And Now For Something Completely Different… (WARNING: Baseball-less baseball blog)

In case you didn’t get my title reference, please watch this clip.  (And then immediately seek out all things Monty Python!)

OK, I couldn’t just stop at one Monty Python sketch, so here’s one of my all-time favorites; and yes, it is sport-themed.

…And now for that ‘something’ that is completely different and not at all baseball-related…

The Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra concert!

Back on October 3rd I went with my wife to First Avenue to see Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra.  For those of you who did not follow my advice and download her FREE album, here is your second chance.  (Click Me For Free Music!!!)  Before I get into the dirty details of the show and share my photos of what went down, I’ll share my history of how I got trapped up in the Amanda Palmer camp.

Back when Drive105 was still a radio station in the Twin Cities (probably 2006-ish?) I heard the song “Coin-Operated Boy” and immediately thought that it was hilarious and so the seed was planted in my mind.  I had no idea who sang the song and nearly forgot about it, but I heard it another 2 or 3 times in the next couple months and at that point I decided that it was time to find who was responsible for such a funny and catchy (albeit strange) song.  The culprit?  The Dresden Dolls, a group that featured Amanda Palmer on piano and Brian Viglione on drums.  I did some searching and ended up finding a copy of the album at a Cheapo off of Central Ave., just south of 694.

After getting sucked in by Coin-Operated Boy, I realized that the rest of the self-titled album was pretty decent!  I kept the name “Amanda Palmer” in the back of my mind, as I typically do with artists/groups that I like, and when I saw that she was releasing a solo album, I picked that up, too.  It also didn’t hurt that Ben Folds was featured on the album.  After realizing that her solo album was amazing, too, I was hooked!

Since doing her debut solo effort she has feuded with her former record label and turned into a truly free solo-artist, relying on her developed (and ever developing) fan-base to support her as she continues her musical and artistic growth.  Her social media exposure is second to none in the music industry and her use of Kickstarter is ground-breaking.  Sure, other artists have used Kickstarter before her, but having such a large following (once being on a major label) and using that platform to support what is essentially a major-label album WITHOUT major-label support is awesome!  She is proving that the music industry, as well as media in general is changing and we have the power to mold it into what we want… so let’s use that for the good of society.  ***Steps back off the platform.***

Sorry about that, got a bit carried away.  To progress the story a bit, let’s just say that I respect and admire her as a musician and as a person so much that I have tried to support her projects as much and as often as possible (yep, backed the Tristan Allen CD, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele, Evelyn Evelyn, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, and Theatre Is Evil).  The packages have not been cheap, but the idea of supporting an artist I appreciate so much is worth it alone, but add on top of it all the cool artsy stuff that is included with the music and you end up ahead.

So that brings us to Theatre Is Evil, which is a great album and the supporting tour was one that I was looking forward to very much.  The backing band (The Grand Theft Orchestra) sounded amazing on the album, but I didn’t know what to expect at the show.  Would they be cool guys?  Would it still be just “the Amanda Palmer show” or would they get to show their personality?  Answer: Yes, cool dudes and they DEFINITELY got to show off their individuality both during Amanda’s set and as opening acts to support her theatre-inspired SHOW.  (When I say show, believe me, it was a show in the true sense of the word; other musicians, take heed!)

Amanda Palmer came out to introduce her bassist and first act, Jherek Bischoff.  He led with an African-inspired bass-solo that was AMAZING!  At that point I knew the show was going to be great, a good barometer of this was the look on my wife’s face.  Her shock and amazement told me that she was already hooked.  He went through less than a handful of songs, but utilized his new-found Minnesota-produced string section quite nicely.  Oh yeah, did I mention that Amanda’s social media skills are top-notch?  She is able to reach out and ask for local musicians everywhere she travels in order to help her out at shows while providing excellent exposure and experience for the musicians.  How often does one get to say that they performed at First Ave?!  It’s the house that Prince built!  PURPLE RAIN!!!

After “Act 1” finished up, Amanda came out and readied us for “Act 2”, the most unusual act I have ever seen, RONALD REAGAN!  Self-proclaimed as “Boston’s Premier 80’s Pop Saxophone Duo” their name could not be more apt.  They covered Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.  Here’s an example of their skills.  Quite simply, I could not stop smiling and laughing.  The crowd sang along like we all were performing Karaoke for one another and when such universal songs are played, no one messes up the words, we rivaled Steve Perry and Michael Jackson themselves!

At this point the concert was already one of the best, from start to finish, that I had ever attended and we still had one more opening act, a reading from Neil Gaiman himself, and the main attraction, Amanda Palmer left.

As I just mentioned in my previous sentence, Neil Gaiman would be sharing a story with us.  Neil is Amanda’s husband and to call him an “accomplished writer” was be stating the obvious.  If you haven’t read or seen one of Neil’s pieces of work please check out his Wikipedia page, print off a list of his works, get an arrow and throw a dart at the piece of paper.  No matter what it strikes, you will not be let down.  Personally, I am not that well versed with his work, but I hope to change that.  My wife has ventured into his books and thinks that they are incredibly smart, dark, funny, and well-written.  Her recommendation is huge since she honestly believes that writers nowadays are not nearly as creative as writers from the Agatha Christie-period and older.

