“I’m sorry, I know I tell you this all the time, but…”
Throughout my many decades as a fan of Low, I’ve barely missed an opportunity to tell Mimi Parker how much I love and admire her work. It’s just your basic, slightly embarrassing fangirl gushing, but I’ve never left a Low performance without all these emotions of awe and admiration pulsing through my veins. It’s like, I have to let it out. I have to tell her how much I love her.
Mimi had one of the most beautiful voices I will ever hear. Its radiance and resonance genuinely flood my heart with joy when I listen to her sing. I’ve tried to sing along with my Low cassettes (and later CDs, and later, streaming audio) in the car, and she’s simply unparalleled in her range, breath control, and just the emotion she can bring to one long sustained note.
Back in 2011, they stopped by KEXP (the radio station in Seattle where I work) for an in-studio session. I still remember creeping down the hallway to the performance space, and tucking away in the back of the engineering room to watch the broadcast (which you can watch here). When the “On Air” light turned off and they began to pack up their gear, I snuck into the room and, heart beating fast, approached Mimi.
“Ohmygod, your voice is so beautiful, ohmygod, I love the new songs so much, ohmygosh,” I breathlessly unleashed on her, wide-eyed and nervous. She was very sweet, and said thank you, and I scurried back to my desk, still shaking with excitement.
After that, I kept doing it. Telling her how awesome she is. The floodgates were open, and my emotions were too strong to close them back up again. Every in-studio session, post-concert opportunity, whatever.
“I’m sorry, I know I tell you this all the time, but ohmygod…”
The last time I cornered her with praise was at last year’s Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows. The stars had aligned for Low to be able to open one of the eight nights. Their set was so beautiful. Even though I am definitely non-confrontational, I remember finding my courage to shush some jerks talking nearby during their set. Shut the hell up. Can’t you hear? Mimi Parker is singing right now. They opened with “Days Like These” and when Alan and Mimi’s voices chimed together for the first time on that song, it was like a solar eclipse, so blinding in its beauty.
At the end of the night, I turned to my dear friend Julia and said, “I have to tell her how much I love her. I just have to.”
Julia said she thought she saw her near the stage, so I took off upstairs to find Mimi. I spotted her in the corner. Her back was turned to me, but I saw her signature shoulder-length cascade of thick auburn curls. She was talking to someone else. I hesitated. Should I wait to cut in? I could feel those stupid butterflies in my stomach. I freaked out. I shuffled back downstairs and into the bathroom to catch my breath, when I ran back into Julia.
“Did you talk to her?”
“No,” I sighed, shoulders drooping as my nerves left me. “I couldn’t do it! I chicken’ed out!”
And it was at that moment that Mimi stepped out from one of the bathroom stalls. Turned out, that wasn’t her upstairs at all, just someone else with equally lush locks (that we later learned was actually a wig; at that point, chemo had taken Mimi’s natural hair).
“Ohmygod, YOU are what I chicken’ed out about!” I blurted out as she stepped toward the sinks. ”I wanted to tell you how beautiful your set was, and how beautiful your voice is, and ohmygod…”
I was off and running. As always, she laughed, smiled, and was very sweet about it.
“I’m sorry, I know I tell you this all the time…” I started to say, looking down at the floor in embarrassment. She laughed, and kindly replied, “You can always tell me again!”
* * *
I saw her a couple more times earlier this year, but that was the last time I really cornered her with my dorky effusive fangirl energy. And even though I cringe sometimes when I think of how awkward I would get around her, I’m also glad I got yet another chance to tell her how much her work meant to me. How dizzy with joy I get listening to Low. And how lucky the entire world was to have her in it.
Was not supposed to make you cry
I sang the words I meant
— Low, “Lullaby”