Posts Tagged Amanda Palmer
“Sugar Still Melts in the Rain,” Sarah Mary Chadwick
–if you like Amanda Palmer, you probably like Australian visual artist and songwriter Sarah Mary Chadwick. It’s a beautiful altfolk song with sparse piano and bold speak-singing which conveys heartbreak and emotional depth—“I float here on a cloud of pain but I would do it all again.” Sugar Still Melts in the Rain [Sinderlyn] is due out May 11, 2018.
“Rounded Sound,” Roxy Rawson
–Bay area artist and classically trained musician Roxy Rawson impressively fuses varied elements and vocal stylings for an artistic, eclectic result. She studied violin and piano at University of Paris VIII. Rawson’s vocals remind me a bit of St. Vincent. Her full-length album Quenching the Kill is out March 23, 2018.
An Evening with Jack & Amanda Palmer
First Parish Church–Lexington, Mass.
Monday, July 18, 2016
For the two decades that I’ve been a music critic my mom hasn’t been to any shows with me. We crossed that off the to-do list last night when my mom and I went to see Jack and Amanda Palmer perform songs from their debut album You Got Me Singing. A sold-out sweaty crowd packed the pews in the 90 degree stuffiness and ultimately enjoyed an intimate evening filled with songs and love and hugs. I’ve witnessed first-hand and spoken with the devoted Amanda Palmer fans who will travel hours to see her. They also support her art projects. This new album is fully backed by Patreon. Amanda’s a genuine, heartfelt soul and spectacular performer. The tour started in D.C. where Jack Palmer lives then traveled to Amanda’s hometown of Lexington, Mass. before continuing on to her other homes of New York City and upstate New York. It’s pretty well sold-out so enjoy if you managed to snag a ticket. It’s a moving, exquisite treat. Music heals. Music is an outlet and during these turbulent and violent times we need music more than ever.
Amanda came out solo with her beloved ukulele and walked up and down the aisles singing “In My Mind.” She then heralded: “This is church Thor and Amanda Palmer-style where our god is art.” She then sat down to the piano and played the alternately urgent and gentle song “Machete” which she wrote for her best friend Anthony who died of cancer last year. She explained that he taught her about compassion and love. He also left her his firearm collection which she’d like to just pitch to the bottom of the ocean along with all other weapons. Amanda’s father Jack stepped out with his acoustic guitar and sang the Leonard Cohen song “You Got Me Singing,” the title of their album. He’s quite comfortable performing. A gentle man with a deep, resonant voice, before performing the Phil Ochs song “In the Heat of the Summer,” John stated: “Like many folks songs, this one stays relevant.” It’s a subdued yet dramatic song. The pair spent years carefully choosing songs to cover over several years. Amanda admitted they could’ve recorded much more. There’s beautiful harmonizing between father and daughter. The instrumental opening act Thor & Friends added an eclectic, worldly orchestral back up with viola, drums, guitar, bass and xylophones.
Amanda took the lead on several songs including the Sinead O’Connor song “Black Boys on Mopeds,” a heartbreaking song rendered beautifully by Palmer: “these are dangerous days/ to say what you feel is to dig your own grave.” For the kiddie song “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” Amanda said it was a good time to take out your babies to put to sleep or if anyone wanted a nap to “find a motherly figure and make a nest not in a rapey way, get consent.” Much applause. She proceeded to sing all wide-eyed with plenty of hand gestures. She might need to record one of those lullaby albums. The Noah Britton song “I Love You So Much” included an audience sing-along but not before Amanda started and stopped a few times before declaring “I’m playing in the wrong key. It’s C, not A.” Her father smiled, “That’s why I love live music.”
Besides Leonard Cohen and Sinead O’Connor many of the artists weren’t that familiar to the mostly alternative audience. That doesn’t mean people didn’t appreciate them. The album’s a love note. The performance an engulfing repast. While Lexington and Boston are not directly affected by tragedy, Amanda declared: “Everywhere is here and everyone that’s getting hurt is us. We need more music.” The opening act Thor & Friends charmed with its soothing meditative, positive-vibrations instrumental arrangements and entertained with Thor’s charm. Overall the evening proved to be a blissful love fest. Oh and my mom enjoyed it. Of Amanda: “She’s adorable and talented and happy.” Because her daughter is not.
–review by Amy Steele
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing [November 11, 2014]. Memoir. Hardcover. 336 pages.
“I’m thirty-eight. I started my first band, The Dresden Dolls, when I was twenty-five, and didn’t put out my first major-label record until I was twenty-eight, which is, in the eyes of the traditional music industry, a geriatric age at which to debut.”
