.
Instead of hustling more money than she needed, she took the time to rest up and psych up for one of the great adventures of her life.
It takes a village
Meri St. Mary is a no-regrets, "natural-born rebel" — a renegade in and from the Hollywood and San Francisco punk rock scenes. She's flirted with fame with the Ramones and Chuck Prophet, and risked homeless misfortune on the mean streets of The City.
"I lived it, baby," she affirmed.
St. Mary sought safe ground in Nevada City. Nevertheless, she is keenly aware she would be nowhere without a whole lot of help from her friends.
One of the top people on St. Mary's gratitude list is Julia Boorinakis Harper of Beehive Records, who earlier this year, offered to make "Protagonista!" one the company's first "drops" in its target market, Germany, this November.
Harper said she visited Berlin last spring and signed German resident Anton Barbeau to Beehive Records. While she was there, she realized St. Mary was perfect for the German market.
St. Mary's longtime musical collaborator who is only identified as Th' Mole – "a mutant trip hop DJ/producer who grew up on The Ridge" – created the "experimental, electronic, rhythm, weird stuff" on the backing tracks.
Harper's partner, Mikail Graham of The Other Studio, mastered the album.
The purpose of the Berlin trip was to debut both St. Mary and Barbeau simultaneous to the Germany market "drops" of "Protagonista!" and Barbeau's "Clubbing in Berlin."
The same thing is planned for Saturday night for the U.S. "drop" at The Curly Wolf Espresso House, said Harper. Only this time Barbeau will be making the trip across the pond.
For her part, "passionista" St. Mary promised to "rock it" Saturday night.
Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.