Originally posted in 2015, updated in 2023
I was never good at asking. I’d rather fall flat on my face several times before asking anyone for help. I still suffer from this affliction to some extent. But I’ve learned asking or receiving it is not something disgraceful. It is helpful. It creates a positive energy that you in turn can pay forward. Without help from our parents, we wouldn’t have a decent car or the house we live in. Should I be ashamed of this? No! I should however be very thankful of the help received.
I’ve only come to this realisation recently, when I started reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I’m only halfway through this already fantastic book, so please don’t expect an elaborate review.
2023 note: I have read this book countless times since then and wormed its way again onto my ever growing to (re)read pile.)
This is my written ode to Amanda Fucking Palmer: musician, singer, writer, artist, poet and all-round voice of so many people that don’t get, or dare to yell out themselves.
In the book, she describes beautifully how she felt like a beggar while working as The Bride at first, a living statue she took on the road.
How she tried her hardest to connect with people, all without uttering one word. And how it felt when she broke through the shell of one of the busy commuters.
How she made her eyes speak “I SEE you”. She recalls the thankful looks of recognition. I’ll never look at a living statue the same way again.
2023 note: Having met her, I can tell you this is not a gimmick. She SEES and FEELS her fans, her people. They are both her driving force and safety blanket.
Her music and lyrics inspire me. They break me when I feel fragile, and kick my ass when I need a boost. I keep discovering more and more layers within the songs. In the words and the notes. In the silences in between. I fall in love all over again, with every note and snippet of lyric, every time I put any of her music on.
The beautiful lyrics she writes down represent full honesty and fragility. When she whispers or screams them out on stage, only then do you understand them fully. They are what you want them to be. They can be everything and nothing in between. On a road-rage-fueled morning commute, they can be a release for that anger. On a quiet drive in the fields, it can be a lovely friend who tells you how beautiful the world is.
The beautiful lyrics she writes down represent full honesty and fragility. And then when she screams them out or whispers them on stage, only then do you understand them fully. They are what you want them to be. They can be everything and nothing in between. On a road-rage-fueled morning commute, they can be a release for that anger. On a quiet drive in the fields, it can be a lovely friend who tells you how beautiful the world is.
Her shows, both with The Dresden Dolls, solo or with one of her many side-projects always radiate an energy that every fan takes home and treasures for years. I’m still talking about a Dolls show in 2006 like it was yesterday. She & Brian shook the AB venue in Brussels on its foundations. Just the two of them, an electric piano, a drum set and a set of lungs. Oh and his guitar, which he smashed. I still have to small part of it I managed to get a hold of!
The love she shows her fans and opening acts is astonishing. The pure brutal force with which she brings her music is borderline maniacal. She lives her stories and music on stage. She leaves behind a breathless, satisfied audience that can forget about using their voice the morning after. If you’re not hoarse as a barmaid the day after a DD or AFP show, you’re doing it wrong.
The fire with which she storms the world head on makes her my most appreciated female artist of all time. She isn’t afraid to give out her opinion, but isn’t afraid to retract if she feels she was wrong. She tackles misogynists and uses wit and art to make her point. She does not back down. She isn’t afraid to ask (for help).
The way she reacted to the Daily Mail article about her Nip-Slip on stage during a festival. No. I’m not quoting the source. I am however quoting Amanda on the matter of this type of journalism:
“Anything that seems to exist just to taunt, denigrate, bully, bemoan or demean others (especially if it is wrapped in a shroud of self-righteousness) is click-bait. Instead? Fuck it! Share something actually useful and wonderful! We need more of that, always. Preferably something deep, profound, mind-blowing and enlightening, but seriously…. sloths n’ kittens are still vastly better than yet another article shit-click-baiting.“AFP
Not only is the song pretty fucking hilarious, she dares to fight the misleading media. In this case she refused to be reduced to a nipple. Deceptive journalism is a dangerous and slippery slope. Because of what is not written, a lot of important points aren’t made. In Amanda’s case, it was about her music and how it should speak for her, and not a silly wardrobe malfunction. But it is bigger than that too. It is about some stories being reported on profusely, while others die on the metaphorical editorial floor. And it’s mostly the stories that matter, that don’t make the cut.
Amanda isn’t afraid to speak her fears, as well as her mind. She evens the path for people who have something they fear or are anxious about, to speak their mind about it.
To let them be heard, so they can start to heal. She lends her ear to fans in need in the signing queue. In turn she has a shoulder to cry on when she doesn’t feel her best.
This is how she connects with her fans. Through laying it all bare. Through showing that it’s okay to talk about it, however much it hurts. However much people might reject you. She encourages you to grow from and empower yourself with this rejection. You cannot please everyone. Deal with it.
I feel she brings a healthy and much needed voice to femininity. She posts pictures to instagram & facebook without make up and her signature painted on eyebrows. She tells girls, young and old alike, that it is okay to be yourself. That we’re all flawed. That we all have bags under our eyes on most days. That real women have pores. And taches de beauté. And that that is okay.
Someone should write a book about this woman’s life. Oh wait. That’s right, she already did. It is called “The Art of Asking” and you should read it now. (Also, this post is turning into my version of her biography: ‘My life with Amanda Palmer.’ I’m only slightly kidding. Hyperfixation much?) Then start asking, stop worrying and let people help if you can’t do it alone.
Editors note: Originally posted on February 7th, 2015
So much has happened to Amanda, me and the world (both good and bad) in the 8 years since I originally wrote this post in February 2015. Hence me feeling I have to add this rather long addendum and instead of just reposting the original from the depths of the Way Back Machine. (If it wasn’t for that site by the way, I’d have lost all my content since I started DownSideUp originally.)
Between the original post and now, I have met this beautiful person after shows on several occasions and even got to spend a day with her and her entourage.
(Biggest and only regret of the day is not telling Neil Gaiman what a fucking fantastic author he is. Instead I kept gushing about my love for his co-author to Good Omens, the wonderful Terry Pratchett. (Sorry, Neil, I LOVE YOU but I google other authors!) BUT, as you can tell from the autograph pic, he understands the love people feel for Terry Pratchett. Neil commemorated his (sadly deceased) friend and author of the Discworld Novels with a winged gravestone. So, so fitting, but I digress.)
Another sidenote from the gallery above. AFP inspires people to create unabashedly, like how Hilary made her beautiful painting from my picture and I got to go wild in my Dresden Dolls inspired Photoshoot. (Plus countless other fan art I am not mentioning because this article is already TOO DAMN LONG.)
Anyway, since that first The Dresden Dolls gig, I have seen her most every time she’s been in Europe. Every iteration has been completely different, from the loud punk-esque sound with The Grand Theft Orchestra, to the haunting tour with Edward Ka-Spel, and her various (solo) projects.
She released at ton of music in the past decade, fueled by her Patrons. There were the collaborations with with the extremely talented Jason Webley for Evelyn Evelyn and Sketches For the Musical JIB. She brought her family along for the ride with ‘An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer’ and the album You Got Me Singing she made with her dad Jack Palmer. Her last tour de force was There will be no Intermission with musician Jherek Bischoff on which you already know my opinion. There is just too much to mention everything individually, so just check the full discography on her website. Do note though, that The Dresden Dolls have started hitting the stage again as of this year.
Volg Amanda Palmer
Volg The Dresden Dolls