Amanda Palmer Defines Intensity
Show date: January 1, 2009
Venue: Bowery Ballroom
Bands: Amanda Palmer and the Danger Ensemble, Emelyn Brodsky
In the first few hours of 2009 we were stuck waiting for the 6 train. By the time we made it to Bowery Ballroom it was almost 3am. What the hell were we doing there? Testing our concert-going endurance. That, and seeing if Punk Cabaret could be awesome.
Amanda Palmer was playing a show that was supposed to start at about 2 in the morning, which was an unusual slot. It was apparently a bit of a surprise to Palmer as well, who, instead of eating pizza alone at midnight, threw a party in the Bronx where she interacted with a group of 60 or so closest strangers. We didn’t go. We had to celebrate Communist Gift Exchange first. Later (earlier?), when I was lounging around in the downstairs area, hanging out with a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Father Time, I found out that she did her best to make eye-contact with all these people, at least once, but this only left them feeling needier.
In any case, the Amanda Palmer obsession so many of her fans experience has not touched me. I actually haven’t even heard her new album –Who Killed Amanda Palmer—in its entirety until we were on our way to the show.
At 3AM we were still hanging around the lounge, waiting for the terrible first act to go away. Although Emilyn Brodsky had Brian Viglione (the other half of Dresden Dolls) drumming up a storm, she still failed to get my attention or any bits of my heart. To be fair, I was out of my element (if you check out the music section of this zine you’ll notice a significant lack of music genre variety).
Finally, around 3:30AM, Amanda Palmer and the Danger Ensemble took to the stage. The Danger Ensemble is a theater troupe that takes it upon itself to act out most of her songs. They are also getting by on the mercy of strangers, couch-surfing across the country. The members mingle with the audience, and so it was that not once but twice did they run through the crowd waiving strapons and dildoes, during “Coin-Operated Boy”. “Slide” was greatly enhanced by a female member of the troupe, wearing a pretty red dress, trying to escape a monstrous old man by crowdsurfing away. He got her in the end. Just like the creepy lyrics say he will.
Listening to the opening band, I was sorry I came. I expected something painfully boring like the time I saw the Decemberists at Webster Hall (nothing against their music, but standing around motionlessly while skinny white guys in paperboy hats and terrible facial hair sway to the slow whine of the music isn’t my idea of a good time). So I was completely unprepared for Palmer to define intensity for me. She was like a crazed harlequin banging away on her piano, grimacing as she sang. The muscles in her neck stood out with exertion. And then she would smile and grab on to a ukulele, and play these very calm songs. She covered two Radiohead songs, including “Fake Plastic Trees,” which called up all this teen angst I thought I got over.
There are many slow songs on her album, and these mostly left my mind wandering though I kept watching her, mesmerized. She played a number of covers, including “Tainted Love,” and “My Favorite Things.” Tiring of the unending flash of adoring cameras she proposed two minutes of photographic frenzy and spent this time posing with her troupe. People didn’t get the point and continued taking non-stop pictures through to the end of the show anyway. The word “fan” DOES come from the word “fanatic,” after all. And nowhere is it as applicable as with Palmer’s fans.
Amanda Palmer was slotted to play for about an hour and a half, but was ready to stick around until 5:30. Which is what she did. As 5:00AM neared I realized I couldn’t keep standing up (leg injury that had me limping for a few weeks was still bothering me) and retreated back to the lounge. Soon there was a mighty pounding heard from above as fans stomped on the floor screaming and demanding an encore. Members of the Danger Ensemble were stumbling around the lounge, half of them dressed in street-wear, some make-up still smeared across tired faces. Other weaklings like myself trickled out of the show and into the night, but most fans survived until the end of the show.
“Runs in the Family” was a song that convinced me to come that night, but this was also a song that Palmer played as part of her encore, while I was being shaken awake by a security guard. This is so like the time I finally saw Metallica just to hear “Enter Sandman” from outside the Meadowland walls, leaning on d42 for support, sick from a degree of heatstroke.
The show was quite a bit of fun, but very exhausting. The year previous Palmer played at midnight and the concert was a masquerade as well. This year some people expected the same and were dressed appropriately, but most just showed up waiting for something extraordinary to happen. Hopefully next year Patti Smith won’t get dibs on the stage and Palmer will welcome the New Year playing instead of drinking with strangers.
- Amanda Fucking Palmer
- Amanda Palmer Myspace
- Amanda Palmer on Wikipedia
- The Rebellyon – Palmer’s belly has a website
- The Dresden Dolls – Brechtian Punk Cabaret
- Emelyn Brodsky Myspace