Amanda Palmer has accomplished quite a lot as an independent alternative musician and artist in slightly more than a decade. She might not be an uber-recognized name or international superstar but she’s adored by many. She’s worked hard to express herself through her music and through her performances. When you see Amanda Palmer perform it’s a complete show borrowing much from cabaret acts. Years ago, I’d somehow found out that Palmer would be performing at her former high school, Lexington High School along with some students. I went to the show with a then close friend. It was an event. Quite theatrical with an electrifying and mysterious air about the entire thing. I grew up in Acton, two towns over from Palmer’s native Lexington, Mass.
I’ve been a music critic for maybe too long. In the 90s national publications published my work and I was occasionally paid for my efforts. Never full-time. I’m slightly known in Boston but that’s about it. The only instrument I played was the flute for four years in elementary school and junior high. I’ve hung around with lots of bands. I’ve dated musicians and I’ve hooked up with plenty of musicians. In the 90s, I let a band stay at my parents’ house while they were away. I knew this band pretty well, or thought I did the Durham, North Carolina band Queen Sarah Saturday had been opening for The Charlatans UK on the current tour. Don’t think they asked. I think I just offered. Maybe that was the problem.
In her brilliant and revealing book, The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer talks about couchsurfing a lot. Even crowdsourcing meals from fans. She asks people to let her stay at their homes while on tour. She asks them to bring food to the venues at which she’s performing. She says she always gives them CDs, t-shirts and other merchandise in return. Recently at Great Scott a band announced from stage that it needed a place to crash that night. I was a little miffed that they said “we have nothing to offer you.” Really? A CD or a t-shirt might be just the thank you a fan might appreciate. Andy from the wonderful 90s indie band IVY made a point of letting me choose a t-shirt because he so appreciated my reviews and my relentless support for the band. And this was the 90s, pre-Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Think of the damage I could do now.
“There’s an inherent, unspoken trust that happens when you walk through the door of your host’s home. Everybody implicitly trusts everybody else not to steal anything. We leave our phones, our wallets, our laptops, our journals, and our instruments lying scattered around our various mini-couchsurfing campsites. To my knowledge, I’ve never had anything go missing.”
I had a crush on one of the guys from Queen Sarah Saturday [bassist Chris Holloway—it’s always the bass player or the drummer, occasionally a keyboardist] so as a young naïve 23-year-old I was kind to this band. I made them cookies. I was in graduate school for journalism at the time and didn’t have extemporaneous time and money to spend. I was just starting my music/entertainment journalism career. I let them sleep anywhere they wanted in my parents’ house. My two girlfriends and I all slept in my bedroom. I’m pretty sure I even got the band bagels for breakfast in the morning. Here’s the thing: lead singer/guitarist Johnny Irion TOOK one of my The Charlatans CDs right out of the case. I think it would have been better if he’d taken it case and all. I might have thought I’d lost it somewhere. I was appalled. How could he do such a thing? After that I felt they took advantage of me that entire night. Perhaps the entire tour.
For the most part not many people take advantage of Amanda Palmer in her thousands of moments of asking and trusting. However once a woman touched her inappropriately as she let fans sharpie messages on her naked body. Another time her red ukulele got stolen (later returned after a call to action via twitter). She tells about a few other incidents when someone wasn’t all that cool. For the most part you put your trust in others and expect the best. And Amanda Palmer’s response to the unexpected bad events: “Some people just suck.” So, 20 years later I’m saying you suck Johnny Irion.
After she posted “A Poem for Dzhokhar” to her blog, Palmer received nasty messages and death threats. I read the poem and didn’t think she was supporting his terrorist acts. I think she was expressing her empathy for a young man caught up in something horrific. Artists express themselves in good times and in bad times. It’s an outlet. Palmer wrote: “To erase the possibility of empathy is to erase the possibility of art. Theater, fiction horror stories, love stories. This is what art does. Good or bad, it imagines the insides, the heart of the other, whether that heart is full of light or trapped in darkness.”
As a feminist and a Boston-based music journalist, I love everything about this memoir. It’s absolutely engrossing. I liked Boston’s The Dresden Dolls and always appreciated Amanda Palmer for her outspoken nature, her feminism and musicianship. Now I truly admire Amanda Palmer and feel we’d be friends if we ever met. I’m wondering if we were ever at a party at the same time at Castle von Buhler—my artist friend Cynthia von Buhler’s former Boston home. The Art of Asking illustrates the importance of making lasting connections through art, love and creativity.
“Our first job in life is to recognize the gifts we’ve already got, take the donuts and show up while we cultivate and use those gifts, and then turn around and share those gifts—sometimes in the form of money, sometimes time, sometimes love—back into the puzzle of the world.”
