Music Features

Round Table: How Does Music Survive the Pandemic? (Featuring Amanda Palmer, Adam Doleac, and more)

Amanda Palmer, Adam Doleac, Caroline Romano, Luka Kerecin, and Olivia Castriota share the trials and tribulations of life as a musician in the wake of mass quarantine and social-isolation due to the novel coronavirus

Amanda Palmer, Caroline Romano, Luka Kerecin, Olivia Castriota, Adam Doleac

"I feel like a cross between a minister and a rock star..."

...reports punk singer and activist Amanda Palmer from isolation in New Zealand. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the music community has been in a frenzy of adaptation. Palmer, given her community-focused approach to music, has seen her usual skill-set suddenly become essential for thousands of performers. "So many artists are in need. I want to help them set up Patreon pages, and I want to make sure they feel safe asking for help. It's hard for artists to ask," explains the former Dresden Dolls lead singer and author of The Art of Asking, "I've been collecting people in emotional crisis on the internet since 2002. I'm right in my element. But, boy, does it feel strange."

Pivoting to crowdfunding may now be a saving grace for many acts. The overnight decimation of the live music economy, across all genres, has thrown a question mark over the income of countless performers. "Artists [don't make] money off digital streaming," clarifies Nashville-based country music singer Adam Doleac, "85% of [most artists'] income is live show pay and merchandise sales from those live shows. You're now taking 85% of an income, and it's gone for an undefined period of time."

Adam Doleac Famous COVID Adam DoleacPhoto by Matthew Berinato

"A lot of people don't realize how far 'not playing shows' trickles down. I got all these guys in my band that are no longer getting paid. They rely on that money, they've got families," the Sony/ATV signee continues, "It's whole teams that have been shut down. That's been the hardest part, figuring out how to keep those guys comfortable as we work out how to get through this time."

While signed acts and their support systems are all feeling the squeeze in the wake of the COVID crisis, how do smaller up-and-coming acts fare? "I've canceled shows with Sofar Sounds, live recording sessions with LeestaVall, and planning my summer tour has been put on pause," lists Olivia Castriota, a New York-based R&B singer. "As an independent artist I also finance everything myself [through side jobs]. In a matter of days, all of my Airbnb guests for the next eight weeks canceled and all Bars and Restaurants in NYC went to take out only, so... welcome to unemployment."

olivia castriota covid corona Olivia Castriota

"Without people working and having any significant income all around the world, art and music will suffer tremendously," adds Luka Kerecin, Croatian lead singer of prog-metal band Wings Denied and lecturer and marketing specialist at the United POP Academy. "I was supposed to be in the U.S. in March to play with Wings Denied at SXSW... but that did not happen due to corona." Whilst the recent broadening of unemployment benefits will hopefully help smaller acts in the US, the long term future is still uncertain, especially given the widely-reported difficulties many have had with signing up for unemployment benefits. Festival season, a crucial time for smaller acts, has been all but snuffed out entirely, with name-brand events across the globe canceling or rescheduling and younger festivals facing possible extinction.

However, social distancing has led to the now near-ubiquity of the Facebook/Instagram/Zoom live show. These formerly niche elements in the artist's promotional toolkit have now become a primary method of audience engagement. "I did a show on Instagram last night, [and] we played for more people than we would have played for at the actual show," enthuses Adam Doleac, "I think 45,000 people signed on to watch."

There are also issues related to the almost entirely digital marketplace we now find ourselves in, as pop-artist Caroline Romano points out. "I don't want people to lose the need for live shows," she cautions, "I'm afraid the number of Instagram and TikTok followers an artist has is going to become more important than ever because social media is the only way artists can get discovered right now." With online engagement already becoming a dominant factor in musician's lives (certain managers, bookers, publications, and labels will refuse to even consider talent without a certain baseline level of social media traction), live music was one of the last true equalizing factors.

luka kerecin wings denied covid corona Luka Kerecin of WIngs Denied

These sentiments are echoed by Kerecin. "For my band, Wings Denied, which exists in the more niche genre of prog rock and metal, live shows are the number one way to connect with fans," he details, "Other more commercially friendly genres have it a little easier as they can always pull through with sponsors, radio play, etc. but not being able to play and tour at this moment is a massive challenge for us."

