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Saturday, August 27, 2005

C'mon Do the Vegetarian Haggis

So off i went, in the company of only Emily "Wizzle" White, tour managress deluxxxe, crew-less, brian-less, bold and ready to play three solo shows in the land of my kin, bonnie Scotland. The flight over to europe was very auspicious, we were seated in front of 23 members of The Young Ambassadors Brass Band, an almost all-male, definitely all-british crew of brass-playing hooligans who had just finished a tour of their own in the states. They immediately asked us about the band (after Emily accidentlaly spilled 45 Dresden Dolls "bad habit/girl anachronism" sampler CDs out of her bag) and asked if we were "like taTu". taTu is a russian teeny-bopper band of two underage girls who make out with each other. We said no, and informed them that emily wasn't actually in the band, but that we would make out with each other if they gave us fifty dollars (each). They declined but one of the dudes behind us grabbed the samplers and asked if it was OK to try to sell them to everyone on the plane for a dollar. Fine with us. So he went from the front of the back of the plane trying to sell our samplers like an unstoppable drunken force, pausing only once to run back to our seats and ask us what the music sounded like. He then resumed his enterprise and earned us $21. Awesome! The rest of the flight involved him and his friends throwing shoes at us and sneaking up behind me to put clothespins in my hair.

The first few days in Edinburgh were vacation days, and I wandered around in ecstasy, soaking up the the marvels of the fringe fesitval. For those unaware, the Edinburgh fringe is the largest fringe theater festival in the world....it spans the month of august with over 200 venues, thousands of plays and events and endless activity.... it's basically disneyland for actors and artists. Everywhere you go and everywhere you look there is something happening, street performers everywhere, theater at all hours, music seeping out the cracks of the sidewalks. I almost wept when I started reading through the fringe schedule and realized that I would probably have time to see two or three out of the 26,478 plays being put up. That first night we went to a stand-up show of my wonderful old friend Eugene Mirman (he's opened up for us in Boston, and has toured with Modest Mouse and other rock acts around the world....and he's VERY FUNNY: www.eugenemirman.com). The most hilarious yet disturbing part of his act was a found magazine that he presented called "Revolve": it was The Bible in "people magazine" format to make it palatable to teen girls. Even the inside layout was the same as teen people or elle girl magazine (including pix of hottt teen boys and girls!)....but it was The Bible. THE BIBLE. I won't even go into it. He also played some wonderful tape-recordings of a phonecall he received from a Christian Phone Company that was trying to get him to switch away from ATT and MCI because "ATT and MCI support Gay Marriage". Eugene asked politely if he switched, would gays Just Go Away? The woman held it together pretty well, seemed to empathize with Eugene who went on a theatrical rant about how Gays Should All go Away, and the conversation that ensued was priceless. We almost peed our pants. After the show, Eugene took us to the Library Bar, which is an old university library (with old wooden and glass-door shelves and books and chandeliers and the Whole Deal) but during the fringe it's converted into a VIP bar for the comedians. I was Good and did not drink. The next day we pitpatttered around and I went to rehearse my piano parts at a friend-of-a-friends apartment. Confronted with the friend-of-a-friend, it turned out that he was a musician named Mr. Andy and he started blowing wonderful music out of his trumpet. I met a few of his housemates and one was a beautiful girl named Ms. Ruby who could tap-dance and within a few minutes it was determined that we had to do a trumpet/tap-dancing version of "Coin-Operated Boy". We rehearsed. Then at night we met up with Eugene again to see Daniel Kitson (www.danielkitson.com), an insanely funny comedian whose whole fringe run was sold out. Highlight of his show: his description of the terrible feeling you get when you find out that someone you hate loves the same band you do. Equally great: his description of sitting in a train car with a swarthy teenager playing annoying techno music off of his new-fangled phone for his girlfriend and the triumphant mutiny of the rest of the passengers. I can't do it justice, you have to go see for yourself. Tell him amanda says hi.

