The first time I heard Sara B perform, it was at an in-store signing/meet & greet at a Borders in MN. My significant other at the time had been a fan of Sara’s music ever since seeing her playing a song in the background of a movie called Girl Play. They had looked her up (a much more difficult thing to do in those days) and found a copy of her first album, Careful Confessions. At the time, I was in graduate school in Mankato, MN, and my SO was in town for a visit. It was October of my second year, and I knew of but hadn’t yet heard any of Sara’s music. This day was a birthday present for my SO. Including me driving up to and around St. Paul in a time before GPS. For me at least. After the mini performance, we got to meet with Sara B and chatted with her and took pictures and got signatures, and we found ourselves outside and my SO was flying high and said – I’m good. We can go home now.
Which would have been fine – other than we had tickets for a concert that night, Oct 1, 2007, at the Xcel Center. Had I known about the signing prior to shelling out the money (which when combined with the gas money it took to get there and back, was a lot for me at the time), I wouldn’t have bought the tickets. But I had bought them – and we were going. And we were going for the sole purpose of seeing the opener for the opener of the headliner – Sara B. Again. This was time number two – Sara and her piano up on stage playing to a half empty arena singing her heart out.
The third time I saw Sara perform was at a small bar in Madison, WI, called the High Noon Saloon. This is also the night that, while we waited after the show for Sara to come out and do signatures, my SO leaned over and asked me to marry them. I said yes. And because of this, when Sara B finally did come out, and I walked up to her, my hands were shaking quite noticeably. She asked what was up – and when I told her what had just happened, she smiled brightly and hugged me. This is an anecdote we told for years to come as a part of the proposal story since upon my return to my SO’s side, they replied, “So, what was that hug all about?”
The fourth time I saw Sara B was a little over a year ago at the United Center in Chicago as she supported her album Amidst the Chaos. At this point, I was divorced several years and wanted a memory of this great singer in action that wasn’t tied to my now ex. It was yet another stellar night of music and storytelling.
There was one other encounter in between the third and fourth, though not a concert. Two days before my sister’s birthday in 2015, I sat in a small auditorium listening to Sara B, on her book tour, call herself a “salty angry woman” and give writers the advice to “make yourself sit the fuck down and write.” (The notes I took from this event five years ago are still in my phone.) I bought two copies of her book that night, and even though we were instructed by the folks running the event that she wouldn’t be personalizing them beyond our name (thankfully written down on a post-it so that it would be spelled correctly…if I had a nickel for every book I own inscribed to Amy…), I whisper-asked if she would add a Happy Birthday to my sister’s copy that I was buying to gift to her in a couple days – and she smiled that smile and said sure.
The thing I hate to admit is that even though I did start reading the book when I first got it, I maybe got ten pages in and then stopped. I have no idea why. But when I was telling a friend of mine about all the heavy books I had been reading lately (of the last four, two were historical fiction about Shoah/Holocaust, one about biases, and one a memoir about female incarceration and starting a movement to aid women recently released from prison), he suggested that maybe the next book I read be something light. When I scanned my bookshelf, I saw this title sitting there still waiting to be read.
It was exactly what I needed in this moment in so many ways – the break down of her songs were interesting, her honesty and openness were welcoming, and her vulnerability was much needed at this moment in my life.