Monday, January 9, 2012

The Dresden Dolls - The Forum

So it seems that in the past few months the powers that be have been following up on a few prayers I made when I was sixteen or so; last November I was lucky enough to see Bright Eyes for the first time, and on Sunday night I attended the performance of another of my most cherished teenage bands, The Dresden Dolls.

I remember the first time I heard this band very clearly; my dear friend Laura was in the middle of converting me to triple j, and was playing for me songs from a CD she had called The Hottest 100 Vol. 13. One of those songs was Coin Operated Boy, and hearing it for the first time, I was instantly fascinated by how this adorable yet subtly perverted homage to a woman dreaming of a plastic, inanimate lover could exist, what kind of mind it might have come from. This curiosity led me to eventually buying their first self-titled album, back when I could spend all my measly wage on CD’s. I became enamoured with their dark playfulness, their intelligent lyrics that covered everything from paedophilia to self-harm to the epidemic of Jeeps in Boston, their costumes and mime makeup. But there was also this feeling this thrill I felt while listening to the album, as if I were sitting down to tea with the enemy. As a kid I was too scared to rebel properly; hell, I couldn’t even deal with wagging classes (something I wouldn’t have a problem with in University) so instead I rebelled through music, and Amanda Palmer became the leader of my army. I remember many a party at Ruby’s house, getting drunk on Melon Cruisers (no judging please) and flailing about with her and the few others who understood, whilst reciting every single word to Girl Anachronism, much to the dismay of, well, everyone else. I think they saw us as deranged, intoxicated spazzmatrons with a poor taste in music, but in those moments I didn’t care because I felt invincible. I wanted to do Amanda proud.  

This was the third gig in my life that I have attended alone; Ruby is back overseas, and the others were either apologetically busy, or I just haven’t seen them for years.  I walked into the Forum brimming with that old adolescent excitement that often borders on hyperbole, and was met with a perfect view of the stage, and Amanda already standing on it.
“Oh god!” I thought, “It can’t have started already, can it?”. But my hyperventilating began to cease as I realised that Brian was not onstage, and that she was in fact singing a song with the Jane Austen Argument, the first support act. Both members were dressed in full cabaret garb complete with lace gloves and coat tails, glitter and black feather wings pasted to their backs. Amanda was wearing a white silk kimino. I walked in halfway through their set, but was instantly drawn to their music; it reminded me of an old carnival, complete with haunted carousel and freak show, and their harmonies were to die for (I have a bit of a thing for boy girl harmonisation – see Slow Club).

The second support, to my most pleasant surprise, was the The Bedroom Philosopher.  He proceeded put on an excellent show, complete with his own band of well-dressed dudes and ladies, which he aptly named the Awkwardstra. He’s most famously known for making fun people who live in our inner city suburbs ie. Hipsters, which I find very amusing (even though there is a bit of a crossover in our interest. I’ve decided, though, that I could never be classified as a hipster because I’m too optimistic). A great example of this is his song “Northcote (so hungover)”, which he remixed for us so that the verses were made up of comments people had left underneath the youtube video of this song. It was definitely a highlight.

When the time came for the Dresden Dolls to come onstage, I was primed to be entertained. I stood there in my little space just to the right of the stage, bouncing on the balls of my feet and trying to guess which microphone was Amanda’s so I could position myself square in view of her.  At 9:30 Brian and Amanda strode out, Brian shirtless with his shorts, stockings and bowler hat, and Amanda still dressed in her kimino and accompanying army cap. They opened with a ballad, a song I hadn’t heard before, but captivating all the same. However, at the end of this song, when Amanda flung off the silk to reveal her true costume; a black lace bra, framed by suspenders and a pair of high waisted pants. She struck the keyboard, beginning the opening riff of ‘Sex Changes’, and I was lost. She could have asked for my first born child and I would have happily written her an IOU.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned about Amanda Palmer. She is possibly the nicest performer I have ever seen; I don’t mean nice as in sugar and spice and all that, because she’s got quite a foul mouth and a wicked sense of humour, but what she does when she’s not singing  or playing is just so genuinely lovely, so much so that it makes her bawdiness utterly endearing.  You could just see it in the way that she interacted with the Jane Austen Argument that she was so proud of them, especially when the female half came on to sing Delilah (more harmonies, bliss!).  Another example is that when the front rows complained about being hot, she ordered all the water from backstage to be brought out to the audience.  She crowd surfed, she personally introduced the support acts, she gave us all her Australian mobile number so that we could text her our email addresses. She is not just a singer, she is a performance artist.

One of the things that I loved about the show was that both Brian and Amanda really knew how to engage the audience; it didn’t feel like a concert, it felt like an intimate show put on for friends in their living room; just me, them, and a few hundred other people. I also loved the way they interacted with each other as they performed, it was like some strange pantomime; I’d tear my eyes away from Amanda’s snarling face to see Brian acting out some the lyrics with his impressive repertoire of facial expressions and contorting limbs.

Highlights: I could honestly say I enjoyed every minute immensely, but that seems like a bit of a cop out, so I’ll pick out a few exceptional tracks.
Sex Changes, Coin Operated Boy, Fight for Your Right to Party. This included the Jane Austen Argument, Justin Hazelwood and his Awkwardstra, plus friends, other halves and random people from the crowd, Brian singing and Amanda playing drums. Delilah, with one half of the JAA, Missed Me, Half Jack and the seamless transition from this to Girl Anachronism that could have brought me to my knees. I danced, not alone, but with two hundred or so other people who understood.

Now all I need is for Middle Earth to be a real place, and all my wishes from my teenage years will have come true. Now to work on the ones from my twenties....

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