The next day was a train trip to Aberdeen for the first show and I savored the Scottish countryside and the clickityclacking train sound that I love so much. I love trains. I love airplanes, but I love trains more, because you can move around in them more and there's more things outside to watch. But I love both. Testaments to what's left of a civilized society. The Show Itself was nerve-wracking but I played well and people, who came out in good numbers, seemed totally into it. There is a part of me that feels amputated without brian, even though there is a sense of freedom. I wasn't a solo player for long enough to really have the right perspective, and playing solo has always felt like it's somehow not legitimate. I think this trip pretty much erradicated that feeling. I attacked the piano with a ferocious determination and ignored the fact that my left hand was unsupported by the thump of the bass drum and that I had no-one on stage to communicate with. I communicated directly to the audience instead and it felt even more personal than usual...sonically and emotionally naked. I fell asleep thrilled and exhausted and we caught a train back to Edinburgh the next morning.

I ran straight over to Mr Andy's for a final rehearsal of trumpet and tap-dancing and when I got there found more friend-of-friends, so what was once to be a tap-dancing a trumpet version of Coin-Operated boy turned into a full schedule of collaborations that included "amsterdam" with Mr Andy on upright bass and new friend-of-friend-of-friend Mr Nathaniel on guitar and what the hell we arranged a whole new song from scratch that Mr. Nathaniel had written, called "Hold Me". It was a sort of old-timey ditty a la "honey pie" by the beatles and the lyrics were written from the point of view of the last man on earth who has survived the Apocolytic Reign Of Fire to find that he is the only survivor, except for one monkey and an all-girls choir. We added a breakdown in the middle that involved me playing the piano with my left hand and strumming the guitar with my right, while Mr. Nathaniel played the frets with his left hand and used his free hand to slap Ms Ruby's ass in time with the music (while she tap-danced wildy, of course), and she in turn played the strings of the Upright Bass with her right hand while Mr. Andy used his free hand to take a trumpet solo. If it sounds confusing, it was. But it was beautiful.

We had been offered a slot at the all-night Bongo Club cabaret by a friend of an ex-girlfriend of a friend of a friend of a friend, so we decided to meet there later that night. I told them I would try to bring Regina (The Ms. Regina Spektor), who had a show scheduled that night. She and I met up for lunch before her soundcheck and I brought her to the forest cafe, which i had discovered a few nights earlier (on recommendation from a great band i met called terrafolk - www.terrafolk.org - who played super-tight gypsy covers of beethoven and van halen). it was a classic anarcho-punk co-op cafe with a big leaf-and-branch-filled room for sitting and the most delicious vegetarian food. we ate and got good green tea and shared stories and woes and then went to her soundcheck and tried a little song together, which we played that night at her show which was, of course, fucking brilliant. regina spektor is a piano-playin-poety-from-another-planet-singin-bad-ass motherfucker. i watched her in complete awe and was bolstered in my opinion that a piano can indeed stand on it's own three legs.

I took Regina over to the bongo club and we stuffed into the overpacked dressing room surrounded by sequined girls and flaming gay MCs before heading down to play. It was very reminiscent of the Old Dolls Days when the PA never worked and the sound was always horrible, but we managed to pull of a pretty good impromptu show. I played a few songs on my own, Regina and I did a reprise of the song that I has sang with her at her show (titled "UH-merica" and a beautiful song it is....) and then my new band took stage and all hell broke loose. After a bit of celebrating and meeting many new people (a bunch of regina's fans came over from her show and were also headed to my show the next day) i called it an early night before I got myself into Beer Related Trouble (i did not have such luck the next night). Goodbye, Regina....i always wish we could be friends all the time, but we're always in different places. That's what this is like.