Established artists are also not immune to the toll of the COVID fallout, as Doleac points out. "Bigger acts, Kenny Chesney and the like, they have their [support crew and bands] on salary. They have to continue to pay these guys, but without any money from shows," he explains matter-of-factly, "It's a lot of money going out, and nothing coming in."

Even artists still in high demand, like Amanda Palmer, have struggled with the sudden tectonic shift. "I've been asked to do a billion streams and casts, but I have just barely been able to keep my sh*t together... I feel so overwhelmed," she shares, "I was wrapping up the final week of a year-long global solo piano theater tour when the sh*t hit the fan." Though the singer only had to cancel one show, the timing of the crisis led to her and her family moving into an AirB&B in New Zealand on short notice, a stressful situation for all involved. "The house has a piano. There's internet," she says, reflecting on the positives of the situation, "I'm going to take a few days off for my mental health, and then I'm going to be a streaming machine." In the time since this interview, Palmer has become heavily involved in the Artist Relief Tree, creating the "Art is Alive" artist's resource guide and many more projects.

Amanda Palmer

The digital age being what it is, artists still have it well within their purview to create and release content. "Coronavirus shuts down a lot of things, but new music is not one of them," confirms Doleac, "I've got my EP Famous coming out April 17th, which I'm really excited about."

"I have my biggest project to date scheduled to release early summer," adds Caroline Romano, "It features an artist who I've been a big fan of for such a long time, and it's actually surreal to see my name on the song with him."

Similarly, Wings Denied have an album coming up in the near future. "The final mixes are in the works. Everything was recorded last year," says Kerecin, "Grammy-nominated producer Joel Hamilton (Highly Suspect, Bonobo, Bomba Estereo) is, as you can imagine, an incredibly popular and busy guy, but thanks to the Corona situation, he has managed to find some time to polish the new record and we are incredibly grateful for that."

Olivia Castriota raises an interesting point about the new music cycle in this time. "It just feels like such an inappropriate thing to do [to be overly promotional] at the moment when it feels like America is crumbling. Everyone is losing their jobs and we barely have money to pay rent," she says somberly, "It feels like, why would anyone care about my new release at this moment in time when there are much bigger things at hand?" Though she does go on to add, "I'm hoping to put some makeup and a bra on in the next week and record some new selfie singing videos, but again finding the motivation is hard."

caroline romano covid corona Caroline Romano

The emotional toll and its effect on productivity is certainly not to be taken lightly, with the pressure on indie artists to be an active online presence now stronger than ever. Romano corroborates: "Every pop artist in the world is trying to promote themselves through social media. But, in a time when the entire world is online more than ever, it's so much easier to get lost."

Palmer sees continued output, coupled with compassionate outreach, as the only way forward. "This has always been our job as artists. Connect, connect, connect. And when things get hard and dark, connect harder," she declares with candor, "I've got a whole list of projects in my head: leading meditations and sharing sessions, teaching some yoga, doing collaborative songwriting sessions, chatting to people who are sick…"

Congruously, Kerecin sees the moment as one to seize and reaffirm public appreciation for the arts. "What is everyone doing right now when quarantined? Watching shows, movies, listening to music, watching live-stream concerts," he points out, "I think we all should lobby and push this narrative aggressively in the public space. Otherwise, people will start taking these live stream shows for granted, and none of us want that. There are years of blood, sweat and tears and ton of money and equipment behind every one of those."

lady gaga covid corona WHO world health Lady Gaga

So what does the path forward look like? There is a general consensus that many artists will be using this time to write and build up a reserve of materials for the future. Philanthropy is also on the cards, with megastar acts such as Lady Gaga partnering with the WHO to raise funds for much-needed resources for frontline healthcare workers. Smaller groups looking to bring affirming music concerts to essential workers have also started to crop up online, but, as Doleac points out, the few net positives of the situation are not strictly COVID related.

