I met a guy in a bar a few months ago, and he spoke of a clandestine venue in the region, invitation only. It was all a bit Twin Peaks, but in the end I gave him my email address and he said he’d put me on the list. Sure enough, occasional mails came in, announcing obscure events, but when I saw this I knew it was time to check out the mysterious (***) club.
We found it easily enough and there was no hassle to enter; it seemed if you knew of its existence then you were welcome. There was nothing too bizarre about the place, it was small and friendly, and the drinks were cheap.
The Space Lady arrived soon after with her manager, having just landed in Amsterdam, and after a swift line-check and costume change, she was ready to go. Resplendent in her trademark Asterix helmet with flashing red light, and armed with the same Casiotone MT-40 she’s been playing since the early 80s, she regaled the sizeable crowd with her haunting songs and unusual covers.
A youthful 67 year old, The Space Lady (Susan Dietrich Schneider) has seen a thing or two. From dwelling in a cave in the 60s to avoid the draft, with her husband and co-songwriter Joel, to alien abduction, followed by years busking on the streets of San Francisco. Only recently has her cult status been affirmed, placing her alongside artists like Wesley Willis and Moondog, outsiders who not so much slipped through the cracks, but had always existed there.
The young audience tonight starts out understandably bemused, but in the space of a couple of numbers this turns to captivated and transfixed, such is her charismatic but humble presence. Classic tracks, like ‘Born to be Wild’, ‘I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night’ and ‘Starman’ are transformed, through judicious use of echo on both voice and keyboard, into ethereal spaced-out cosmic symphonies. On ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’, in a move of endearing genius, she executes a key change by turning the pitch knob on the back of the keyboard. Her own material, such as ‘Synthesize Me’ and ‘The Ballad of Captain Jack’ is equally mesmerizing. Throughout the performance her disarming authenticity shines through, frequently thanking the sound engineer, and reveling in her songs being heard in their entirety, after years of being ridiculed or ignored by indifferent passers-by.
The Space Lady finishes with one of her own newer numbers, a wake-up call to today’s generation to protect and preserve our environment, unashamedly from the heart, and one she hopes they will heed. The canon of Science Fiction abounds with tales of mystical beings from the future warning us to change our ways, lest we risk impending destruction, but this time one came from the past. With wings on her head, and the indomitable spirit of the psychedelic sixties in her soul.
As for the club, I could reveal more but then I’d have to kill you, but suffice to say I most certainly will be going there again.