Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brechtian Punk Cabaret: or, I Would Kill For Amanda Palmer

Of course she had me before she even appeared on stage, before we froze our asses off in the wind and freezing rain waiting for the doors to open, before I ever heard "Astronaut". She had me months before she dedicated "Oasis" (the peppiest date-rape-and-abortion song evar) to Sarah Palin. She probably owned me from the moment I first heard the Dresden Dolls' "Sex Changes" last spring, a song I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone disillusioned by once-great female icons who went all mushy and braindead in the wake of childbearing (I'm looking at you, Kate Bush. You too, Annie Lennox).

So in the interests of full disclosure, I probably couldn't have disliked Sunday's Amanda Palmer concert unless the lady had puked all over my shoes and called me needle-dick in front of my friends. But she didn't, and each step of that passionately-choreographed evening only served to ramp up my willingness to martyr myself in Her name. The statuesque androgyne Zoë Keating, starting the night with a stripped-down serenade on cello and Mac; The Builders and the Butchers, whose strangely atonal lead vocals somehow really work with their down-home foot-stomping songs about dead guys and apocalyptic floods. The shrouded body of Amanda Palmer herself being pall-borne onto the stage and laid at the keyboard while Neil Gaiman recounted his feelings upon hearing of her death, the rumors over who had killed her and why, the clinical descriptions of Palmer's crustacean-nibbled corpse dredged up from the river bed.

And then, ohmygod, Her Resurrection.

The music was amazing, but you knew that going in because you've obsessively replayed the albums until the very electrons have been worn down past the Planck length (skipping over, perhaps, such lesser lights as Night Reconnaissance and that vaguely lame sheep-slaughtering song). You were sort of prepared for the adrenaline spurting from her fingers because you've seen the live clips on Youtube. But there are these other elements that split your face into a big goofy grin: the Danger Ensemble1 infiltrating the audience and performing evocative little counterpoints of performance art right down there on the dance floor2 during the songs. The "Ask Amanda" segment. A ten-minute philosophical deconstruction on the lyrical inconsistencies inherent in Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer", and whether they can be resolved by context-sensitive interpretations of the phrase "making it". And finally, with an audience demanding another encore even though it was past midnight and noise bylaws would have been violated, we got this:

Amanda Palmer, standing on the bar in fishnet stockings, frilly bloomers, a corset, and — yes, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, a SQUID HAT!!!3 — leading rapturous fans in a singalong cover of Radiohead's "Creep" on the ukulele.

I know one jaded, grizzled old city hall journalist and horror writer who was literally brought to tears by AFP's performance that night. He was far from alone.

I have to go back to work now. But before I leave, let me take this opportunity to publicly thank the lady who first introduced me to Amanda Palmer and the (currently moribund) Dresden Dolls. I can really only think of one way to repay her, because there's only one desire she's ever expressed to me that is unambiguous and unmistakable: she really, really wants to stop being referred to as a member of The Puppy Brigade.

Consider it done. Now we're even.

1At least one member of which I might also kill for, although that's only because she reminded me of an ex-girlfriend of whom I never really got my fill.

2Which I thought was pretty brave. All it would take is one asshole from the audience to fuck things up completely, and given that AFP has known to play topless it would be amazing if a few such assholes weren't in evidence at each performance.

3Sadly, she felt compelled to take the squid off her head during the actual singing part. Said it might detract from the inherent dignity of the performance.

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Blogger TonyC said...

According to Warren Ellis and Charlie Stross she's been dumped by her record label for being too fat.

December 2, 2008 12:42 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...


I mean, I know about that whole belly fiasco over the Leeds United video, but Roadrunner seemed to have come around (they've begun actually encouraging people to send them belly shots as part of a swag contest). And on Sunday AFP did make a couple of passing remarks about the less-than-ideal relationship with her label (another personal detail that endeared her to me, for obvious reasons), but she said nothing (nor have I seen it mentioned on her blog) about an actual divorce.

That would be fucking insane. I honestly can't understand why she isn't getting better promotion.

December 2, 2008 1:04 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

She said on her LJ (http://afplj.livejournal.com/) that it was too complicated to leave. Which I figured. But since to belly explosion, people have been assuming that she was leaving RoadRunner or had already left. I think most people don't understand that you can't just walk away from contracts/etc. That's ok though. Maybe they will shape up and start promoting her record.

December 2, 2008 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Admit it, she's your secret love child from a jaunt to Massachusetts in the mid-70's.

It's okay; no one will judge you here.


December 2, 2008 5:01 PM  
Blogger Laur said...

It seems AFP is everyone's guilty little pleasure these days.

And to think that I came across Dresden Dolls by browsing the "related" videos on the almighty YouTube... Long live technology! :D

December 2, 2008 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is weird - someone I know in a way utterly unrelated to this blog is talking about this, and I had never heard of Amanda Palmer until yesterday. (I learn something new every day.)

The bellies:


Ms. Palmer's blog with more bellies:


Okay, this is really really neat! Mentally edit out the messages to her record label so defiantly drawn on by the belly owners, and you can see the soft pleasant midrifts of dozens of people, some young and beautiful, some old and fat, some hairy, some flat, all sans the faces. It's wonderful! And so intimate without being calculated. I wanted to put my hand out and pat most of them. *sigh* *pat-pat*


December 4, 2008 9:56 AM  
Blogger Alehkhs said...

Whoa, The Builders and the Butchers were there!!!?

You lucky fuck

December 4, 2008 8:05 PM  

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