I was excited for hearing Neil because he wrote a very highly-regarded episode of Doctor Who.  If there are two shows that are favorites of my wife (Jael) and I it is Doctor Who and Arrested Development.  Neil, being British, grew up with Doctor Who and loved it dearly, so fans were excited when such a great writer AND fan of the show was picked to pen an episode of the show.  Admittedly, his episode is not the “best show ever” which some hype it to be, but if you are well-versed and know the history of the 50 year program yoo appreciate how he took a huge part of the show, flipped it on its head and turned it into a very touching story.  For those reasons I regard it as one of my favorites and one of the best stories of Doctor Who history within Doctor Who that has ever been made.  Like I said before, it is not the end-all be-all of Doctor Who, it takes layers of appreciation to get what he did, and in a way is not representative of a typical episode of DW, but it’s the ultimate “thank you” story that could be written by a fan of the show.

Neil’s story turned out to be a story of how he got into writing and when he realized that words have power.  I won’t go into very much detail of what he said that evening, as I would only butcher his hilarious replay of what happened to him as a little boy, but let’s just say there was one word that every mother does not want to hear her son say and that every little boy does not want his mom to hear that Neilhimself (yes, that was purposely done; see twitter) had to mutter to his mother…

DUCK!  Wait, no.

FUDGE!  Nope, let’s try a hybrid of the two… children, skip the next line!…)

FUCK.

Plain and simple, the most feared and powerful (as well as flexible) four-letter word in the English language.  He had to tell his mother this all because he retold a joke at school.

The next act was an over-the-top pop-explosion called The Simple Pleasures.  The group is led by the guitarist of Amanda’s band, Chad Raines.  If I were really creative with words, I would have a brilliant and original way of describing them, but alas, I am a blogger who writes a baseball-oriented recap of first-person non-fiction events.  Think Prince (perfect, since they were in his church) meets Michael Jackson, and then (hears a way to tie it back into baseball) add about a gallon of PEDs/HGH (for you non-baseball readers, Performance-Enhancing Drugs and Human Growth Hormone).  If there were a legal limit for synthesizer plus guitar in a pop song set, The Simple Pleasures would not only get a DUI, they might actually OD from pop-poisoning.  Well played, Chad and company!

After The Simple Pleasures “pop”ped our faces like zits – I mean that in a good way – the final and main act was set to take stage.

AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA!!!

The opening song was an instrumental that can be found on Theatre Is Evil called “A Grand Theft Intermission”.  The song is heavy and has a dark-metal vibe to it on the album, but in person it is even DEEPER and HEAVIER.  I nearly drool thinking of it now.  One of the cool things about Amanda is that she does not stay in one genre, she has covered a Rodgers and Hammerstein song on one side of the spectrum and then their is the polar opposite like “A Grand Theft Intermission” that melts faces.  I love this because she actually pulls off this feat; maybe she’s just that versatile, but I think it’s also who she surrounds herself with – that’s you Michael McQuilken, Jherek Bischoff, Chad Raines, Michael Pope, and countless others!

I won’t cover each song on the set-list (which, by the way, I got after the show!!), but instead I will switch gears and give a photo-trip down memory lane:

Amanda – Front-woman extraordinaire:

Michael McQuilken – Half-drummer/Half-beast:

Amanda – Bassist meltin’ the faces-t?!:

(Yes, they all know each others’ instruments, too!  how cool is that?!)

Amanda – Switcheroo with Mr. McQuilken:

(The back-and-forth that happened between Amanda and Michael at this point made for great entertainment.  She didn’t want to give up the sticks and a chase ensued.  The drumsticks ended up in the front row, but Michael made a plea for them back and drumming resumed shortly thereafter.)

Rad Chaines!…  I mean Chad Raines and Amanda Palmer:

Amanda meets half a U.S. president (one half of the group Ronald Reagan):

(Did I mention how awesome Ronald Reagan was?!  This is a band that if I were rich and got married again – to my current wife – I would have do the reception and have it at a cool club like First Ave.)

Group Love – Tiger-style:

(If you find a hybrid creature that is part tiger and part human and all fluff, here is the proof of it being made.  Also, apologies to Jherek, but this is the only photo of him I have – see the tall guy on bass.  It’s not that I didn’t like him, it’s just that my photos of him didn’t turn out that great.  Hopefully I have another opportunity down the road.)

Amanda – At home and playing the keys:

If Chad were a cheesy Coldplay song, here he is being “all yellow”:

Googly-eyes for the win!!:

(How awesome is this guitar?!  Can you see where the pure concentrated pop comes from?)

Farewell, Amanda, until your next visit to MN:

And so ends my photo-compendium of the October 3rd Amanda Palmer show.  Thank you to every artist that participated in this party!  It was money well spent and a great way to send off the band before they make their European tour.  Stay safe, stay classy!

For further reading and information, follow these people on Twitter:

@amandapalmer

@neilhimself

@quilken

@radchaines

@jherekbischoff

@ronaldreagansax

@FirstAvenue

And I suppose, me: @TonyV433

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