The Amanda Palmer Pull

Skye Hillgartner ’14
Contributing Writer

Amanda Palmer is a fascinating person to watch. Is she a particularly good singer? No. Though her songs are good, they sound very similar to each other. But, in a peach kimono, her hair in Renaissance style braids, her eyebrows painted on in funky art nouveau designs, there’s no denying that Palmer is more than striking. This cool lady has traveled the world as a street performer and has written songs about Judy Blume and Vegemite. As she sips red wine and lazily addresses the audience, she is almost annoyingly cool. The audience, a rag tag crew ranging from baby goths to khaki-wearing couples in their forties, is here for this reason. Palmer bangs out her songs on the piano, all by audience request or sudden inspiration, since she doesn’t seem to have a set list.

On April 5 at The Calvin Theatre, a “Kumbaya” sense of community was strong. The vibe was started by the opening act, a one man band called ACLU Benefit, who led the audience in a slew of bittersweet and black-humored sing-a-longs, the last of which involved Palmer joining him onstage for a rendition of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” He was endearing and quirky, but it was Palmer’s conversation with him after his set that really instilled the “Kumbaya” feel. After he played, she sat down with him to sip wine and chat for a bit, not answering questions from the audience or being interviewed in any formal sense, but talking about this and that like they were having a relaxed evening in her living room. Palmer did this with her two surprise guest performers as well, and each time it had the same relaxed feel.

Palmer often addressed specific audience members, and at one point she raised the house lights and took a vote to see if there should be an intermission, or if the show should carry on – the intermission was skipped. It made the evening comfortable and attractive to the audience, who would shout comments at Palmer and each other, caught up in a sense of camaraderie.

Just before the encore, Palmer played a ukulele version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” The notes were too high for her, and her voice cracked a few times, but Palmer didn’t care, so the audience didn’t care. That’s where the coolness comes from: she does what she wants.

She advised the audience, “Think about what will make you happy first, and about how to make money second. You definitely need money to live, but not a ton. Money in and of itself won’t make you happy. This is hard to believe given what culture tells you. So put your interests first and find a way to make money from them. If you’re putting the money first, it’s very likely you’ll wind up a miserable bastard.” Wise words, Amanda.

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