"I was at home for one weekend the entirety of last year," he explains, "This situation allows artists, or even just like a traveling parent who's always working time, to spend time with loved ones and work on relationships. I've gotten to talk to my family, and see my girlfriend a lot more than I anticipated. It's been a good reset button in that world." Amanda Palmer's social media feed reflects this too, which currently heavily features time spent with her husband, Neil, and son, Ash. "It's a really surreal paradox of existence," she admits, reflecting on the transition from touring life to isolation.

palmer ash covid corona Amanda Palmer and Son Ash in IsolationFrom Amanda Palmer's Instagram

Artist solidarity is also widespread at this point in time. "Most of [my friends] work in the music business, and I know a lot of [them] are struggling at the moment. I'm doing whatever I can to be there through all of this," Caroline Romano says compassionately. Olivia Castriota adds: "I hope this will bring us all closer as a collective. It is really beautiful to see people and companies come together supporting artists."

In typically optimistic fashion, Adam Doleac shares his prediction for the industry's long-term COVID outcome. "I bet we'll all be more busy than we would have been when this starts getting back up," he says, upbeat, "People will be excited to get out to concerts, see shows they've been wanting to see for three or four months. I think in the end it will be a victory for everybody."

When all else fails, come back to what you know, as Luka Kerecin imparts. "Music has been giving me hope," he says, "When the music stops giving you hope in difficult times, that's when you know the world has really gone to hell. I hope I never find myself in such a place."

Support and Follow these artists online!


Olivia Castriota is an independent soul and R&B artist. Her most recent release "Can't Wait to See You" will appear on her EP "I Need a Minute" coming out later this year. Since interviewing for this article she has begun releasing video content via her social media.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

Adam Doleac is a country music artist signed with Sony/ATV. His upcoming EP "Famous" will feature several well-known tracks, including his hit single "Famous", as well as new previously unheard material such as "I Choose Lonely." It is set for release April 17th.

Follow him online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

Luka Kerecin is lead singer and founding member of prog-metal band Wings Denied. Their new album is due out later in the year. He is also a lecturer and marketing specialist at the United POP Academy.

Follow him (and Wings Denied) online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

Amanda Palmer is the former lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, long-time touring punk musician and activist, and author of the bestseller "The Art of Asking". She recently closed her "There Will Be No Intermission" tour, a four-hour-long piece discussing music, abortion, and radical compassion.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Patreon | Spotify

Caroline Romano is solo pop-singer. She has been played on Radio Disney, collaborated with Jacob Whitesides, and shared the stage with the likes of Kelsea Ballerini and Shawn Mendes. Her latest project is due for release in the Summer, and her most recent release "Stream of Consciousness" is available from all music outlets.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify
CULTURE

34 Pop Culture Things We're Most Thankful For This Thanksgiving 2019

We're all counting our blessings at Popdust.

square enix

It's almost Thanksgiving, so here at Popdust we're trying our best to stop dwelling on the fact that our entire world is going to sh*t, and instead, be appreciative of all the pop culture stuff we're thankful for in 2019.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. The Lumineers New Album

The Lumineers

Instant Classic.

2. The constant whining of the Pokemon fanbase on Reddit and Twitter

Pokemon Sword and Shield The Pokemon Company

A week after the launch of Sword and Shield, the angry man-babies are still crying hard.

3. Baby Yoda

baby yoda disney

Even cuter than a whole flock of Porgs.

4. Keanu Reeves still not getting #MeToo'd

Keanu Reeves AFP/Robyn Beck

Keanu Reeves has continued to be infallible.

5. Veterans Day trending spelled wrong

veterans day

A boomer misspelled it "VeTRANS Day." Hilarious.

6. White Men arguing for more representation for White Men

angry white man

If there's one thing all white men have in common, it's constant oppression.

7. Our new writer Keith and also our other new writer Abby

Combos Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Keith brings me Combos to snack on. Abby is also nice.

