Return to Amanda Palmer


Amanda Palmer @ Highline Ballroom, NYC
Posted on 11 June 2009

I popped my Amanda Fucking Palmer (she goes by this moniker, AFP for short) cherry, right then and there, Friday night at the Highline Ballroom, in New York Fucking City, in the second row, among the hearty stock of 30-plus year-old, Goth-goggle-headpiece wearing, borderline Tourettes-bawling, devoted AFP hero-worshipers. Upon entering the sleek, dinner theater on West 15th Street in the exhaustingly trendy Meat Packing District on an epically dark, wet Friday, I was kindly greeted at the door by a gentleman asking if I had any “questions for Amanda.” The meaning of this would later be revealed, as would Palmer’s penchant for self-disclosure and desire for connectedness. “Not yet,” I replied.

I felt like I had just walked under a Big Top, and I’m thinking, post-show, that’s exactly the vibe AFP was going for. As I ventured further into the crowd I saw a line forming near the men’s bathroom. “Excuse me, what are you guys in line for?” “Bathroom confessional with Amanda,” snipped one anxious, camera-clutching fan. Not sure what exactly was going on, but content to just go with it, I took a fast, hard swill of my Stoli Blue and considered getting in line. Never before had I been to a show where the artist seemed to have such an intensely personal commitment to one’s fans, to meeting their need to feel close and what I gather may be her need for the same.

I may have opted to forego the confessional, but it got me thinking. While this kind of activity may be a bit too touchy-feely for some artists, AFP is smart. In a time when the line between artist and fan, famous and friend, real life and internet life is being drawn ever so thin, when fans can negotiate a legitimate and very real online relationship with the artist of their choosing, AFP joins a small army of mostly indie, equally as industrious artists who have decided to go for it and just embrace the blogging, tech-savvy, tweeting culture of fandom that confronts them. She tells us what she’s thinking, what she’s wearing, what she’s listening to and reading, when she’s in love…we know the most mundane and the most intimate of details and we feel a part of her experience and on the dangerous side of things, even entitled to it at times.

Weird? Well, those who follow are rewarded with, for example, free, last minute tickets to sold out shows or the chance at scoring five minutes in heaven, um, the bathroom with AFP. Hey, it was a seriously long line! It also gives the artist a certain amount of freedom from the grips of the media machine. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, what have you, if used properly, can give the artist a sense of control as they draw us in, we become addicted to their life and to knowing more and more. At times, it feels like a direct line is being drawn. From one ‘tweet’ to another, we’re really talking to each other. Here’s the payoff: this interaction keeps fans wanting more, it keeps them listening and it keeps them interested in showing up to concerts. And the best part, it’s free. Who need s a press junket or a middleman when you can tweet?

Aside from making herself so accessible, I now know what her burgeoning pact of adoring fans have obviously known for sometime, that she puts on one of the most devastatingly raw live performances I have ever been witness to. Pounding on the Kurzweil like her life depended on it, rocking red, white, and blue garter stockings, a chartreuse balloon tuxedo-tail skirt, and a New York Times girlie tee, AFP started the show from the balcony, plucking a ukulele and singing what I believe was an obscure Bright Eyes cover, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. On stage she played songs from her Ben Folds produced, acclaimed debut, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, with total menace. We were also treated to a few standout collaborations and covers.

AFP was joined on stage by singer and friend Emily Brodsky for a staggering performance of “Delilah”, originally a Dresden Dolls tune. There was also a roaring reprisal of “Yakkity-Yak” with openers The Lisps. AFP ended the show with a heartbreaking rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “One of us Cannot be Wrong”, which she performed with her sweet and rather striking father, Mr. Jack Fucking Palmer. He owned every bit of Johnny Cash that he teased.

AFP told a story at this point about the disparity in performance between Morrissey and Cohen that she witnessed at Coachella last month. She described Cohen as “grateful” while apparently Morrissey was well, not so much. It’s clear after hearing this that Palmer has been taking notes from the Ladies’ Man, because she brought nothing less than absolute truth to the stage on Friday. The hug-out between dad and daughter at the very end, lasted at least a solid minute, and was yet another revelation from the artist to her fans, one which uncovered the fact that beneath the punk is a beloved daddy’s girl, (just like me) and for that, I love her even more.