As mentioned in my previous post, I was hoping to be lucky enough to win a ticket to the June 4th “Salon” that Amanda Palmer held at Red Star Union here in Cambridge. Well – I was! I found out the morning of the show that I would have a ticket waiting for me at Will Call. It was an exciting show to go to for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was in a teeny tiny venue (capacity ~50); and secondly, it was being broadcast worldwide via webstream. We were essentially the “live studio audience” to make it feel like a real concert. I was impressed with the quality of the crowd – they were both enthusiastic and extremely well behaved. During a four-hour concert with an open bar, having a crowd that is absolutely can-hear-a-pin-drop quiet and respectful for twenty minutes at a time is pretty amazing. I am sure nobody wanted to be “that guy” when we were being watched by thousands of people around the world. 😉
I had never been to Red Star Union before, and it was in quite a strange location. The venue is located in a fancy office building in what is essentially a biotech park, and there’s no obvious signage outside. Very difficult to find if you don’t get really good directions in advance, so be forewarned if you’re going to a show there. Once we actually got in to the venue, you’d never know where you were – it was a cozy little space, with excellent sound and sightlines. They had brought in some full-of-character furniture from home to make it into more of a homey atmosphere.
Amanda explained to us that webcasts work in reverse from regular concerts when it comes to audience – at a regular concert, if you play a really long set, people will start to leave as it gets later and later; but during a webcast, the audience starts small and gets bigger and bigger until the end. I’m assuming this is why they planned a very long evening for us (which we didn’t mind at all!). The whole show was around four hours long. The concept of the concert was a “salon” – not just playing music, but having a variety of performances, discussions, and audience Q&A sessions.
At the very beginning of the show, the webstream was acting up, so AFP sat down at the piano and took some audience requests. This resulted in a lot of talking with the audience and fooling around on the piano – she played Jason Webley’s “Freebird,” tried to figure out the chords for the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” and we had a discussion of “Wichita Lineman” which someone requested and she’d never heard. When the stream was officially up and running, she did some introductions and a couple songs on the ukelele (In My Mind, Dear Old House that I Grew Up In) and then brought out her first guest, Cormac Bride. He did a beautiful song on his guitar, although I unfortunately didn’t catch the name of it. Later in the set he played a gorgeous version of David Bowie’s “China Girl” on the piano. He plays music under the name “Raven Bride” and is doing a concert at Outpost 186 in Inman Square, Cambridge on Monday (June 10). Check out one of his tracks here:
Sarah Borrello was up next with an original song, “Stranglehold,” on the piano, and she was also excellent – her singing reminded me a little of Amy Winehouse. She has a CD release party coming up at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston on June 22, if you want to check that out. You can listen to the song here:
Other guests during the course of the evening included the belly-dancing Superkate; Anthony Martignetti reading from his new book, “Lunatic Heroes”; and Neil Gaiman, who both sang a song with Amanda and did a reading from his new book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” I made a little video of the song they did together – it’s “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” by the Magnetic Fields.
AFP also did about half a dozen more songs, including “The Killing Type” (click to see the official video) and “Trout Heart Replica” from her latest album, and her fan-beloved “Ukelele Anthem” for a closer. We were also treated to fairly lengthy discussions with most of the performers and authors, which was pretty interesting. There was a lot of talk about the creative process and whether there should be any limits placed on art. There were also a lot of fairly random audience questions and a lot of joking around in general.
Overall, I thought the night was a big success. Everyone there seemed to have a really great time, and when I got home I discovered that many of my friends had been watching the webstream and enjoying it from thousands of miles away. They mentioned that they were hoping to do more of these webstreams, and as a test to see if they could raise enough money to pay for it on a regular basis, they decided to have a Pledge Music campaign (click here!) where you can get a high-definition video download, an audio download, and a signed poster, all from this concert. So if you missed it, here’s your chance! I think they are planning to edit it down so you don’t have to sit through an hour and a half of people hanging out on stage and shooting the breeze, but I imagine most of the music and maybe some discussion/Q&A highlights will be included.