8. That video of Amanda Bynes confirming that she was sincere about wanting Drake to murder her pussy

Amanda Bynes ABC

This was important to clarify.

9. That none of us got famous for our famous moms paying for us to get into college

Olivia Loughlin CREDIT: ROB LATOUR/SHUTTERSTOCK

We're all failures, but at least we're not Olivia Jade Loughlin.

10. Attack on Titan Season 3

attack on titan kodansha

Attack on Titan still has my vote for absolute best TV season of 2019.

11. The optimistic hope that the FFVII Remake will actually be amazing

final fantasy 7 remake Square Enix

I'M GOING TO RELIVE MY CHILDHOOD.

12. A New Half-Life game

half life alyx Valve

It might be a dumb VR game, but it gives us hope that Half-Life 3 is on the horizon.

13. Fleabag Season 2

Fleabag Season 2 BBC

The second season was somehow even better than the first.

14. Another year without a Toby Keith hit

No matter how bad the rest of the year was, we can all take solace in the fact that Toby Keith doesn't have any hot new songs.

15. Harry Styles

Harry Styles THEO WARGO GETTY IMAGES

Our boy killed it on SNL.

16. A conclusive ending for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

marvel endgame Disney

Mainly though, we're just done with Marvel.

17. That I can bring "OK Boomer" with me to Thanksgiving dinner

OK Boomer Shutterstock

Seriously though, shut your awful, racist boomer family down.

18. Dolly Parton's resurgence

dolly parton

Dolly Parton will always be a national treasure.

19. The Angry Woman Vs Cat meme (the cat's name is Smudge, fun fact)

woman vs cat meme

Meme of the year.

20. The Cats trailer horror

Cats Trailer Universal Pictures

Scarier than any horror movie of the past twenty years.

21. Finding out 21 Savage is British

21 Savage ROY ROCHLIN/GETTY IMAGES

Seriously?

22. That they still play 21 Jump Street and Superbad on TV

Superbad Sony Pictures

Some things never change.

23. Tekashi 69 snitching on everybody

tekashi 69 GETTY IMAGES

Place your bets.

24. FKA TWIGs

FKA Twigs 22nd Annual Webby Awards WireImage

Robert Pattinson done goofed.

25. That Taylor Swift wrote the song Lover all by herself, and then didn't get nominated for a Grammy

Taylor Swift CREDIT: EVAN AGOSTINI/INVISION/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK

She has enough Grammys as is.

26. Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself

jeffrey epstein

Really though. It was an inside job.

27. Ronan Farrow proposing to his husband on a page of his own book

Ronan Farrow NPR

Talk about balls.

28. Amanda Palmer's Antics

James Duncan Davidson

Love her or hate her, at least she's interesting.

29. Dan's brief stint as a beloved ARMY spokesperson

BTS Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

That time when I called out The Hollywood Reporter.

30. The Edne and Mack Feud of 2019

CBD hemp leaves on wooden background, seeds, cannabis oil extracts in jars Getty Images/iStockphoto

CBD is bullsh*t.

31. Victoria's Secret fashion show canceled officially forever

victorias secret

It's about time.

32. A$AP Rocky a point of discussion in impeachment hearings

ASAP rocky trump

We truly live in the stupidest timeline.

33. Vastly improved Sonic trailer

Sonic Trailer Paramount Pictures

Conspiracy theory: They had the original design ready to go all along.

34. The incredible art in Demon Slayer

Demon Slayer Shueisha

Most gorgeous anime of 2019.

CULTURE

16 Unmissable Edinburgh Fringe Shows

The festival may be over, but the #FringeSpirit carries on, and we are here to share a few of our favorite picks from the Fringe festival.

For those of you out of the loop, Edinburgh just finished up being the world's centre of art and culture for most of the month of August.

This happens every year for about three weeks during the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Legendary among the performance community, the festival is a great opportunity to see everything you can possibly imagine in the world of live entertainment. Popdust was at the festival and had the time to see a decent dose of what the Fringe had to offer. Obviously, no one can see everything, and this list (presented in no particular order) is subjective, but here are a few highlights, from the relative unknowns to international hits.

1. Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast

Better known by its acronym RHLSTP (pronounced Ruh-huh-luh-stuh-puh), the podcast is hosted by comedian Richard Herring as he interviews comedians performing at the Fringe. He does so using a trademark blend of sincerity, childish schoolboy humor, genuine insight, and an almost Andy Kaufman-esque disregard for his own public image. Despite his pretense of incompetence, Herring is actually a rather good host, with a knack for getting answers you would never expect out of guests. He usually manages this by asking questions no one in their right mind would ever ask. His recordings at the Fringe are available online via all standard podcasting apps; it's a worthy listen year-round, especially if you are a fan of British stand-up.

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2. Maggie Lalley - Cold Blooded Witch: The Sex Musical

Maggie Lalley's show takes you through her teenage life as a "witch." In these escapades, drawn from twisted and bizarre real-life-experiences, she deals with emotional abuse, overwhelming infatuation, copious sex, and possibly being married to a certain teen actor. She's candid and raunchy, and the show would be ridiculous if it were not also true. As such, it is endearingly open and refreshingly funny.

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3. Just These Please - Suitable

Similar to many sketch shows at the Fringe, Just These Please trade in on their online reputation, having had a YouTube hit earlier this year with a musical sketch about ordering coffee whilst being Irish. Their full show does not disappoint, featuring sketches reminiscent of John Finnemore and other modern comedy greats. With an hour's worth of solid-gold material, you scarcely ever stop laughing in this plucky comedy adventure. Highlights include slow-burn reveals regarding The Grand Old Duke of York, a recurring wordless sketch involving clapping along to the Friends theme, and a very polite discussion of orgies: five-star comedy.

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4. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The ubiquitous short-form improv troupe returned to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer in triumphant form. Featuring veteran members of the British and American cast and hosted by Clive Anderson, the show was exactly what you would expect it to be: short and sweet game-based improv performed to an impeccably high standard.

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5. 44 Inch Chest

Presented by Out of Bounds Theatre, this Guy Ritchie-esque play follows a gaggle of tough London criminals in a back room deciding what to do with an unwelcome interloper. Snappy dialogue and gritty action underscore what is, at its core, a surprisingly sensitive story dealing with fallout from toxic masculinity. With its fair share of laughs and a slew of striking (and sometimes slightly disturbing) visuals, this work shows a lot of promise for the up-and-coming company.

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6. Jamie Loftus - Boss Whom Is a Girl

When people tell you about the Fringe, you hear about shows like this and assume that they are the fantasies of an overactive imagination. Confrontationally weird in content, but held in place by infallibly good comic writing and performance, this is a show you cannot stop talking about after the curtain falls. Loftus plays a fictional female CEO giving a talk about feminism in business to an audience in various states of woke empowerment and bewilderment. In it, she espouses the benefits of her medically unsustainable daily routine, how she definitely did not cause a genocide of DJs, and argues with an increasingly sentient smart-home device.

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7. Erth's Dinosaur Zoo

This is something for all the children (and adults) who love dinosaurs. Erth's Dinosaur Zoo is just a lovely wholesome time. A miraculously patient and funny man with a wonderfully soothing Australian accent walks about the stage for an hour introducing young people to dinosaurs. These dinosaurs are staggeringly well-realized puppets operated by top-notch puppeteers. They feature several well-loved favorites and a couple you may not have heard of. Charming, fun, and informative, this is one of the few shows at the Fringe that ends with you getting a selfie with a triceratops.

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8. Connie Wookey - Denied

A one woman show of exceptional calibre, Wookey tells her true-life stories about a near death experience at the hands of a certain Canadian airline, facing down the American immigration system, and just generally processing life and its madness. It is adroitly funny, featuring off-the-wall song parodies, lethal comic insight and character work, and down-to-earth storytelling that feels unforced and unpretentious. Wookey is a genuine talent, and her show is an absolute gem.

