Monday, June 15, 2009

Amanda Fucking Palmer

Who says Twitter isn't good for anything? Twitter won me 2 of only 200 tickets to the "secret" Amanda Palmer show in Cambridge last night. And damn, was it awesome.

It wasn't at a club or normal venue, but rather at a recording studio. Which meant that the directions they gave out were a little sketchy ("Continue to walk west on the bike path until you cross Mass Ave. Rejoin the bike path for 20 more yards until the white fence ends. Enter packing [sic] lot on the right") but just made it feel like a treasure hunt, with AFP at the end. We were a little early when we arrived, and the venue (The Bridge) was worried we might annoy the neighbors, so we were shuffled into the back parking lot. No one minded, and everyone was really quiet and respectful of the area... we all just wanted to see the show.

It was, of course, a rent party. You see, Amanda needed to pay her rent, but didn't have the money. So she decided to play a show and not charge for tickets, and throw a grand old party. Instead, after having our names checked at the door, one of her friends (Beth, I think) sat with a large bowl, taking donations, thriving off of the tip based music world that Amanda feels is coming, with fans paying to keep the music coming, and donating for the common good of the art world. Once completely inside, I was in a completely different music world than I had ever entered.

If they were shooting for punk cabaret, they got it. There were girls in fishnets and hoop skirts, burlesque inspired outfits and a man in a rabbit head. There was a girl in the crowd with a nose ring working on her needlepoint, and many many people had bubbles. Barely half of the room had naturally colored hair, and the other half was in mismatched stockings and puffy skirts. It was amazing. These are the people that your parents tell you not to be, the ones that get strange looks and shoved into lockers. But they are absolutely the nicest, most accepting, most welcoming people ever. I know the looks people get when they have weird hair (mine has a propensity for being purple) and I know the looks that striped thigh highs will garner. And sometimes it makes you want to roll your eyes right back at the girls with hollister tops and highlights. But this was the nicest, most assorted, calmest and most respectful crowd I've ever seen. No pushing, no shoving, no hair pulling, no drooling, and not one mean word all night. Three cheers to AFP fans.

Besides the awesome crowd, the first band up was entertaining. I'm not sure "band" is the right was to describe them though. Sure, there were instruments and singers, but Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys also contained a burlesque poetess, a dancer, a man who played with his makeup on the side of the stage, a maid who made tea for the band, and a man in a bowler hat who stood disapprovingly at the edge of the stage. One woman danced through the crowd with a toy accordion, a tiny pillbox hat glittering on her head. They were a motley bunch, complete with lace and lacings and crowd involvement, and they sent me back and forth from swaying in the crowd to screaming at the tops of my lungs.

After a brief interlude of Amanda Palmer arranging herself and some fans on stage, which included a four year old girl (who later danced on stage for part of the show) helping her tape flowers to her keyboard, she answered some Ask Amanda questions. They ranged from questions about her relationship with Neil Gaiman to what she would be if she wasn't in the music business. She is a funny, genuine person and I wouldn't have minded just listening to her talk all night and not hearing one song. But then she did begin to play, first on the ukulele, and then on the piano. And it was gorgeous. All of it. She sang old songs and new, from "Ampersand" to "Trout Hearts" which came with an adorable story of its origin. She is great live, better than great, and watching her perform changed even songs that I wasn't enamored of before ("Guitar Hero") into instant favorites, because the passion and stories and life behind these songs come alive when you see her sing them.

The last two songs of the night were particularly special. The first was what she called "The Bed Song." It is unfinished, or unperfected, and it took her one false start to get going. But it tells the story of lovers falling apart as their lives step upwards, being the perfect couple in a dirty sleeping bag but unhappy and distant in a king size bed. It was gorgeous lyrically and musically, being backed by intertwining piano notes that pulled everything together. The second was "Girl Anachronism," a Dresden Dolls song that has always struck a chord somewhere inside me. "If I were any older I would act my age, but I don't think that you'd believe me."

After the show she stayed and hung out with fans, giving hugs and autographs and memories. And not in some quick "thanks for coming" kind of way either, but in way where we all got to sit beside her on the stairs for a minute or two and talk about what was on our minds. It was great and it provided this momentary connection to the person and voice behind the music.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer? I don't know. But what I do know is that her spirit is one of the most amazing I've ever met.

1 comment:

The Bridge Sound and Stage said...

So glad you enjoyed the show!
Owen
www.thebridgesoundstage.com