2012 has been quite the year by all accounts, n'est-ce pas? Amongst other things, the music industry -- which is still trying to figure out what happened to its former self -- took a serious blow to the noggin by the very real concept of crowdfunding this year. And by concept I mean runaway success.
If you were on this planet and pay attention to such things, then you would have heard of Amanda Palmer, whether or not you know her music or her pedigree (she was co-founder of the Brechtian punk cabaret duo, the Dresden Dolls). About six months ago, she broke all previously set crowdfunding records by racking up over a million dollars on a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new album (Theatre Is Evil) she'd recorded early in the year.
Palmer had left her old label, Roadrunner, in the dust during a very public feud after her first solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, was released in 2008. This time, she was determined to take her life and career into her own hands, surrounding herself with a kickass team of like-minded spirits, and catapulting herself into musical history with the success of her crowdfunding campaign. In addition, she provided fans with a beautifully produced album package, an amazing record that received global rave reviews and was called "one of the year's best rock records" by Rolling Stone, a flurry of gorgeously produced art shows and books, and several magnificent concerts in a variety of settings and cities after the album's release.
And all would have proceeded apace, with a world tour mounted and ready to go in 2013. Except that real life intervened -- as real as it gets: "I'm canceling the upcoming year of touring so that i can stay with my friend Anthony while he faces cancer treatment and whatever else is about to happen," Amanda shared on her blog earlier this month. She continued, "This was an agonizing decision to make, but it was also... an easy decision, if you know what i mean. He's my best friend. It's not enough, when this happens, to be "on call" to be a flight away at any moment. it is only enough to stay close, to join the story in real time."
"I'm in kind of a weird place personally," Amanda says on the phone the other night as she was attempting to settle in to the new home she and husband Neil Gaiman were now occupying in Boston. "I feel so lucky, I am around such beautiful, kind people. Sometimes it takes a moment like this to wake you up and underline the beauty that's in your life. I'm feeling grateful that I am who I am and that I'm with who I'm with... What's happening is what's happening and it's teaching me what it's teaching me."
Palmer and her band (per Amanda -- "the perfect band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, comprised of genius musicians/arrangers/programmers Michael McQuilken, Chad Raines, and Jherek Bischoff") will play one final show before she takes her first lengthy break from the performance stage since before the Dresden Dolls (and Yes, Virginia, that was a long long time ago). If you move quickly, you can still snap up tickets for their New Years Eve Extravaganza at Terminal 5, in which they plan to honor Prince by playing the seminal album Purple Rain in its entirety.
Why Purple Rain? And was this a first? "There's something really euphoric and hard to explain about actually standing on stage and channeling the soundtrack from your young rockstar fantasies," explains Amanda. "Purple Rain was my first cassette tape and those words and moments formatted me...I know them so well that they're almost impossible to listen to because it's like breathing air." And no, it's not a first; last January she and Dresden Dolls' partner Brian Viglione were part of a Violent Femmes supergroup at MONA FOMA in Tasmania, during which they played the first Violent Femmes album from start to finish.
Purple Rain was also chosen because it's, well, the Venn Diagram of The Grand Theft Orchestra - that magic place where every band member intersects musically. "There's a lot of albums that I could have chosen that would have blown my dress up," explains Amanda, "but not alot of albums where every member of the band got starry eyed when I mentioned the possibility and that was it...the spots where we all overlap is where the possibilities begin, it's where we have our common language and so it's where our fundamental structure as a band is able to psychically mind meld."
Did Amanda have any final words for New York City, before blowing minds with a lot of spectacular costumes, sequins, glam, purple, special guests (Neil Gaiman! John Cameron Mitchell!), and beautiful crazy as the year turns on its axis and we go from '12 to '13? "We are very excited to welcome New York into our loving arms. It's been a really rough couple of weeks, months, this has been a rough season. So as much as you might want to stay home, or just grab a bottle of wine and cuddle and hide under the comforter, it's a good time to come out and represent!" She adds, "I read on Twitter from someone who went to the original Purple Rain tour all of the concert tickets gave a mandate to wear purple to the show. So I am highly encouraging that people adorn themselves with purple clothing and accoutrements, the shinier and more sequined the better -- and we will be a purple brotherhood."
And as Prince himself sagely advised in the transcendent lyrics of "Let's Go Crazy" (by the way be sure and study up on those songs if you're going to the show -- 1984 was, ahem, a few years ago):
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy - punch a higher floor
More on Amanda Palmer here
Download Theatre Is Evil here