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9. Jimmy McGhie - Ba (Hons)

McGhie comes off as something of a British Joel McHale. He's cutting and playful in his crowd work but never unwilling to poke fun at himself. His show is an hour of incredibly solid stand-up and audience banter, performed by a man who clearly knows how to work an audience. He covers exploits in dating, class perception, and family dysfunction. Perhaps not the most boundary breaking show at the Fringe, but it's an excellent example of a well-honed comic doing what he does best.

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10. Synesthesia - The Musical

A touching one-woman show created by Jillian Vitko, which explores her life through the lense of her synesthesia, a medical phenomena which causes senses to cross-pollinate with one another. Simply presented with one woman and a guitar, it is an hour of songs and confessional storytelling that leaves you feeling melancholic yet hopeful. Her processing of relationships through colors and how this has affected her interactions with romantic partners, family, and more is well-communicated and warmly relatable. It's a welcoming show that pulls back the veil on a condition not widely understood, as explained through the conduit of one person's life.

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11. Moon Walk

Moon Walk is a touching story about the ramifications of male loneliness and emotional disengagement. Two young men living together and in need of each other's friendship are unable to connect until a female roommate joins their home and helps break down the barriers between them. It's a deftly written play full of goofy charm and messaging that more people could stand to hear. Sprutt Theater makes an excellent Fringe debut with strong actors, intelligent plot twists, and an ending that will leave you wondering.

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12. Godley on The Fringe

Janey Godley is a legend of Scottish stand-up. Google her now and you will find video after video of her being astoundingly forthright, articulate, and empathic on subjects ranging from class inequality to political injustice, whilst also being bluntly funny in a way that produces nothing short of respiration-compromising laughter. Her show is classic stand-up, mixed in with a section of live "voiceovers" wherein she overdubs videos from the news and more. It is all desperately funny, and Godley commands your attention from the moment you walk in the room. Literally: Her free show was consistently sold out, so from the moment the audience entered they needed to be told where to sit. Godley naturally took this task upon herself, and it is as funny to witness as anything else in the show.

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13. Men With Coconuts

Men With Coconuts is a musical improv show in the finest long-form tradition. If you're familiar with UCB-style montages, you know how a show like this works. The performers get a suggestion, they build vignettes from it, it's underscored musically on piano, and occasionally flourishes into song. This is a solid crew of improvisers, and their work exemplifies that.

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14. Ej*culation

Part lecture, part performance art, this Finnish piece deep-dives into the world of female ej*culation by way of one woman's quest to achieve it. Eerily scientific at times, uncomfortably personal at others, but all cleanly presented in a format that is at once welcoming and confrontational. You'll learn, you'll laugh…you'll feel a little weird, but you leave with a renewed fascination in human sensuality and the female (and other applicably gendered) body's experience with sex.

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15. Ew Girl You Nasty

Katharyn Henson is something else. The term "shock comic" has such a bombastic, male connotation to it that to use it to describe Henson seems somehow wrong. Her stand-up is shocking but only for the fact that her life is shocking. Her presentation of her own experiences doing meth, eating dog food, and working in a sex dungeon are brilliantly underplayed and matter-of-fact. She then uses this false sense of security to side-swipe her audience and filter in brilliant comic observation after brilliant comic observation. You won't see many comics like Henson at the Fringe or anywhere else.

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16. Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale

Described by author Neil Gaiman as a "haunting oneiric journey" and by punk musician Amanda Palmer as an "explosion of whimsy and color," this new reworking of Alice in Wonderland has people talking. Mixing dance, live music, re-purposed Lewis Carroll text, and a cast of actors all rotating roles in this dreamlike production, it's a trip down the rabbit-hole like you haven't seen before. Removed from now cliched trappings of Disney, Burton, and even its original context, Permafrost Theatre Collective took the classic tale and created something truly curious.

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Of course, this list is far from complete. No single writer, or even publication, could come close to covering all of the impossibly diverse shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Many of them already have outlets for further viewing. Others do not and could use the support of interested patrons. Either way, every single one of the shows listed above had something to offer that set it apart and demanded crowds sit down and bear witness.

