I discovered The Dresden Dolls in college. They appealed to my angsty artsy side, which is tucked away in my hoodie pocket at any given time. I instantly connect to confessional lyrics and pianos. Amanda showcases both, with the Dolls or on her own.
The first time saw Amanda Palmer in concert was right after she had split from her label and I think the Dolls had broken up. At that point, I don’t think I’d purchased any of her music firsthand. Plus, from her numerous open blogs on the the subject of the music business, it didn’t sound like buying her music was the way to help her profit directly. So I bought concert tickets and merch instead. I wasn’t disappointed. Her concert ended with her singing “Making Whoopie” on a ukulele from an opera box at the Bijoux Theater in Knoxville.
Then the Dresden Dolls announced a reunion tour in 2010 and the husband and I bought tickets immediately for the Atlanta show at The Buckhead Theater. There’s something magic about Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione. You can’t bottle it. It just is. I remember watching their Paradise dvd over and over again after their inital breakup, so sad I’d missed the chance to see them live when they initially split. But see them we did. They played until I couldn’t stand up or hear straight and it was pure magic. Neil Gaiman wrote a piece about it in Spin. You should read it.
It was an amazing show. I still have a flower Amanda threw into the crowd that someone gave me. I pressed it into a glass locket and it hangs on my nightstand.
Throughout her time without a label, I supported her indie releases, buying cool merch packages with buttons and stickers and sharing links to her videos on Facebook. I liked how she offered a custom experience for her fans. I respected that she was tuned in to giving people a great experience or product. She often addressed delays upfront. She was honest, messy, and interesting to watch, as human beings often are. Her honesty–through her songwriting and tweets–made it impossible for me to look away.
Then came the Kickstarter. I did not support the Kickstarter, for whatever reason. None of the packages appealed to me, or I just wanted the buy the album in a record store later. The husband loves Kickstarting games and comics so I was aware of the business model before people started freaking out on the Internet. I did buy Theatre is Evil at the store and it changed my life. Because The Bed Song.
And then came her TED talk. If you’ve never heard of Amanda Palmer, you should maybe start here.
Asking is a skill I’m continuing to learn in my 30s. As is trust. As is receiving help. As an artist, Amanda Palmer has helped me consider myself and what I want more deeply. She’s helped me understand I can’t be a one-woman show. I can’t do it all on my own.
So this past week, the husband and I drove to Birmingham to see AFP on her short whirlwind tour and meet a friend we actually met at a Neil Gaiman signing. Sixteen weeks pregnant at the time of this performance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. No opening act, just Morrissey and The Smiths blaring over the PA system, which lead to dance-and-sing along.
And then there was Amanda, luminous in a satin nightgown and floor length coat. She opened the show with Astronaut, banging on the keyboard like she was trying to bring blood.
And so it went. She crowd sourced her playlist, letting first timers choose songs for her to sing. And then there were other surprises. Midway through the show, she talked about how she recorded her first album with Ben Folds producing and she had never covered him. So she covered Ben Folds Five’s Brick. Readers, THERE ARE NO WORDS. Later, she played The Bed Song, and I openly wept, shoulders shaking, every word, every piano key lodged deep in my heart. It was a beautiful, cathartic concert. People laughed, cried, and lost their shit. I was one of them.
After years of seeing her and never staying for the signing line, I did, my River Song journal in hand, as well as a freshly purchased copy of her book. By the time I got to her, she was tired, luminous, but gracious. She asked my name and signed her book. Then I presented her with my River Song journal.
“Neil signed the first page. You can have your own page, or if you can share his, if you like.”
“I’ll split a page with him,” she said.
This brought me mad amounts of happiness, because they are two of my favorite artists who not only love each other but are now having a child. Consider the bedtime stories and lullabies and utter love. Consider that. I am so glad I went, and have been devouring her book in the days since. There’s a section in her book that crystallized what I felt that night, with a few other hundred people (and one dog) in that room at WorkPlay:
“…Listening to those songs performed live, in concert, and sharing that blanket feeling, with a crowd of strangers, gives me a feeling of humanhood that I don’t often get to experience; it’s the closest thing I have to church.”
Thank you for church, Amanda. Thank for seeing all of us in the crowd. I can’t wait to see what you do next.