A Night At The Theatre

In her opening number last night Amanda Palmer sang “I would kill to make you feel”, and that’s what she and The Grand Theft Orchestra did. They killed, and we felt it.

The song list covered Palmer material from many phases of her career in music but understandably emphasized songs from her album with the GTO, “Theatre is Evil”. When the full band (and occasional extra help from locals) played, my insides felt like they were on a vibration belt set to maximum carnage, which was exhilarating and worrisome simultaneously.

Palmer performed “The Bed Song” on her own, providing a quieter moment only slightly marred by (presumably drunken) Philistines carrying on at the main bar. It’s a melancholic tune from the “Theatre is Evil” album that chronicles a lifetime of mutual longing, and while it’s rather obvious it is touching and effective.

A surprise came when she asked for requests. While most called out new songs or classic Dresden Dolls hits, one person requested “Map of Tasmania”, Palmer’s pro-pube anthem. Declaring it to be timely due to PETA’s new body-shaming ad equating fur to having a hairy crotch, she grabbed a uke and tore through a stirring rendition of the song before returning to the matter of requests again.

It’s worth noting that Palmer was very ill and fighting a fever. She came out before the show to inform us and beg forgiveness in advance for her lack of energy but also to assure us that the show would not be cancelled. She looked and sounded like death left forgotten in the microwave. But once she came out to perform, there was very little sign of her condition. She sang, danced, crowd-surfed, and generally gave a hell of a performance. She’s a pro, and I really hope she feels better soon. That could not have been as easy as she made it look.

She closed with the Dresden Dolls hit “Girl Anachronism”, which seemed appropriate. Nothing from Evelyn Evelyn or the Radiohead album, but you can’t have everything. We did get a stunning rendition of “Leeds United”, which may be my favorite song from “Who Killed Amanda Palmer”. It’s hard to tell; there are a lot of great songs to choose from there.

I had a lot of fun, and I’m glad I went. I just stood stiffly the entire time, so I probably creeped out a few people. Sorry about that. It was all I could do not to hide in a corner. It’s a testament to the quality of the show that I could stand in that crowd for the whole evening.


Passion for Music

Shortly after posting this, I should be attending a concert in Detroit. Phil and I are going to see Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra. I’m both excited and terrified by this. Terrified because of my usual anxiety about crowds and unfamiliar surroundings, and excited because Amanda Palmer makes me care about music.

I have a lot of musical influences. Talk music with me, and within five minutes I’ll find a way to work in a mention of The Kinks or just Ray Davies. Ten minutes brings out world-class talent like Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker. A few more minutes and I’ll tell you all about Wade Curtiss and Hasil Adkins. My point is that I love music and all of the corners and edges in which it resides.

My first exposure to Amanda Palmer — and exposure is often an accurate word with her — was the video for “Coin Operated Boy” by The Dresden Dolls, which a coworker showed me. The song was whimsical, sad, and drenched with emotion, and the video was a masterpiece of artifice. I immediately bought the album and listened to it raptly. The blend of craft and rawness awed me. Screams of agony mixed with carefully constructed musical chaos. At times I feared for Palmer’s fingers and the piano keys she punished with them.

This was passion. This was music that made me feel something beyond simple joy, sorrow, or anger. It made me understand it, and I cared about it.

Not everything that Palmer has done in her career since then has made me react this way, but neither should I expect it to. Because she is passionate about her music she is always exploring, always experimenting. To ask her to remain always the same for my sake is to seek to kill what makes her worth listening to in the first place.

I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign for her album with The Grand Theft Orchestra, “Theatre Is Evil”. It turned put to be a really good album with a few outstanding songs. Songs I care about, that I invested in with money and heart.

So yeah. Tonight I’m going to a crowded concert in an unfamiliar venue, despite my anxieties. They can flood my system with bad chemicals, but they can’t overcome my passion for music.

The Mathematics of Planning an Evening with Amanda Palmer

I’ve agreed to go to an Amanda Palmer concert this fall. The feeling I get from YouTube clips and online comments is that her shows are not exactly orderly affairs. I’m down for some occasional disorder, but I get very anxious when leaving the familiar too far behind.

I’m a fan of Palmer’s work, and of her impressive dedication to working hard, so I’m comfortable with the evening artistically. It’s bound to be an enjoyable concert. The problems start with the venue, St. Andrew’s Hall. I’ve heard of the place but never been there. Unfamiliar location: +2 anxiety

It’s in Detroit, which doesn’t bother me in itself. I know a lot of people who seem to believe that Detroit is a city that exists in a post-apocalyptic alternate reality, where gangs roam the streets on customized jeeps with buzzsaw attachments. On my visits I’ve only seen urban decay, old men, and old prostitutes. Maybe the gangs are seasonal. Wasteland: +0 anxiety, +1 depression

The trouble I have is that I’m not familiar enough with Detroit to be confident of finding the venue. Or parking, for that matter. Yes, I have GPS with my tri-corder. I don’t like leaving that in my car while going into the grocery store for five minutes; I’m certainly not leaving it there for an hour and a half. If I took it into St. Andrew’s, I’d be focussed on it instead of the music. So, no GPS. Navigational challenges: +1 anxiety

Then, of course, there’s the matter of the crowd. Once the music starts I should be fine, but until then my brain will be screaming at me about all the danger represented by people who don’t even know I exist. Stupid brain: +2 anxiety

Why am I going if I’m looking at 5 points of anxiety and 1 of depression? Well, I can’t let this crap rule my life. A concert may not seem like a big deal, but the more I show my brain that I’ll do as I please the easy it gets. I want to play ukulele on open mic nights. I want to attend comic conventions and introduce my work to new people.

I want to go see Amanda Palmer in concert.

Fortunately I’ll be going there with Phil — co-worker and fellow villain on City of Villains. He’s familiar with St. Andrew’s Hall and area, so that’s -3 anxiety right there. Having a friend to distract me from the crowd is at least another -1 anxiety, so I’ll just be dealing with 1 point each of anxiety and depression. That’s perfectly manageable, and the concert should leave me happy and excited overall.

It should also leave me very tired for work the next day, but that’s okay. I’ll just grin maniacally. Let someone else worry for a change.