It sold out faster than you can say “I am the girl anachronism.” The Dresden Dolls tour warm-up show at BSP on Aug. 24 in the massive back room theater is precisely why I tell people to pay close attention to local club bookings these days. As a musician and event organizer growing up, I never had pity for blobs sitting around in Woodstock saying there was nothing to do. We could create our own shows or you could go to a free open mic at the legendary Tinker Street Café or friggin’ go in the woods with your friends and listen to mix tapes of Belly, The Notorious B.I.G. and Nirvana while drinking beer you tricked some old burnout into buying for you at Cumberland Farms. The mission became half the night’s fun.
Nowadays, we are blessed with a major amount of musical luxury when it comes to great tours passing through at legit clubs, boutique mini-festivals and still plenty of local talent to boot. Still, if you aren’t on your A game you can miss something cool. Just last Thursday, I spaced that a great instrumental Metal Blade Records band If These Trees Could Talk were in town supporting their latest album The Bones of a Dying World. I think I snuggled my dog and watched TV that night.
The Amanda Palmer/Brian Viglione booking for BSP is an especially tasty victory, landing the same week as soul crooner Charles Bradley. Can you imagine this having happened even five years ago, choosing Kingston out of all the places in the country that Amanda and Brian could’ve chosen to do their first Dresden Dolls show in ages? The fact that it is a lower-key precursor event to their more-hyped handful of larger city dates in markets like Amanda’s former stomping grounds of Boston, and New York City, where Brian used to rock with The World Inferno Friendship Society, makes the Kingston show an even more exciting and enviable ticket.
I usually wouldn’t write much about an already sold out show, but I think it is good to rub the news in some faces in this instance (especially since mischief-makers PWR BTTM are the openers as well). I know some of you have lives and reasons for not combing Facebook event listings every week or looking at fliers on Wall Street, but really, if you don’t participate you don’t get to eat the sweets when they arrive.
I first became aware of The Dresden Dolls through an old college buddy Bill H. He was the cool, weirdo kid down the hall who was listening to Big Black, N.W.A. and PJ Harvey while other people on our dorm were hippies or listening to whatever was the shittiest pop rap at the time. He soon became one of my best friends in the late ’90s and would end up working with some pretty amazing bands after he started a killer marketing firm B.R.A.T. We had many a crazed misadventure whilst rocking out to Mindless Self Indulgence or debating Nine Inch Nails records. It was cool to have Bill and a group of other friends who I could share like-minded or differing opinions with on “alternative lifestyle” stuff, like there were some people who had good taste and also wondered out loud about the direction the world was headed.
I interviewed Amanda Palmer a few years later for the beloved and missed punk outlet AMP Magazine when she was promoting her killer (no pun intended) solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? and was just starting to get involved with Neil Gaiman. It was before she had become a champion of crowd funding and the tour de force she is now post-New York Times best seller The Art of Asking‘s huge success. Before she was a mom.
But Amanda was already a rallying point for a lot of outsiders, queers, weirdos, fringe kids, art school dropouts and pop fans who were disenchanted with the bullshit.
Amanda never looked down on her own fans, telling me back then specifically that,”I feel really lucky I have such an intelligent fucking fan base.”
She had a way, as far back as the first Dresden Dolls records, of being inclusive while also firmly establishing that it was OK to assert her own larger-than-life personality, quirks, ukelele Radiohead covers and all.
Amanda’s solo work and her stuff with Brian in Dresden Dolls is evidence that you can build a cool-kids cabal right under society’s nose and blindside people with seemingly instant popularity that has actually been hard-won through actually caring about connecting to your fans, peers and other wayward souls who want to still believe in something semi-magical and grandiose with roots firmly in the underground breaking through. Sometimes being brazen and relatable, yet offering some escape, is far more lasting than empty pop music. It creates lifelong fans instead of one-summer forgettable party soundtracks or shameless demographic targeting.
I’m always thrilled to experience emotional and yet somewhat theatrical-yet-smart rock, be it some recent major national favorites like Wax Idols, Mother Feather or Vowws (to name a few) or a local act like Dead Unicorn playing with their teeth clenched, giving every note their utmost. The Dresden Dolls remind us that art is a sacred forum and that the audience and the band aren’t just killing time, but sharing in a moment. It’s this communion and potential to make history together that underscores how we should never take the exchange for granted.