As Your Castle Crumbles Down (And It Will) Take It Easy…

vanessa carlton playing a thousand miles
vanessa carlton, performing ‘a thousand miles’

so, i finally got to see vanessa carlton perform live. it only took me 21 years to do it. i was a senior in high school in 2002, and my friend and i had study hall, which was essentially us sitting in the library watching mtv and/or vh1 all hour. so one day we’re watching, and there she was. the video for a thousand miles started and i was immediately captivated. for those who don’t know, i kind of have a thing for the piano, and especially sad girl piano songs. and vanessa ticked all the right boxes:

  • sad
  • girl
  • piano songs

the video was fun and imaginative, as it shows her sitting at a piano and with world landmarks passing behind her. i went a few weeks later and got the ‘be not nobody’ album on compact disc, and completely wore it out that summer. a thousand miles became my battle cry that may because in hindsight i was pretty infatuated with lauren, but i didnt have the guts to admit it to her, and that one slipped through my fingers. being as how she lived in oklahoma city, she may as well have been a thousand miles away. for graduation that year my mom got me 2 tickets to see britney spears. i invited lauren to go, but like a geek she mouthed off to her mom and got grounded. so i ended up meeting up with my sister instead. i was so unbelievably mad, and i listened to thousand miles on repeat like 6 times the way home. lol i know we weren’t right or each other… or at least when we were in high school we weren’t cause we both had very strong personalities, and sometimes they clashed. but i feel like i could have at least prolonged some of her life choices, or maybe by the way time works, being with me could have set her on a different trajectory in life to have avoided them altogether. she may still have been with us today. i miss her.

an image of me and tori
me and tori, november 12, 2004

but back to the vanessa, when harmonium came out i went to walmart that day to pick it up. that came out the day before my birthday, which was the week that i met tori. that album is so tied up mentally and emotionally to tori. it’s another one of those things where it’s a single sided position though because she is not very impressed with artists who rely on acoustic instruments, and she is especially not impressed with sad girl songs. so where all these songs remind me of so many times being with her and talking on the phone with her, and planning for her next visit, these songs are just mere annoyances to her. where this album is larger than life, and a major component to the foundation of our relationship and everything that it means, to her its just a collection of songs that have no significance.

vanessa carlton performing ‘back to life’ from the ‘love is an art’ record

the show tonight was very intimate, and in a smaller room upstairs at the house of blues in dallas, tx. i had never been to the house of blues before, and i took the long way to get to the room because i went through the lounge, an elevator up, then an elevator down, but it reminded me of casa bonita in a way in how there were many smaller sections within the main building, and each section had it’s own theme and feel. once i finally found the room and filtered in, i was ‘rows’ back (there were 2 bodies in front of me) but they said that there would be no opening acts, so the show was vanessa, then go home. so that was exciting, because i’m too old to stand through 8 artists now. when she took stage she had crutches and a limp, to which she revealed later on that she had sprained and broken her foot 2 weeks before tour, and so was having to do the shows barefoot with some accessibility modifications. the rhythm section was made up of just a lone cellist which i can’t recall her name now, i think she said liz? but i could be wrong. it was cool to hear the songs stripped down and more raw than the versions on the albums with drums, guitar, and full orchestration parts. i was initially hesitant about how the songs would translate when i started seeing photos earlier in the tour on her socials, but once she started thousand miles, any doubts i had were quickly vanquished, because i was just overcome with joy and enamoration. speaking of the songs, here is the set list:

  1. A Thousand Miles
  2. Willows
  3. Carousel
  4. Fairweather Friend
  5. Back To Life
  6. Ordinary Day
  7. House of Seven Swords
  8. Tall Tales for Spring
  9. Hear the Bells
  10. Only Way to Love
  11. White Houses
  12. Who’s To Say (Encore)
  13. Love Is an Art (Encore)

when she sat down she said “ok, let’s just let the cat out of the bag” and went right into ‘a thousand miles’ and everyone cheered. it’s not often an artist opens with their biggest hit. the set was really well rounded and i can’t complain on any of it. i would have liked to have heard ‘i know you don’t mean it’ but what can you do? the encore was interesting because after ‘white houses’ she stated “normally i would leave the stage here, wait until the applause were just right at their peak and emerge back but since i have crutches, i’m not leaving. so, uh, the set is over” and everyone started cheering as she covered her face and looked away as the lights dimmed. then when the applause were at their peak, the lights came back up and she said “ok i’m back” and went into the encore. i was surprised that her last song was for all intents and purposes, just a random track from the current record. but it’s a good track so it’s fine, just an interesting choice is all.