The next day was Show Day in Edinburgh and I skipped soundcheck (how rock and roll)....to go to the circus. But This was not just any circus. This was the circus that puts them all to shame. This show makes Cirque du Soleil seems like complete pussies. They had their own tent and the show was a cross between Cirque Du Soleil, de le Guarda, beetlejuice, city of lost children, the dresden dolls and amadeus. There was no fixed seating, and the crowd (about 300) was directed to move around the tent floor, and the show took place at every concievable place at all times...at any given moment there might be a girl in a victorian nightgown flying on a trapeze above you while a woman ran flying by you pushing an old baby-carriage filled with apples and soap and ribbons and two men on the other side of you played along with the house band on beer bottles that they would then toast with and drink with maniacal laughter. Meanwhile, the lights were stunning and the atmosphere was just completely electric and twisted and beautiful and tragic and....just epic. I resolved then and there to drag them to the states with every ounce of energy and every penny i could muster to tour with us next year. a complete pipe dream, but who wouldn't want to come see the dresden dolls in a circus tent with the best show on earth as a double bill? c'mon. the website of the company is www.nofitstate.com and the show is called "Immortal2". if you're at the fringe, get tickets now and go see it. they also tour, so check out the dates. send them my regards. I left them a love-letter on the reverse-side of a letter that had fallen from the roof of the tent (with hundred of others, in a snowy letterfall) during the show.

Inspired by my orgasmic circus experience I played an even more maniacal set than the one before, and the crowd was wild and the club sold out. There was a wonderful pair dressed as bloody surgeons with a beautiful doll (they were supposed to be part of a larger "Mandy Goes To Med School" - inspired living installation, but i think the rest of their cast chickened out). The opener (Lapsus Linguae - i can't find a site for them but they opened all three shows) also tore it up. I kept these sets very album-oriented, unlike my solo shows in boston which are usually used as a testing ground for new material. This is sort of a frankenstein of the set i played all three nights, with all the songs smusched together:

Manner of Speaking (by TuxedoMoon)
Modern Moonlight
Missed Me
Bad Habit
Perfect Fit
Coin-Operated Boy (with Ms Ruby on tap-dancing and Mr Andy on trumpet at all three edinburgh shows)
Me & The Minibar
Bad Habit
I want you, but I don't need you (by Momus)
Sex Changes
Such Great Heights (by The Postal Service)
First Orgasm
Lua (by Bright Eyes)
672
Half Jack
Girl Anachronism
Amsterdam (with Mr. Andy and Mr. Nathaniel)
Hold Me (ditto - written by Mr. than)
Truce
Ampersand (yes, the very one)
Hallelujah (by Leonard Cohen)

To top off the night, i got a last-minute invitation to haul my self and the whole impromptu band over the Spiegeltent for a late night show starting at 2 am.

The Spiegeltent deserves a few words. It is a magic place. I saw my first Spiegeltent (which means "mirrortent" in german) when I was at the Adelaide fringe festival in Australia in 2000, shortly before I met brian. I was over there to See The World and try to make some money as The Bride. The business was bad there that year (at least according to all the other street performers, and I barley covered the cost of my ticket) but I saw some great World things and one was the Spiegeltent. There are actually about 20 of these tents in existence, and they travel around parking themselves at festivals and bringing cabaret joy to the people. They are so indescribably beautiful that one should just go look at www.spiegeltent.net (there's a really cool 360-degree virtual tour photo up there), but suffice it to say it is a 1920's-era wooden dance-hall tent bedecked with velvet and mirrors and stained glass. Pretty Much Heaven. There is one top company called The Famous Spiegeltent that book the entertainment and it's always a late-night destination for racy cabaret and amazing music at any theater festival. The staff and bartenders wear gorgeous weimar-cabaret inspired clothes and the whole thing is pretty much an amanda-palmer-wet-dream. so to be invited to play there was a wonderful treat, and i sat down at that shiny black grand piano at 2:15 am with a feeling of bursting joy I can't describe. The tent was full of late-night, drunken, tired, sparkling hazy applause and beauty. People sat down on the dance floor and with my broken and tired voice, I played a few songs and attempted a "Mrs. O", which always sounds better on a Real Piano, and then my impromptu band (by this time someone - at the Bongo Club, i think - had dubbed us "The Cabaret All-Stars") played our numbers and we were finally caned off stage by the management. This is the point where I started to get into Beer Trouble (and Wine Trouble, and a little bit of Cigarette Trouble) and in retrospect, I should have eaten more than just lunch that day. Skipping dinner proved to have been an unwise decision as my little yogacised body was not so Into the idea of all of these liquids, and even though I only drank about 4 drinks over the course of the night it was probably about 3 too many.