“Our second job is to accept where we are in the puzzle at each moment. That can be harder.”
In the Art of Asking, Palmer shares what she’s learned to succeed as a musician and artist. She details her career and interweaves the story of how she and her husband Neil Gaiman met and fell in love. She includes song lyrics. It’s quite impeccably done. Engrossing from page one. Not too much of anything at once. Evenly distributed throughout the memoir. Both inspirational and comforting—[I can do it and she’s like me]! Palmer chronicles her days as a street artist to being in The Dresden Dolls to her solo music career to being and artist and an individual. It’s mostly about asking for what you want, asking for what you need and accepting the outcomes.
“Often it is our own sense that we are undeserving of help that has immobilized us. Whether it’s in the arts, at work, or in our relationships, we often resist asking not only because we’re afraid of rejection but also because we don’t even think we deserve what we’re asking for.”
“Asking is an act of intimacy and trust. Begging is a function of fear, desperation, or weakness.”
“It has to start with the art. The songs had to touch people initially, and mean something, for anything to work at all. The art, not the artist, is what fundamentally draws the net into being. The net was then tightened and strengthened by a collection of interactions and exchanges I’ve had, personally, whether in live venues or online, with members of my community.”
A few things Amanda Palmer revealed in The Art of Asking:
1. Amanda Palmer was reluctant to marry author Neil Gaiman. After they’d dated for a year, Neil wanted to get married. Palmer panicked a bit and worried about losing her independence and defying her feminist core. There were some practical reasons for getting married. She said to Neil: “I want to live and work alone. If we get married, do I have to live with you?”
“I felt my hard insides, my desperation to stay independent, and the irony of it all: the girl who stood on the box for five years, falling in love and merging with a million passing strangers, yet remained staunchly resistant to an actual human merger. My inner feminist was also rolling her eyes. Just date, for chrissake. Maybe move in together. What is this, the fifties?”
2. Palmer moved into a low-income cooperative for artists in Boston called Cloud Club decades ago when she worked at Toscanani’s ice cream and performed as The Bride in Harvard Square. The Dresden Dolls would practice on the top floor. She still keeps the apartment.
3. I knew Amanda Palmer had a fervent fanbase but didn’t know how far some of her fans would go to help her. Amanda has not only asked for food and places to crash but electric pianos to record music, costumes for video shoots, equipment and rides to and from the airport. The payback is a hug, her music and her art. How many mailing lists have you signed up for at shows and never heard from the band or artist again? Palmer knows the value in the mailing list.
“Explaining how I use Twitter to those who’ve never used it is difficult. It’s a blurry Mobius strip of love, help, information, and social-art-life exchange.”
4. Despite stripping off her clothes and baring her body at numerous gigs Palmer admits “I’m still vain. I still cringe when I see my belly after a monthlong muffin-and-beer binge, spilling over a waistline that’s too tight.” She doesn’t shave her armpits or legs which is kick-ass feminist.
5. The Kickstarter for Palmer’s full-band album Theatre Is Evil raised a recording-smashing $1.2 million. She’d set an original goal of $100,000. Naturally a woman in music simultaneously garners criticism, skepticism and praise for this.
“As I launched my campaign, I walked right into a wider cultural debate that was already raging about whether crowd-funding should be allowed at all; some critics were dismissing it out of hand as a crass form of “digital panhandling.” Apparently, it was distasteful to ask. I was targeted as the worst offender for a lot of reasons: because I’d already been promoted by a major label, because I had a famous husband, because I was a flaming narcissist.”
6. Palmer’s closest friend is her former neighbor, Anthony, a therapist. He still lives in Lexington where her parents live. She calls him her mentor and advisor. He’s several decades older than her and she talks to him regularly. They take walks around Walden Pond discussing anything and everything. He got cancer and Palmer took time off a tour to drive him to chemo appointments and spend time with him.
“Anthony was also one of my patrons. He gifted me books on Buddhism and pocket knives. Occasionally, when he knew I was broke, he’d include a crisp hundred-dollar bill in a letter.”
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Grand Central Publishing.
“I just think people should realize that all women are feminists and there’s no way around that.”
–Peaches [Merrill Nisker]
“I don’t want to be infantilized because i refuse to be sexualized,” she wrote. “I don’t want to be molested at shows or on the street by people who perceive me as an object that exists for their personal satisfaction.”
–Grimes [Claire Boucher]
“As far as I’m concerned, the most powerful feminist can do WHATEVER SHE WANTS. THAT IS WHAT DEFINES A TRUE FEMINIST.”
“There are two reasons why we frighten people. The first thing is that we’re a feminist, female group with no men connected to it, and the second is that we don’t have leaders.”
–Pussy Riot member to New Statesmen