Amanda Palmer

It often happens to read news that someone, somewhere, has thought, invented or acted in a way to somehow change the future.
If it is a new phone or a new way to harvest coffee beans, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that THE future is going to be different and, likely, worse.
CDs kill vinyls, mp3s kills CDs, iPods kill music. It must be the Video Kill The Radio Star revival. It spreads as a virus. Kindle terminates literature, smartphones execute photography, YouTube liquidated Television, blogs erase politics. It’s a daily massacre. Victims everywhere, a world in agony drifting nowhere.

Science one day will discover why the category of news analysts, in the company of few species of cockroaches, can survive apocalypses. Analysts multiply during dramas and devote themselves to find the next victim and to tell us when the next end of the world is due. Now that even Maya’s followers seemed to have forgotten it.
From a (psycho)logic point of view the mistake in this reasoning would be simple to spot if the analysts detached their ego from the megalomania, just for a minute. The misunderstanding resides in the certainty that the future is one and only. It would be sufficient to change the definition of the article, from “THE future” to “A future” and all these news would be less sensational but more credible. Those victims would have a simpler name: progress.

Amanda Palmer is second only to Lady Gaga when it comes to theatricality. Months ago she came out with a move that was a golden mine for those after new victims to sacrifice without leaving the iPad and the sofa to dine. When Mrs Palmer announced that her new album will be funded by fans on Kickstarter those news analysts, that rarely understand the data they analyse, split in two groups. One was sceptical the other was asking around: “What the fuck is Kickstarter?”

Few hours later Amanda Palmer’s goal of $100,000 to make the album, was achieved. At the end of the campaign, few weeks later, the ex Dresden Doll and new wife of Neil Gaiman will reach the astronomical sum of $1,192,793. Among the 24,883 people who backed the project to fund Theatre is Evil, including me, is worth mentioning seven that signed a $10,000 cheque each either to be part of a professional photo shooting with Amanda and the Grand Theft Orchestra or to pose for a painting made by her in person. Excluding me.

The torpor of the news analysts must have been interrupted by the clanking sound of the orchestra advancing joyful over the doubloons to the rhythm of ukuleles, trombones and French horns. On every other newspaper, from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar (and excluding Italy, of course) the Palmer’s phenomenon made the chronicles. With enthusiastic-catastrophic hyperboles that in time of crisis sell more than sex.
Those who until yesterday have never heard about crowdfunding are now standing in queue ready to jump on the bandwagon. If the reason is because Mrs Palmer is upon it waiting for them topless, it has to be understood. catastrophe and sex sell even more.

What they understood, the catastrophist news analysts I mean, is that there is a new victim. Amanda killed the music industry. THE future of music, as we know, it’s breathing its last breath. No more middlemen. It’s a disaster.
Guess what? They have not even watched her Kickstarter promo video. That was her slogan!
Where’s the news I have no idea. Ever heard of e-Bay? You mean it’s for music. Sure? What about SellABand that had the same idea so long ago that they arrived at the party when the beer was still warm.

Today crowdfunding is getting everywhere. Kickstarter is launching in UK on Halloween day next week. Pledge music is already up and running and Lone Wolf just released his successfully backed album, The Lovers, on that. Songkick has started ‘Detour’ a brilliant idea to crowdfund tours. If enough people gather around a date they can send their favourite artist to play in their hometown. It is at present trying to materialize the first Andrew Bird in South America.
Professional photojournalism (I am a photographer after all) have that proved so successful I already spent too much money on it. The book about 21st Century Communism by Tomas Van Houtryve and Revolutions about the Arab Spring work of Rémi Ochlik, killed in Syria last February, were worth all my pennies. I am going off-topic.

From Massachusetts Amanda’s millionaire evil theatre started to spread a palpable jealousy among the independent musicians (to be read: unemployed and broke). The New Yorker in a brilliant piece tried to explain the situation but it failed on the title: “Amanda Palmer’s accidental experiment with real communism”. More than to clarify it must have generated panic attacks. The concept that real communism could be a source of millions of dollars causes severe anxiety both in communists and capitalists. Poor them. Everyone who walked in that tender utopia which is the Revolution Bookstore in Harvard Square knows that to find a communist in Boston is as complicate as ordering a lobster without mayo and butter on top.

