Going on amadea's word, I asked Amanda to play the Middle East gig, and to do a live on air performance at WBRS, where I was producing a thrice-a-week live music series. When we confirmed both dates, I'd never yet heard Amanda's music. I thought I was booking a solo performer, but her email with details for the WBRS show gave the artist name as "The Dresden Dolls" rather than her own, so that's what I listed on our schedule. It was the first time I saw that name; she and Brian had just met a couple of months earlier, I believe.
The Joint, WBRS's weeknight live music series, was open to the public to come to the studio and watch. That night was not mine to engineer, and I wasn't planning to go, but I was working in Waltham so I tuned in when I left work, to catch a few songs on my way home. By the second song I heard, I think, I turned the car around and headed to WBRS instead. Nobody else had come to see the show that night.
Before the Dresden Dolls became a full-time concern, Amanda used to have shindigs occasionally at the house she shares in Boston with a number of other artists. She called them "Box". A Box night would have live bands in the garden, performances of dance and music and films, beautiful and fascinating people, food and drink.
At the last Box (I think it was the last, and I don't remember going to any others after it), Ad Frank was one of the first bands on, in the afternoon in the garden. Ad Frank is loud. So loud, I heard them from well over a block away as I was walking over. Noise complaints, a visit from the cops, and they were asked not to have any more bands in the garden that day. I remember there had been a noise complaint at another Box, but it had come pretty late, near the end of the last set of the night, so it wasn't a big deal. This time, most of the evening's live music schedule got cancelled, and the party moved indoors.
There was a folk band, I seem to remember, in the basement. I watched an intriguing girl dancing in the garden, and we exchanged a few random witty comments. I went up to Michael Pope's apartment to watch his new films. Sometime close to midnight, Amanda went up to the top floor, and I followed. It's a magical room up there, a simulated jungle, with a loft and skylight, curvy cutouts in the floor... and a piano. I sat down by the foot of the piano, and before long, the entire floor of the room was packed with people, sitting listening to Amanda play a long, improvised piano instrumental. I think she might have been surprised, when she finally stopped playing, to see what an audience she'd gathered. Or maybe not. She gestured her friend Erika, who was sitting on the floor, to come up and sing with her - the intriguing dancing girl. A duet of Half Jack.
Amanda looked around the room and asked if we wanted to hear more, and yes, yes we did. What did we want to hear? People started calling out song names. I waited for a lull and said, "Missed Me". It was a very new song, I'd only heard it a couple of times, and it was my favorite. As soon as I said it, Erika squealed, for it was her favorite too. She leaped off Amanda's lap and into mine, and we listened to the song entwined.
Box was on a Friday night; I ended up spending the rest of the weekend on a series of adventures with Erika, and a number of you have met her since. Funny story, I actually had met her a year or more earlier, at a friend's party, where she sang an impromptu harmony with dietrich and amadea ... but she was mostly a stranger at that party, and lost contact with that crowd. I heard the story from her point of view that weekend after the last Box, and partway through I figured out she was describing a party I'd been at.
Amanda Palmer is doing a solo set tonight at the Paradise,
969 Commonwealth Ave, near the Pleasant Street stop on the green line B,
with Elizabeth And The Catapult, and Boston Typewriter Orchestra.
Doors at 7pm, $16, 18+
Coming up: The Onion Cellar, a play featuring the Dresden Dolls, Dec 9 - Jan 13 at the American Repertory Theatre.