AMANDA PALMER: There Will Be No Intermission (and The Art of Grieving)

…And that’s the thing about grieving,” said Amanda Palmer, talking quietly about when Nick Cave lost his son, but recorded a career-defining album (Skeleton Tree) and invited a film crew to follow him on the tour while he was dealing with the grief “…is that it can HELP people. There he was, night after night reaching out to audiences, and thousands of hands reached back.”

Amanda Palmer is currently on tour, reaching out to people.

And thousands of hands are reaching back.

“Everyone I love
Everyone on earth
Drowning in the sound”

You’d think that it’d be the worst time to tour the world, and intimately and viscerally share the darkest, twitchiest, most uncomfortable and raw-meat moments of your soul, sitting alone under a light (and occasionally a disco ball) and walking a room through some of the most *holds-bloody-heart-in-hand* parts of your life.

The Corruptor. The coldness of the table you were tied to. The first abortion. (And the Christmas cactus.) The heroin boyfriend. And the one piece of advice. The loss of your grandparents. The loss of your brother. The Boston bombing. The backlash. Watching your best friend, mentor and now namesake of your son, waste away from cancer. The second, medically necessary abortion. The crisis of confidence about motherhood. The third abortion. The bad place and the doctors with watches. The good place that had tea. The death of your best friend, mentor and now namesake of your son. The birth of your son. The time you miscarried, alone, at Christmas walking the halls of a yoga retreat on a cold mountain. (It was minus 5.)

Amanda Palmer, photo Mikala Folb/ You’d think it’d be the worst time for Amanda Palmer to share these stories.

The right is rising, the earth is dying, abortion clinics are being closed, the Internet – intended to be open-source, free and democratic – is algorithmically fucked and fucking us over, and women (and POC/ LGBTQI2S / Indigenous people), who have always been under attack, are watching the meager rights they fought for being stripped away.  We’re all drowning in the sound. So we’re numbing, and hiding, and running away from each other.

But now is actually the best time to be telling these stories. Our voices need to be heard. We need to drown out the sound with our own experiences. We need to put up our hands to say we’ve had “a story like this” and do so loudly. We need to be brave while we’re being vulnerable. We need to exercise our capacity for compassion and empathy.

Last year in Boston – Amanda Palmer’s hometown – I asked the very same Nick Cave about what he thought was the single most important thing we do to combat the sort of chaos going on around us. He said that we needed to become smaller, have more conversations with each other, bring people together more. Find community.

On June 6 at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, we did.

This tour – more a theatre-style performance across four hours with a fairly formed (and often harrowing) narrative and career-spanning solo set list – came about after the Patreon-funded release of Palmer’s latest album, There Will Be No Intermission, a dark and artful collection of Palmer…grieving and coming to terms with All The Things. If Palmer’s excellent biography and masterclass on music marketing is called The Art of Asking, this tour may as well be called The Art of Grieving.

But that’s the thing about being an artist, says Palmer, it’s her JOB to go into the darkness. (Though some of the lightest moments of the show involved her stories about growing up goth in the suburbs, listening to Robert Smith *looks at the sky as if she’s mentioning god by name*, Cave and Einstürzende Neubauten.) She talked about how she listened to so many older white men – pause for comedic hint that she might actually like older white men…all Neil Gaiman fans laughed – who wrote great songs but with lyrics that never really made any sense. And how she had originally resisted the music of the women who were sharing stories more like her own – the Tori Amos’es, the Ani DiFrancos. Yeah. This resonated with Middle-Class Goth Kid Me, and Adult Goth Me, too.

Now is the time, she said, to support women artists. “Just….fucking…. pay them.” So I have. I’m a member of her Patreon, and you should be Patreon-ing for the artists you love – particularly women and POC/LGBTQI2S/Indigenous people.  Quite frankly, I’m shocked that more artists aren’t following Palmer’s lead and moving over there, it’s the future. Except the future is here. Learn more about Patreon, here.

Amanda Palmer, photo Mikala Folb/

Part 2

“We are so much bigger on the inside
You, me, everybody
Some day when you’re lying where I am
You’ll finally get it, beauty
We are so much bigger
Than another one can ever see
Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying
Promise me”

I cried through most of “Bigger on the Inside” from the front row. Our stories don’t need to be the same, to be the same. To the right of me, tears also rolled down Palmer’s cheeks as she perched stage left and strummed on her ukuele. To the back of me, another woman sniffled. She gave me one of her extra tissues. She gave Palmer one of her extra tissues, too, to give to the person at the end of the row who “looked like they needed it.”

Amanda Palmer, photo Mikala Folb/ “If things get too dark in this show,” Palmer offered at one point from inside the concrete venue that she felt was intimidating and “grown up”… “yunno, you can leave – but don’t do that – or you can also just yell: ‘AMANDA! IT’S TOOO SAD!’ and I’ll play you the opening chords to ‘Coin-Operated Boy.’”

“AMANDA! IT’S TOOOO SAD!” someone inevitably and immediately yelled. She laughed. And plink plink plink plonk came the opening on the grand piano. We laughed. We needed to.

Eventually, she played all of “Coin-Operated Boy” to great cheer (and the best human imitation of a broken record), along with a charged “Judy Blume”, “Voicemail for Jill” (achievement unlocked: a great song about abortion), and an urgent “The Killing Type.” The Dresden Dolls’ “Girl Anachronism” opened the show. If it’s possible for a voice to sound both thundering and fragile at the same time, Palmer achieved this throughout the entire set.

And in the dark, came light. There were plenty of laughs. And thank Robert Smith for them. “A Mother’s Confession” was both sad and funny. There was a leg lamp from the film A Christmas Story on stage – it’s a major award! – and though I don’t want to ruin anything for you, copious references to the film Frozen.

So in the end, maybe all is not lost. Maybe we’re not all too-far gone. Maybe all we needed was to reach out our hands to each other.

Maybe we’re not actually drowning, but waving. \m/

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