Thursday night (May 31) in a parking lot behind a furniture store in Brooklyn, Amanda Palmer threw a free party/cabaret to celebrate the one million dollars she received in fan donations on Kickstarter.com to record her next album—a previously unthinkably feat for a label-less artist. Oh, and don't forget that it took her less than a month and her target goal was only $100,000.
Palmer presided over her carnivalesque cabaret with her usual mix of punkish spontaneity and exacting control. She was surrounded by ecstatic fans, her band, author husband Neil Gaiman, people dressed like pirates, a fashion designer, a porn star friend (Stoya, who formerly dated Marilyn Manson) and a webcam which live streamed the whole fete for fans at home to watch.
She briefly serenaded the crowd with her trusty ukulele, then spent the next six hours emceeing the event. She introduced the entire cast of her cabaret to the crowd, from an organ player to magicians, a belly dancer to fire twirlers, whose short performances punctuated the focal point of the bash, which was an on-camera tribute to every one of the 24,883 people who donated to Palmer's Kickstarter fund.
Inside a makeshift structure built from rusty pipes and see-through plastic film (it resembled a human aquarium—check it out below), Palmer and co. gathered stacks of telephone books with the name of every donor written out on each Yellow Page. While songs like Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" and the Beatles' "Money (That's What I Want)" blared in the background, Palmer, her band and a group of volunteers tore out the pages and plastered the donors' names on the static-y plastic for the ever-present webcam to capture.
By the end of the night, the bubble/aquarium was so full of crumpled Yellow Pages that two kids successfully played hide-and-seek in the pile of donor names. Which was adorable.
Before performing an after-midnight concert for certain high-level donors, Palmer treated the hundreds of fans at her block party—not to mention those watching the live stream at home—to something they're plenty accustomed to: Some full-frontal Amanda Palmer nudity.
But first, some bubble popping.
She donned a squeaky balloon dress (see below) that a crafty friend had been working on all night, and invited the crowd to join in a "popping party." "This bubble dress feels very Lady Gaga-esque," Palmer said. "But she has designers who make her dresses, while I put them on in random parking lots. It's very different."
Palmer had been wearing a striped leotard for most of the evening, but when all the balloons were popped, she was left standing in only her birthday suit. That's one way of thanking fans!
After leaving the block party, I thought about how seamlessly Amanda Palmer the savvy businesswoman turns into Amanda Palmer the free-spirited artist. One moment she's laying on her back, kicking around in a sea of telephone book pages for the camera, and the next she's quietly managing the scheduling minutiae of magicians, fire twirlers and other faux-carnies. Seeing her in action at her carnival-cabaret happening was like watching a punkier Marlene Dietrich run her own show with unfailing precision.
The moral of the story: Palmer was right on when she told us in March that Kickstarter was the "obvious next step" in the business of recording and releasing music.