Suffice to say the next morning was a little rough but I actually felt pretty good as we caught a ride to our last show in Glasgow and I ate a sandwich to absorb the small trace of Hangover. Evil Sandwich! It made an appearance in my hotel bathroom toilet much later that night, after the show. I think playing a show is a bad antidote for a hangover, I stirred up many emotions (and the sandwich). But playing in the face of adversity, loathe as I am to admit it, always makes for the best shows. Without fail. Facing my guilt about Being Stupid and Not Taking Better Care of Myself gave birth to an Amanda vs. Amanda show and I threw myself into the songs with every little bit of anything I could muster. And it worked just fine. The house was sold out, again, the crowd was fucking incredible, and I left stage and collapsed immediately on a couch and Wizzle needed to pry me off with a spatula to get in a cab back to hotel, where i briefly re-visted my sandwich (evil!) and fell into a sweet slumber. I felt much better in the morning and the flight home was uneventful, save for running into the Bravery at Heathrow. They are the omnipresent Band who we run into No Matter Where We Are. I mean, it's uncanny. They were on their way to Florida and I was on my way to the Tie Rack where I had left my boarding pass like an idiot while buying a scarf.

Brian, like a true friend, picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to Whole Foods (which is like Mecca in the world of the Dresden Dolls, every day at lunch we chant and prostrate ourselves towards the Whole Foods in Austin, TX which is like the mothership that will take us all away when the Man finally takes over the World). He tried on the vintage kilt and jacket I got for him (wicked sexy and no underwear to be authentic, but then again brian would look sexy wearing a dropcloth) and then we went to our old haunt The Lizard Lounge where a great local band that Brian recently discovered, Humanwine, was putting on an acoustic show. I was almost passing out from jetlag but it was perfect music to sit and be exhausted to...a gorgeous combo of guitars and haunting singing (go see: www.humanwine.org). Brian seems to be much happier now that he's Had A Rest.

All in all I give this trip an A. it would have gotten an A+ if not for the Evil Sandwich and the Beer Trouble.

I am so happy to be home and have re-established by relationship with my yoga mat and kettle. no more Beer Trouble until after the record is recorded. she said.

Oh, and for anyone who has ever travelled, ever, or for anyone who hasn't, i highly highly recommend "The Art Of Travel" by Alain de Botton. His previous book, "How Proust Can Change Your Life" is also brilliant. They are both quick reads and sort of humorous yet deeply profound pop-philosophical wanderings that make your soul go "yes! yes! fuck! yes!"

I would also like to publicly state how awesome Dan Savage is for giving us a shout-out in his sex-advice column "Savage Love" (www.villagevoice.com/people/0534,savage,67087,24.html). I've been a huge admirer of his ever since seeing him speak in 1997 and now he's helping us take over the world! I love him. Return the favor and read all of his sex advice, because He Knows.

28 Comments:

alaurazane said...

amazing...glad you had a good time (damn that evil sandwich though)

for me Aberdeen and Glasgow was the best shows i've ever seen.

wish i had seen you in Edinburgh though *le sigh* and got to experince the wonderful fringe damn not havin money either) i'm glad i saw what i saw though..thank you!!!

hope to see you and Brian both in Scotland soon

AZ

4:31 PM  
silky said...

I travelled up from London to see the Glasgow show, and i have to say it was totally worth it!

Of course I was a bit scared that it wasn't going to be as good without Brian (the electricity between the two of you absolubtely blew me away at the Astoria) but it turned into a different kind of show all together. Youre right it did feel like a really intimate show. To the extent where the person next to me actually sat cross-leged on the stage.

And thank you for playing the Ampersand song!

I took some pictures of the show if anyone wants a look, theyre at http://photobucket.com/albums/v290/silktwisteddagger/dresden%20dolls%20250805/

alaurazane - were you the person next to me playing the slappy hand game?

2:42 AM  
azure said...

