Hot Licks: Amanda Palmer
The high priestess of punk performance plays nice.
Amanda Fucking Palmer is a fierce artist. A former geeky school kid turned performance art student, turned half of cabaret punk music duo The Dresden Dolls, turned tour de force solo artist, Palmer is quintessentially queer, in perhaps the original meaning of the word.
Palmer most recently rocked our world with the release of her “Do it With a Rock Star” music video—a brilliant musical orgy that blatantly explores the blurred lines between sexuality, celebrity and desire.
Ever the avant-garde and expressive artist, Palmer’s body of work is varied; her live performance is brazen and imperfect. Despite her reputation for the theatrical as a performer, Palmer the person is down to earth, both in her energy and in conversation. It’s clear that this grounding gives her the capacity to be all of these things. It’s a filthy habit to define things in order to make sense of them, and to do this to Palmer is not only an insult—it’s almost impossible.
“Honestly, I’m never really called on to define myself unless journalists ask me. Like, right now, defining usually comes from the outside, it’s usually someone else defining you,” she explains. “If you’re spending too much time trying to define yourself and convince people that you are a certain thing, you’re spending less energy actually being that thing.”
One label she will accept is that of provocateur. “Do it With a Rock Star” is provocative, to say the least. In it she is sweaty, visceral, womanly, queer. “You know, my favorite thing to do is to surprise people. If I had to whittle it all down and I could only have one occupation I would be a professional surpriser,” she says.
No doubt Palmer’s seasoned fans are unsurprised by her ability to push the envelope. Her constant capacity to try new things and stand at the front line of provocative women is her trademark. “I don’t claim to have the answers to the questions but I know that raising them is essential, just like life. Even if you never get to the answer you don’t stop asking the question,” she says. She will incorporate nudity on stage and invoke the challenges of theatricality and poetry to inspire. “Because it feels like it’s about something larger than me.”
And that larger thing is women and their power to question the status quo.
“A lot of times you just need someone up there, on a stage or in an image, to give you permission to take the next step with whatever you feel is possible. And I look back at my life, on all the women that I have seen, one by one, really brave women getting up on stage doing really bold, personal, frightening things, and it feels like the doorway’s open, [so] you can walk through it.”
Palmer walked through this door with her record Theatre is Evil, a beautifully constructed work tempered with industrial electronica and delicious pop melodies—perhaps her best recording yet.
Don’t let her fool you: Amanda Palmer is not coming from some steeled place of unwavering resolve where everything she does is right, or easy. Generously candid, she speaks of her personal evolution.
“I mean, I am 36 and I still freak out and I still wonder what the hell I am thinking and what I am doing and whether I am doing the right things and making the right decisions. That hasn’t changed. But I think I have been around the block enough times to know that everything is going to be fine.
“It’s not like the freak-outs I had when I was 17, when I really thought the world was going to end and I may as well just jump off a cliff, you know? The drama luckily doesn’t visit me anymore.”
Amanda Fucking Palmer, indeed. (amandapalmer.net)