Return to Amanda Palmer


There’s a lot of life in “Who Killed Amanda Palmer”
November 18, 7:18 PMDigital Music ExaminerMarianne Meyer

Amanda Palmer is not your typical female singer/songwriter - and that’s a great thing. As the frontwoman for punk/cabaret favorites, The Dresden Dolls, Palmer made her mark and secured a devoted international fanbase with a combination of fearless showmanship and no-holds-barred willingness to push the envelope, both musically and visually.

Palmer spent the last year on tour in Europe, Australia, North America and the U.K. with her highly theatrical stage show. She’s currently finishing up an east coast tour, performing songs from her late 2008 solo debut, "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" (produced by Ben Folds), along with Dresden Doll favorites and unusual covers, like this ukulele-driven take on Radiohead’s “Creep.”

The remaining Tour Dates are November 19th (Falls Church, VA), November 20th (Carrboro, NC) and November 22nd at (Knoxville, TN) but if you don’t catch her on tour, Palmer has a massive online presence. Advertising Age, a strictly business-minded magazine, said, "Palmer is more sophisticated than almost anyone on the internet -- musician, brand or otherwise."

She’s held live webcast auctions, selling song requests and odd objects; uses Twitter to arrange last-minute flash concerts and blogs/tweets to her fans with passionate dedication (a tweet posted today offered guest list spots to Philadelphia fans for tonight’s show). It’s not about marketing; as Palmer herself speaks of her efforts in the blogosphere: "There is something really special about connecting with people so intensely...Staying connected with your fans means nothing if you aren't saying anything that really connects with them emotionally."

A hyphenate supreme, the sometimes controversial musician, writer, director, feminist, activist and provocateur has made the “Who Killed Amanda Plamer” album a hub of multi-media projects that are still going strong. Earlier this year, Palmer released a self-published coffee-table book, "Who Killed Amanda Palmer: A Collection of Photographic Evidence." The 130 page book offers more than 100 photographs of dead (and sometimes naked) Amanda Palmers with photo contributions from longtime assistant/designer Beth Hommel and Tegan Rain (of Tegan and Sara) among others. The book includes fictional stories to accompany the photographs written by best-selling author Neil Gaiman (the "Sandman" graphic novels and ” Coraline.")

It’s a project the “leading lady/corpse” has been working on since she was 18. As she explains on her web site, "The dead photos of yours spanned from random self-portraits in light studios to political street theatre to college performance art projects. (I famously showed up bloody, naked and dead in several spots on the Wesleyan University Campus in 1997 for my senior performance project - I got an A!)" She continued to taking such photos while on tour with The Dresden Dolls, working with a self-timer or "coercing photographers from all over Europe and Australia to snap dead shots during official press shoots." She even got her pal Regina Spektor (to whom she’s often compared for her emotive, eccentric piano-based balladry) t o ”slump over a table so we could get a nice dead two-shot." True to the spirit of the project, which seesaws between the macabre and the comical, Palmer summarizes that, "Being dead frequently kept life interesting."

In June, she released a DVD, also entitled “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” that continues to weave the web of mystery and intrigue in 12 low-budget but high production value videos, one for each track on the album. The Columbine-inspired ”Strength Through Music/"Guitar Hero” set is particularly chilling in its bloodless calm, filmed in a real high school with volunteer students. The DVD also contains extra footage of Palmer on and off-stage and in conversation with director Michael Pope.

And, in a most unusual merchandising plot, Palmer teamed up with a group called Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab to create a line of 12 perfumes inspired by the book/songs, with scents like "Unfortunate Shopping Cart,” “Unexpected Golf Hazard” and "Cupcake Spatter Pattern Analysis.” There are even eye shadow sets inspired by a few song titles. Check ‘em out here. (BTW, Palmer’s amazing eyebrows are not tattoos. She shaves, then paints them on.)

When the current tour ends, Palmer has plans for a memoir/guidebook from her perspective as a f e m a l e touring performer , plus a “joyfully tragic” record featuring “two ukulele/piano/accordion/guitar-playing 24-year-old conjoined twin sisters,” intended for a mid-2010 release.