I just want to thank you for deciding to come over and play the shows solo. I had been super excited at the prospect of seeing you guys a third time, and was all too curious about what a "Dresden Dolls show sans Brian" would be like.
Well, it was trully exceptional. It blew me away.
Amanada, I think it was one of the most fantastic things I am ever likely to witness in my life, ever. Your playing was fantastic, your ease and interaction with the audiance was refreshing, the atmosphere was electric, yet comfortably inviting. It felt so intimate, like a secret shared.

I squealed with joy when you announced "Ampersand". Literally.

Please put it on the album, even if its just a hidden track. It's great. Really. Seal of approval, from the whole audiance.

Oh, and I just want to say a final thank you, as the show in Glasgow, meant that my friend Silky (above), came up to see me, and we had lots of friends fun!

Glad to hear Brian is feeling better and hope to see you both soon!

3:54 AM  
alaurazane said...

^^ hehe i know both of you now ^_^ yes i was the person playin the slappy hand game with that guy.

i've got pictures and a great long review on the message board if anyone wants to check it out

8:47 AM  
A Unique Alias said...

That was a great read, Amanda. I'm thrilled to hear that you experienced the magic of touring rather than the drudgery this time.

Lapsus Linguae can be found online here.

10:32 AM  
Kaighley said...

You know i only actually made this account so i could post back to this message! Amanda you rule, iv seen u live with Brian and that was amazing now iv seen u on ur own and still amazing! The edinburgh show was excellent, my 2nd time seeing you, i saw u in febuary last time u was in edinburgh, when u coming back?

10:44 AM  
Shawn said...

It's cool you made it to the Fringe Fest. A slew of my artsy film buds have been there for the month. (lack of a passport and money kept me stateside) I'm also happy you met up with Regina. She's incredibly gifted and kinda makes myself want to hit the pianos keys to practice more. New York beckons me, so I'll be in town to see her play...and hopefully if the gods of art and inspiration bless me I'll be hanging around to see your show in October. Later -

Shawn

P.S. Thanks for mentioning Nad Navillus in your lost post. It's become my stress relief CD of sorts.

10:50 AM  
a.k.a. Suzie The Freak said...

I was a the Glasgow show, and, in the local parlance, pure dead mental man!
I really enjoyed myself, though I spent most of my time standing near the back hiding behind my hair. (I was wearing a dress covered in safety pins, in case anyone thinks they saw me.) Twas a great experience.
Pity my pal pulled out and my dad had to come with me...

10:57 AM  
crazyjaneski said...

In a perfect world, I would have attended all of these shows. Thanks again for another awesome diary!

12:11 PM  
Gavia said...

Your show in Glasgow was amazing. I was right in the front row, grinning manically throughout, happy that I could FINALLY see the Dresden Dolls perform. I was kind of surprised at the lack of costumed campery, but I'll know to get a group together and prepare for your next show in Scotland!

I'm glad you liked the Edinburgh fringe, even if there were Evil Sandwiches. I go to the festival religiously, and yeah, spiegeltents are love. You can put pretty much anyone in one and make them seem cabaret and cool and fabulous.

Gavia

12:43 PM  
Dres_Head said...

It sounds like you had a good time...Except for the "Evil Sandwich"

I wish I could of seen one of your solo shows, you played very kickass songs, but Europe is a long way from AZ

Im glad Brian is felling better :)

I Love you!
-Jackie-

3:02 PM  
MarcusDeDrakan said...

You were absolutely amazing at Glasgow. I had seen you at Download, and was shouting along to every single word; though it was nice to hear some new stuff!

I may have excessively screamed for you to play Slide, however...

Regardless, you are amazing, even solo and I appreciate you doing the shows so much! MWAH!

Long black coat, slightly mullety hair with 2 t shirts on for anyone who may have saw me, teehee! Was at the far left
Marcus

4:40 PM  
JN said...

Sounds like an amazing trip and some very special shows.

I was at the Lizard Lounge for the HumanWine show on Friday and agree that they are very good and that Brian does indeed look very beautiful in his vintage kilt.

6:22 AM  
Spine Raptor said...

I hope one day to see you and Brian live at a show one day...
But I am locked in California right now, going to college...trying to make it as an actor...or musician...or something in between.

Can't wait for your next album, it will be the next thing to listen to every morning...when I drive my car to work or school.

