Amanda Palmer On A Picnic
Aug 12, 2009
Amanda Palmer is alive and loving it. On stage, she’s a marionette with music as her master. She drinks, curses like a sailor, sings about masturbation, rape, teen pregnancy, abortion, being in love with older men and death, all with a smile. Off stage, Palmer does yoga daily, visits art museums, reads books by David Lynch, attends theater and spends countless hours writing about life on her website, Twitter, Facebook and My Space.
“My last tweet is a lie,” says Palmer in our interview, “but that’s cause I told them I was on the way to the venue instead of talking to you.” Amusing, from a woman who has used social networks to invite fans for an impromptu video shoots on the beach, mock personal controversies and detail the creation of her latest album. She’s excited about her first performance in Moscow, and only second in Russia. Two days before playing at Picnic Afisha on Saturday, August 8th, Amanda did a show in St. Petersburg with her friend, Jason Webley, and a backup group of Russian musicians.
“I emailed them my songs, and I thought we’d have to practice when I got to Russia but they knew my songs perfectly the first time we rehearsed. We treated our cabin on the train, from St. Petersburg to Moscow, as rehearsal space,” explains Palmer the details of working with a backup band from the other side of the world.
“It’s crazy, but some of the musicians I’ve worked with know my songs better than I do,” adds Jason on the professionalism of Russian performers.
Together, Palmer and Webley are a music box one can wish they had as a child. The two friends sing everywhere they go. In the van, in the tent, at the dinner table using plates as drums, the world is a musical instrument to them. They have toured together before and are currently working on a joint project, producing a record by Siamese twins, no joke. It was Webley who finally convinced Amanda to come to Russia, after three years of back and forth games with Russian promoters. Maybe it was a way for Jason to thank the people who have repeatedly hosted him not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but small towns nearing the polar circle.
Palmer did not disappoint the long awaiting crowd. Set lists are unnecessary for an artist who does not performing just to promote her latest album. With plenty of songs to choose from, Amanda played a mixture of Dresden Dolls and solo material off her debut, “Who Killed Amanda Palmer”, released in 2008. With Webley, they performed, among others, one of his songs and a drinking song that solidly got the entire crowd swaying and hugging madly drunk. No alcohol was served on the premises.
For an encore, Amanda and Jason put on a two and a half hour, “secret” show the following night at Ikra, a venue smaller than a high school gym. The concert was officially announced the day of, but Amanda had written about a “possible secret show in Moscow” five days earlier. Tickets were sold out before the official announcement came. All evening, drinks poured freely, though not for Palmer who was nursing a hang over from the night before. She had to settle for requests, which she was more than happy about. After performing a few songs from the night before, she was tested by the audience who were digging deep into the singer’s catalogue. Palmer did not go down without a fight, even if missing a few notes, words and restarting an occasional song.
With so much music in the world, why concentrate only on your own material? Amanda Palmer outstandingly, with a personal touch, covered Animals, Regina Spektor, a track by the previously mentioned Siamese twins and led the audience to a ukulele sing-along of Radiohead’s “Creep”. The duo danced, no worse than the King of Pop, as Webley banged away “Billie Jean” on his accordion flawlessly.
The show did, eventually,
come to an end but the night continued with watermelon, vodka and everyone
who stayed back at the club. Already, roomers of a possible return were
flying around, started by none other than Amanda Palmer herself.