Wednesday: Reading. Friday: Rocking– With AFP
Show date: June 5, 2009
Venue: Highline Ballroom
Bands: Amanda Palmer, The Lisps, Emilyn Brodsky, Abby Ahmad
The night opened up with Abby Ahmad, a one-woman vocal powerhouse. She appeared on stage as a little surprise (she was unbilled), but quickly won me over with her fun, rhythmic guitar and her amazing voice. Deep and rich, she had to back at least a yard away from the mic in order to belt out some stanzas without blowing speaker cones or ear drums. Sadly she only played three songs, but they ran the gamut from emotional (i.e., recovering from a breakup) to tongue-in-cheek (i.e., reminder that a woman can have fun between the sheets all by herself).
Shortly after Abby completed her set, the following four miscreants appeared in the guise of The Lisps: Sammy Tunis, a button-cute smiling young blonde woman in a short dress, (vocals/tambourine), and César Alvarez, taller, curly haired, and suspendered (vocals/guitar/whistling). Jeremy Hoevenaar and Daoud rounded out the band on bass and drums respectively. They played… Imagine, if you will, the hippest neighborhood in Brooklynistan. Picture the denizens, their shaggy, chunky haircuts, tapered jeans, layered shirts and rakish headwear. The coffee-scented air thrumming with snarkiness from a thousand Tweets sent over a thousand free WiFi connections from a thousand impossibly slim Apple© products. Condense this image, coalesce it down, anthromoporphize it… into the forms of four talented and imaginative souls, give them instruments, both standard and unusual, and free them. Only then will you have created… The Lisps. What more is there to say?
As the venue waited for Amanda Fucking Palmer to appear, suddenly a tall shaggy-haired man in a suit jacket (Neil Gaiman, recently announced paramour of the lovely AFP), hustled by within inches of me and took a seat a few feet behind me at a reserved table. Shortly thereafter by a somewhat (surprisingly) short Amanda wielding a ukulele over her head followed and headed… What’s this? Away from the stage? A few moments later, we discovered why: a spotlight illuminated a section of the balcony above my head and out of my line of sight, and Amanda began singing ‘Lua,’ a Bright Eyes cover, accompanied by her ukulele.
This was one of the best AFP shows I’ve ever been to. She was clearly incredibly happy as she engaged in her typical light banter with the crowd. And as usual, her show was more like a group conversation with her, peppered with songs, rather than the more common reverse.
The setlist was incredible—she played basically all of my favorite songs off “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” (WKAP) and from the Dresden Dolls (oh man, ‘Gravity,’ ‘Guitar Hero,’ ‘Missed Me….’ I am in love with basically every song she played). She played a new song she wrote while she was on tour for WKAP, “Trout Heart Replica,” after she told us the story of the inspiration for that song—she visited a trout farm and watched as the fishmonger slaughtered and prepared the trout they had chosen. She was sickly fascinated when the fishmonger showed her the trout’s heart, which continued to beat for a disturbingly long time after it had been removed from the fish. The image of the tenacious, hopeless heart struck a nerve with her, as she was in the middle of a turbulent time in her life, and thus a song was conceived.
The crowd also got a few incredibly special treats—first, Friday was apparently a birthday for one of Amanda’s entourage, Beth Holechik. Amanda called Beth out onto the stage to play Beth’s favorite song for her (“Thirty Whacks”), and then the rest of her friends appeared bearing a vanilla-frosted birthday cake. Amanda played the tune and the entire venue sang “Happy Birthday,” Beth blew out her candles, and then… a small issue arose– No utensils? No problem, use your hands ladies & gents! Everyone on stage had/was fed a handful of cake, and then they passed the remainder to the crowd, where it made it about halfway through to the back before Amanda called, “cake fiiiiiiiiiight!! ……. Uh… Sorry, Highline Ballroom, for getting cake on the floor…” She then proceeded straight into Beth’s song request, “Thirty Whacks.”
Second, guest singer Emilyn Brodsky appeared to sing “Delilah” with Amanda, which is a fantastic and poignant song. Emily, in her floral print leotard, sang with fervor and made the song’s subject (struggling with domestic violence) really come alive in a way that was totally unexpected. After this fairly heavy song, the Lisps returned to the stage to lighten the mood with Amanda on “Oasis,” and then Amanda delivered her coup de grace in terms of rock & roll for the night—a cover of “Yakety Yak” complete with Cesar playing the sax and providing the ultra-deeply voiced backup singing.
After ‘Oasis,’ the stage cleared off, and we waited for the inevitable encore. Sure enough, Amanda returned to play the opening track from WKAP, “Astronaut” — electrifying as usual. Then we were in for our third and final extremely special surprise: Amanda’s father, Jack Palmer. He traveled from Washington DC to be there for the show, and together, they sang Leonard Cohen’s “One of Us Cannot be Wrong.” Seeing the two of them together on stage felt really emotional and special, mainly because it looked like Amanda was so happy to have him there. Jack Palmer’s voice was rich and accented differently from Amanda’s, and together, they sounded amazing. It made for a touching end to a spectacular night with AFP.
Lua (Bright Eyes cover, on ukulele)
Runs In The Family
I Google You (word by Mr. Neil of course)
Trout Heart Replica
Thirty Whacks (Beth’s birthday present)
Delilah (with Emilyn Brodsky and Daoud from the Lisps)
Oasis (with Emilyn Brodsky and all The Lisps)
Yakety Yak (Coasters cover, full band and Brodsky)
One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (with Jack Palmer)
Amanda Palmer Links
- Who Killed Amanda Palmer
- Q&A with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer – many more links and a great deal of pics