Right now I am listening to your album 1 and some Journey.

9:56 AM  
sophist said...

i would LOVE to see you and brian do a show with humanwine!! (the full band, too!)

1:30 PM  
sophist said...

This post has been removed by the author.

1:32 PM  
sophist said...

This post has been removed by the author.

1:33 PM  
subconsciouscafe said...

you are having an interesting life...beware them batwinged sandwiches...

7:34 PM  
the taryn said...

i'm glad your trip went well. <3

2:19 AM  
Kizeesh said...

Dang, My girlfriend dragged me home after "Hold Me". And I'd heard, from a friend who had stayed behind, that Hallelujah was played. Which was bad enough being as its one of my favourite songs. But that Ampersand was also played is like salt rubbed into freshly opened shaving cuts.

poo.

Still it was a great gig, Amanda, you looked hot and played like the devil's own hellqueen. I thankyou for an evening well spent.
Hoe you come back soon.

3:50 AM  
bossy ol' mark said...

As always, Amanda, thank you for sharing. Some ride-!

8:17 AM  
kait jarbeau said...

YOU COVERED TUXEDOMOON.

okay. yeah. i love you during moments like this.

8:56 AM  
моѕé вree said...

sorry about the sandwich. that advice column guy is totally right. everyone needs your cd.

11:33 AM  
poprock said...

I was sad that I only got to see the Glasgow show - because as nice as the Lapsus boys are, their hometown fanbase are a shower of ignorant scenester fucks who talked loudly through Amanda's whole show. Bah. Really ruined it for me, and for everyone else I spoke to afterwards.

2:54 AM  
VK said...

Saw your show in Aberdeen. It was so utterly amazing (and well worth the drive up from Southampton!)

Thanks for signing my breasts! My friends were much impressed, and it gave me an excuse to flash everyone I met for the next day (and entice a very sexy friend into the shower to help me clean up)

Can't wait to see you again. I completely love your band, and your CD on repeat was the only thing keeping me awake during finals revision.

7:00 AM  
Riley said...

So, I *attempted* to leave this absolutely fabulous comment earlier about how much I admire your sound and how I just recently heard from you from the actual column you mentioned which I read like a porno I can't put down. Oh, and also how I think your music blends wonderfully with the piano and your voice and all this jazz, but then I realized that I needed a blog to comment. So I ruined that, but here's a new shot, since I went out and made myself a blog just to comment to the female member of The Dresden Dolls.
Hi, I'm Riley. I'm from alaska. I wish you would come here and play and it'll be the best thing that has ever happened to me. (I'm hoping this groveling works!)

Thanks for reading. <3

3:04 AM  
ziggy poptart said...

I have witnessed many live bands over the years, few have created that jaw dropping, hair tingling on the back of the neck feeling that I experienced at the Edinburgh gig. I saw sons and daughters the night before and was feeling under the weather, was even more despondent when I heard Brian was not playing, so I was ready to be disappointed. The support band did not do my hangover any favours and by the time you entered the stage, I really wanted to be in my bed. Then everything changed, you looked nervous and spoke so very softly drawing everyone’s attention. Within 5 minutes I though you were playing just for me, I stood motionless in perfect silence and watched the most entertaining concert I have seen in years. It went so fast, I could not believe the end came so soon, I could have watched forever. I have since searched all the video clips and live footage to see if I could recreate the feeling of awe without success. Thanks for the 90 minutes of sheer brilliance, I look forward to your return to Scotland. I wont compare you to anyone I have seen before, as that would only dilute the performance, it was truly a unique experience. Thankyou

6:09 AM  
wakooooooooo said...

ssiiiggh,

I will NEVER forgive myself for missing you play in Aberdeen.

Instead I had to put on a mask of pseudo 'aaawww' at my cousins wedding.

To be honest I think I got a raw deal.

Come back.

Please.

I'll even buy you a can of Irn Bru (a Scottish soda...if you didn't try it while you were over here, quite frankly you missed the most important part of Scottish culture).

Continue to be wonderful and such,

Joe (from Aberdeenshire,where it's cold and there are sheep a-plenty)

1:03 PM  

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