Punk cabaret singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer is finally back in our neck of the woods, following two years of exile in New Zealand, and she has plenty of new music-making in the works. Her original band, the Dresden Dolls, is reuniting this autumn for the first time since 2018, with a tour planned to launch with three performances November 10 through 12 at an as-yet-unspecified Woodstock venue. And her sole live show this summer – her first headline gig anywhere since returning to the States – takes place at Kingston’s Old Dutch Church at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 13. It’s a benefit for the O+ Festival, where she previously performed in 2017.
Palmer was on the final leg of a world tour for her intensely raw 2019 album There Will Be No Intermission when COVID-19 struck and the country went into lockdown. With characteristic unfiltered frankness, she chronicled the stresses of the disconnection of the pandemic period on social media and her blog. But as an early adopter of Internet-facilitated communication with her fiercely loyal base of supporters, she has managed to keep the fandom flame alive in the interim. Her experiences during the past couple of years seem to resonate with many across the globe who have dealt with the ravages of COVID, each in their own way.
Not only does Palmer have more than a million followers on Twitter, 300,000+ on Instagram, 400,000+ on Facebook and 200,000+ on YouTube, but she also has a formidable track record of crowdfunding various creative projects. Her 2012 album with the Grand Theft Orchestra, Theatre Is Evil, was financed by the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever for an original music project, raising nearly $1.2 million. Palmer transformed that experience into The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, a 2013 TED Talk that has been viewed more than eight million times, as well as a best-selling book. She currently has about 14,000 sponsors on Patreon.
Preaching the gospel of a barter economy and volunteer support systems for “creatives” as alternatives to the old régime of creative control by music labels has long been a key component of the Amanda Palmer brand. So, it makes perfect sense that she’d be 100 percent on board with O+’s mission to link artists with healthcare service providers, with no money changing hands.
“I’m lucky enough — and have been lucky enough since the early days of the Dresden Dolls — to have health insurance, and to be able to insure my whole staff. But most musicians in America are screwed. Especially just having come from New Zealand, where health care is free and universal (for anyone, no matter what their age, race or job), it’s even more shocking to face a culture where artists and musicians have to choose between health care and basic needs, like food and rent,” Palmer writes. “This whole system is built to fail. I often find that my friends overseas are unaware of the punishing and horrifying nature of the health care system here in the USA. It’s just gobsmackingly barbaric to those who take free, or cheap, health care for granted.”
The August 13 show at the Old Dutch Church will feature indie musicians Holly Miranda, Chris Wells and Gracie and Rachel as special guests. “It’s gonna be really intimate and memorable,” says Palmer, promising “a combo of old and new material” plus some collaborations. If you’re a novice to her quirky, provocative oeuvre, here are links to a couple of samples of popular past work: the Dresden Dolls’ “Coin-Operated Boy” (2004) at www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4gPZPKJc0s; and “The Bed Song” from Theatre Is Evil, made into a music video by Bard College students when Palmer was artist-in-residence there in 2013, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sW4dwXXX7Q.
While at Bard, she did a live “Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer” show at the Fisher Center and a mostly solo performance at the Spiegeltent during Bard SummerScape in 2014. She has also performed in the past at both Colony and the Bearsville Theater, making both likely candidates as the venue for the Dresden Dolls reunion tour kickoff planned for November. HV1 will share that news once more details are announced.
With tours already on the horizon, the tantalizing question arises how Amanda Palmer – as well as her husband, the ever-busy fantasy author Neil Gaiman (currently touting this weekend’s premiere of the long-awaited TV version of his iconic graphic novel The Sandman), and their young son Ash – will resettle into their Woodstock home after such a long hiatus. Palmer clearly has a knack for finding community wherever she goes, and since the family’s return she has already shown up on short notice to perform pro bono at a fundraiser for the Woodstock Library. Helping the organizers of the O+ Festival is the logical next step, given how well their missions align. Here’s hoping that we’ll get to hear her perform locally quite often in the foreseeable future, and that the good people of our region will supply whatever emotional safety net and sense of rootedness these pandemic-wafted wanderers may need.
The Old Dutch Church is located at 272 Wall Street in Kingston. Tickets for Amanda Palmer in Concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m., cost $35. “It will embody the soul of our work, of giving and receiving, with love and dignity,” say the folks at O+. Note that subscribers to the O+ Backstage Experience can get in at 6 p.m. for a special event featuring an art auction, food, drinks, merch, music and info about how healthcare providers and artists connect through O+. Tickets for the VIP package cost $65. All proceeds from the evening will support “the exchange of the art of medicine for the medicine of art at the center of O+’s mission, as well as funding the expansion of access to wellness care for artists and musicians throughout the year.”
Proof of vaccination will be required at the door for this event. Masks are optional but encouraged. To purchase tickets, visit https://opositivefestival.org/31390/o-benefit-amanda-palmer-in-concert.