Few months later, the news analysts are back to their torpor lazily looking for emerging things to threaten THE future. The scene is different, the euphoria vanished.
Amanda Palmer spent the whole millionplus to record Theatre is Evil. I received my deluxe CD with a gadget to see a picture of her boobs in 3D, It  doesn’t really work, nevermind.

The album does work, that is important. Theatre is Evil is a massive album, with a big sound and some real big tunes. It’s as if Tori Amos finally swallowed the right acid or Regina Spektor found her mother’s music sheet left back in the Soviet college she used to teach. There is a lot of influences I can hear. Smile (pictures or it didn’t happen) – greatest title – reminds me of the Strokes at their best, I think it recall Under Control. Do It With a Rockstar, one of the catchiest songs of the album follow the same insisting chorus of Franz Ferdinand’s Do You Wanna. I am not against inspiration and I find silly arguments about plagiarism in Music. I believe artists must be influenced by what is out there and re-elaborate the past is the way to A future. So said, Dear Amanda, Melody Dean is the Knack’s My Sharona revisited. Same riff played by a funnier ensemble.

Somewhere, someone spots – internet is unforgiving – that Mrs Palmer used the millionplus to pay back some personal debts. Maybe inspired by one of Fidel Castro talks at the Cuban Communist Party conference, she hid the news in a verbose confession in her blog. The irritation of the penniless (read: Independent musicians) increased.
It will even be THE future but some steps stay the same in the centuries. You release an album, you’ve got to tour it.

What did Amanda think to move in a microsecond from ‘la pasionaria’ of the people collection to a collection of passionate people ranting against her? She announced that local musicians will join her travelling orchestra for the tour. The penniless (see above) invested the few pounds left in cheap alcohol to start celebrating till someone moved the confetti from a beer stained copy of the contract and noticed the small prints that kind of say: “… I am not going to be able to pay you who play with me… expect a lot of cold beer and warm hugs. Kisses Amanda”. Mrs Palmer can’t afford $35,000 to pay the orchestras she needs to make her show.

That rockstars have magic powers to spend in a day as much as normal people earn in years has been of popular knowledge since Keith Moon parked a Bentley on the bottom of a five stars hotel swimming pool but the question stays. Dear Amanda ‘fucking’ Palmer, what the fuck happened to those $1,192,793 when you would have been happy with $100,000?

Freelance musicians’ God, I guess you can look for its Facebook page now that Unions went extinct, couldn’t ask for a better occasion to strike with thunderbolt and lightning. The entire community of independent desperate musicians of the world, roughly about 2 billions people, shouted at the scandal and announced a boycott.

The only category who was unmoved by the plea and stayed in front of Lightroom editing dark shots were concert photographers. We meet everyday requests as “give me all your photos for free I give you credits you will have excellent visibility”. We have never seen even a warm beer or experienced even a cold hug should be surprised or outraged by what?

I tell you, it’s simple. The mess the penniless musicians made about that silly contract did the hat-trick. $35,000 emerged out of the blue, all of at sudden, where there wasn’t anything left. Amanda ‘fucking’ Palmer did sign that ‘fucking’ cheque in the end. Power to the people. Is she a real communist? Not at all. She was forced by a global boycott that was about to costing her much more than 35 grands and a letter of insults by Steve Albini. (Side note: God always bless him).

I arrive at Koko. Squeezed between the theatre and the carnival in the smallest photo pit of all times, I have few seconds to take a couple of snaps of the fans standing in costumes on the first row. A security guy arrives and sends me up in the balcony. Managements, he explains, said the artist cares more of fans than press photographers. Understandable. (sidenote: she has her own crew filming on stage).
From up there, for over 3 hours supports included, I watch the show through my camera’s viewfinder.

What at the times of The Dresden Dolls was a punk/cabaret inspired to Brecht’s Weimar Republic in this solo-project version has become a circus/theatre that Federico Fellini would have adored. (If you love Mrs Palmer and do not know who Federico Fellini is, I sorted out your next weekend!)

