Happened Last Night
"If you see Amanda Palmer on the street, kill her."
Neil Gaiman, author of award-winning children's tale Coraline, is reading from Who Killed Amanda Palmer, a conceptual photo book featuring pics of the Dresden Dolls singer staged in various poses of death. Gaiman wrote the macabre text.
The occasion? The second installment of SPIN.com's Liner Notes, an event that pairs writers and musicians together in performance at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, an intimate space in Manhattan whose efforts support homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with AIDS. Musician Moby is among the 250 lucky fans watching the unique two-hour performance, which raised $10,000.
When Gaiman finishes reading, Palmer begins hammering out the menacing piano chords to "Astronaut," a tune about life after love goes awry. Her voice blasts through the small venue. It's high drama for a rainy Wednesday night.
But the story doesn't end there. It turns out that Palmer, 33, spent five years of her life working as a living statue in Harvard Square! It's as if these two eccentric artists were ordained to meet. They have so much in common, it's no wonder they're actually dating -- a fact they proudly announced onstage during the show.
Palmer says of her time as a living statue: "I was jealous of mechanics and computer engineers and the people who made the world go 'round while I stood still on a corner. Some days I felt useless." Then she plays "Perfect Fit," a haunting track about those years: "I used to be the smart one / Sharp as a tack / I used to be the bright one / Top of my class / I'm good for nothing / Will you love me the same?"
Another song, about her parents' decision to sell the house she grew up in, highlights Palmer's comic lyrics about the homebuyers, a "yuppie couple" whose daughter will "hang posters of Miley Cyrus" in the singer's former room.
Then comes the set's emotional peak, as Palmer sings Tegan and Sara's "Dark Come Soon." Palmer praises the sisters' songwriting, and mentions that Tegan's performance at the first Liner Notes event (with Running With Scissors author Augusten Burroughs) inspired her to join Gaiman on stage tonight. Wild applause follows.
But the night isn't over. Palmer and Gaiman lead a furious auction for the first available copy of Who Killed Amanda Palmer (The book releases July 7; pre-order it here) . "Do I hear $100?" Gaiman asks? "I'm naked in there!" Palmer adds as incentive. The winning bid: $1,300 -- all for charity.
The pair then stage a Q&A, asking each other audience questions written on purple and green Post-It Notes, pulled from a Converse shoebox. "If you could be any literary figure who would you be?" Gaiman asks, eyeing Palmer and smiling.
"Eloise," Palmer says after a moment.
Of course she's referring to the character from Kay Thompson's books about a young girl who lives in NYC's ritzy Plaza Hotel, filling her time with imaginative, whimsical adventures of the mind. Then the thought registers: Eloise isn't that different from Gaiman's Coraline, is she?
Another thing these inspiring
artists have in common.