album cover
‘love is an art’ by vanessa carlton

(this is the part where this concert review turns into a xanga blog from 2003) speaking of the new record, the album was released march 27, 2020, and for those who forgot your history, you should be reminded that the pandemic in american officially started on march 11, 2020 when the okc thunder cancelled their game against the utah jazz after jazz player rudy gobert tested positive that evening, and the lock downs and cancellations began. carlton just releasing her first record in 5 years was faced with the inconvenient reality of having a record release with zero live promotion. she would occasionally play live streams from her living room, but she mentioned tonight at the show that during this time she took up substitute teaching at her daughter’s elementary school. but all that aside, i know i’m not competently up to the task, nor connected enough in the industry, but i would love there to be a documentary the covers artists who released records in march of 2020, and what it meant for each of them, and how they came to terms with the fact that their records would not have any live promotion, because in most cases, that’s essentially sending your record out to die. HUNTINGTONS would be a great candidate for this doc as well, being as their record was released january 31st, they played a few record released shows, the following week (which i attended) and then they were left with no other live promotion on what should have been a huge record.

the trip gave me time to reflect. i don’t really expect her to anymore, but it would be nice to be able to go to shows with tori, but majority of the artists i want to see, she has no interest in at all, and the few she is interested in, she has no interest in actually seeing them. i always feel like a giant geek constantly going to shows by myself. shows are always a group activity. i always see couples or friends, or whatever and i’m always left a little bit bummed out in the fact that i’m always just standing completely alone, eavesdropping on conversations around me, but having no one to talk to. so for the entire night i’m just looking around at everyone trying to not make eye contact with strangers. before tori came along, my sister and i always went to shows together, and we developed quite the code of looks, glances, and whatnot. and it was nice to have someone to talk to between sets and in lines and what not. but she’s married, and so am i, so yeah. but like i said, i don’t at all want tori to do things shes not interested in, so i get it, i just wish she was just interested in it is all.

on the drive home i passed by the president george bush turnpike, and it jogged a memory that i had completely forgotten about. so in late 2003 i was talking with this girl named anna on xanga, and we started im’ing on aim. and in january of 2004 she was like “you should come over” she lived in fort worth, and i was girl crazy, so i was like eff it, i’m going. so i literally jumped in the car with my atlas, and i stole mom’s cell phone, and i went. i ended up taking the bush turnpike to get from dallas to fort worth, so that’s where the memory came from. i just remember we watched some tv, then i slept on her couch (she lived with her aunt i believe?) and the next day when i woke up we went to some stores, then i came back home, and then mom blessed me out for taking the phone and leaving without telling anyone. and i was like “well, a) you were in bed” lol anna came up to see me a few weeks later i don’t recall much from the visit, just that i remember mom making pancakes for us the next morning. the last time i saw her was when i went to see the tooth and nail tour in dallas in feb of 2004. she met up with me there, and we spent the weekend. we werent dating. we never dated. but it was fun spending time with her, but i just never pursued her because we were very different politically, because she was democrat, and i aligned more with republicans, and sometimes that fired up debates because i was 20 and didnt know how to just let stuff slide. she may have even asked me to date, but i can’t fully recall if she did or did not.

thats what was wild about the xanga days. i was talking to anna, she said “come over” and i came over. there was no stranger danger. there was no catfishing. i was talking to holly in the summer of 2003. she said come over, i came over. her mom worked a paper route, and so at like 3 am when she left for work holly asked me to come over. she lived in inola, which is a small hick town between tulsa and pryor. we hung out in her room watching nick at nite… until her mom came home and said i needed to leave before her dad woke up. “if your dad wakes up and catches another boy in your bed he’s gonna kick all our a**es!” her mom was a riot. lol but it was just cool that after talking for a while on aim, she was like “you should come over” and so i did. same thing with tori, instead i told her to come over. she recalls how weird it was that i wanted her to meet me at my house, but it didnt seem weird to me, because girls on xanga were always giving me their address and i would go to their house. their literal house to meet for the first time. it just didnt seem weird to me because i had done it several times. that just seemed what you did. but it was a different time back then. you would talk to girls on aim, and you would hook up when their parents were asleep or gone. and we trusted each other a lot because we were literally going to each other’s houses at midnight or whatever.

i realize that this concert review has turned into a full blown blog, but thats just how it goes sometimes. i miss being able to come home from a show and typing out all of my thoughts and people read and comment. no one reads anything long anymore, but in 2004 there was no youtube. there was no tiktok. there was no spotify. there was no twitch. there was no netflix or hulu or disney+, so basically reading years long blogs *was* the entertainment for us early 20-somethings… reading mile long blogs, and typing mile long blogs. so whereas now we would spend all our time watching like an elden ring let’s play on twitch, in 2004 you just read all your friends blogs. maybe i should start blogging again, but it’s always an empty promise that goes nowhere, because the only time i have the mental clarity to type is at 4am when the world is dead. thats when i always typed on xanga. but since i didnt have internet, i would type at 3am after i got off the phone with tori, save it to a floppy disk, then the next day go to the library and post. when times were simple.


“no simple scheming, you should be sleeping, sometimes you just can’t think it through. that’s the way it is, love. go whichever way you need to go. nobody can tell you how to build your house of seven swords.”