It’s not a concert tonight, it’s a theatrical show and a great one. Full of surprises, dresses, make-up, red roses. The four member band is in white. The drummer looks pretty much identical to Dresden Dolls’ Brian Viglione for being topless, rumbling, cool haircut and similar technique. I missed the name of the bass player but I didn’t miss that he is the one able to keep all the pieces of the ensemble together and it isn’t easy, considering part of the Orchestra met for the first time only hours earlier.
The young man on guitar grew up with milk and Purple Rain, he dreams of Prince but reminds me of the singer of the Kooks. There is material for a therapist. It looks that if it wasn’t for Neil Gaiman standing side of the stage Amanda would be happy to have sex behind his guitar.

The “kick-star” arrives in silk kimono and uniform hat to introduce all supports. The comparison I read on the reviews with Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch make a lot of sense now. She sings, plays keys and ukulele. She goes through the songs of Theatre is Evil and some of The Dresden Dolls. In few minutes the hat is gone, part of the dress too and she is in her bra for the rest of the gig. It must be her obsession. If people concentrated only on the music they would miss the best part. I don’t mean the boobs, sorry.

The band seems to get distracted by the party happening on stage as well. As any great actress Amanda shows a rainbow of emotions on stage. Joys, flirts, laughs, anger and desperation. When she jumps over the fans, the most stunning crowd-surfing since Wayne Coyne. On a hugely long dress she floats over Koko with the train of her gown almost covering the entire hall. (sidenote: I fucking left the right lens in the camera bag!)

It’s late when the guests procession opens and I decide to miss the last fast train home self-inflicting a very short sleep. The first is a rapper, totally unknown only to me, Scroobius Pip. He raps something that I will learn is a very famous Letter from God to Man. I mentioned megalomania already this post so I’ll skip this.

There is the cover moment with Careless Whisper. The interesting thing, again, isn’t the pretty plain version of the song but the saxophonist in a golden catsuit and the stage photographer that passes the camera to Amanda Palmer to get the mic, sing and strip. In her thigh highs and dark-red bra she is a very pleasant interlude and everyone seems to forget George Michael and Amanda’s boobs. (Confession, I am easily seduced by female photographers).

To bring the show back into moral integrity (*smiles*) the husband moment arrives. Ladies and Gentlmen Mr Neil Gaiman. He has a Wikipedia bibliography longer than that of William Shakespeare but my ignorance could synthesize in “he wrote the script of two series of Doctor Who”. I never watched a single episode. He is welcomed on stage by Mrs Gaiman, they glance in love, they kiss in public and he sings a lullaby supported by a band of clowns playing hand saws.

When I believe the apex just arrived, the big surprise. Richard O’Brien in drag and high heels shows up to sing Time Warp. It’s the apotheosis. The fans, most of them look they arrived to Koko straight from The Rocky Horros Show rehearsal without undressing, are thrown into ecstasy . To see a 70 years young man in legins and 12 cm heels live on stage, dancing to the rhythm of “It’s just a jump to the left And then a step to the right, with your hands on your hips, you bring your knees in tight, but it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane, Let’s do the Time Warp again!” it’s a landmark moment in my concert chronology which is almost as long as Neil Gaiman bibliography.

When I am sure to miss even the last train and I start thinking which is the best Kings Cross bench to spend the night, the final surprise. The security guy kicks me off my place for the second time. Mrs Palmer will come to sing from the balcony where I have been relegated for the whole gig. The band arrives to the box for a cappella version of Want It Back rearranged for Orchestra, megaphone and fans. The red velvets and the golden baroque decorations of Koko are the perfect frame for this show’s conclusion. I rush to the opposite balcony to snap the last few moments and then, even faster, toward the station. I manage to catch the last train the very last second.

Don’t miss out, Amanda Palmer is everywhere online check:

Photo tip

Back home at 2 am. I post-edit the photos until past 3am to send them out to the agency. No beer, no hugs, just hard work driven by passion.
There will be plenty of reviews of this amazing show, I mutter, my eyes dropping by exhaustion in front of the monitor. Alarm clock set up at 7.30am as usual.

There haven’t been.
Why the fuck there are not photo reviews of this gig on national press?!

You’ve got them here, tell your friends. This was amazing.

~ by Valerio on October 28, 2012.

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