MUSIC

Amanda Palmer: No Limits, No Fear, No Intermission

The artist and activist's new show is hours long, consists of excessive grief, and may well be the best thing she has ever done.

"For the first time in my career I unapologetically go for the jugular," says Amanda Palmer of her new show, There Will Be No Intermission.


What else can you say about a piece four hours long — consisting of one woman and two musical instruments — that covers multiple deaths, abortions, a miscarriage, public shaming, and the trials of motherhood? "It's like a stand-up comedy confessional booth," she continues, "It's exhausting… it's also the most rewarding show I've ever played." Performed Saturday to an ecstatic, if eventually emotionally drained, NYC crowd at the Beacon Theatre, this is arguably Palmer's most compelling live set to date.

She begins the night behind her piano, playing a song that swims in melancholy. Of course, this could be said, without being disingenuous, of almost every song on the album. Perhaps this is why Palmer told Popdust: "For fuck's sake, I hope I don't write a record like this again." Whether it's the drawn-out devastation of The Ride, the eulogy that is Machete, or the harrowing sympathy of Voicemail for Jill, you're hard-pressed to find a single track that you could play at a party — at least without thoroughly killing the vibe.

Amanda Palmer at the Beacon Theatre Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos

As the evening continues, she takes longer and longer breaks between songs, telling extended stories that inform them. And thank goodness she does, because not only is she a captivating and compassionate storyteller, but she is able to find levity and wry perspective in situations that cry out for relief. She even calls out her own presentation part-way through, instructing the crowd to yell "Amanda, I'm too sad!" if they become overwhelmed by emotion, at which point she plays the opening chords of Coin Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls. This happened five or six times.

"These songs were therapeutic and medicinal more than anything else," says Palmer in conversation, "I didn't choose this record, it just came out." Each successive musical offering in the show makes this feel all the more true.

The song Judy Blume, and its embrace of the novelist that embraced Palmer at a tender age, sets the evening's standard of intimacy. Machete cuts deep into her grief at the passing of her mentor Anthony. "You'd Think I'd Shot Their Children" finds Amanda trying to explain radical compassion in the face of media backlash. "A Mother's Confession" sees her recounting the shame and pain that dog the day-to-day beats of parenting. She piles it on thick, to put it bluntly, but as an audience member you never feel put upon, you feel welcomed.

On Confession: "It's a folk song. It's three chords and ten minutes, it's not about being flashy, it's just about having a solid delivery system… I can't think of a more accessible song I've written."

Even in her most controversial piece of the night, there is never a feeling of confrontation. Voicemail for Jill, her song about abortion, leaves everything on the stage but never feels gratuitous. Probably because it shows Amanda Palmer doing what she does best: being a catalyst for empathy. The song shuns questions and agendas, forswears party rhetoric and simply puts you in the shoes of a woman on the most difficult day of her life. You feel her grief and heartbreak and fear, and Amanda says the only thing that could possibly make you feel human again in that situation. "You are not alone."

When asked what Amanda would write a Judy Blume book about, she candidly responded "Probably abortion."

It's not a revolutionary take to say that Palmer is even better live than on the album, but here she is so good that the live show improves the album. Like the cast recording of a Broadway musical, it's great to listen to without additional context, but when you have borne witness to the full breadth of the project it becomes so much more. It becomes a visceral journal of the night, an emotional road map to the memory of an incomparable evening.

Amanda Palmer at the Beacon Theatre Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos

Going to see There Will Be No intermission is a heavy experience. No question. It's impossible for it not to be. But whether she is speaking about death, more death, or further subtle variations on subjects surrounding and parenthetically related to death, she is able to find and explore the beauty in the darkness. She speaks in the show about her awe in the face of nature, how birth, miscarriage, and the cessation of life filled her with wonder rather than disgust. Then to push the point home, she sings a Disney song. As one does.

It is an inimitable experience, and few people but Amanda Palmer could do it. Why? As she tells it, because of her Patreon. "I answer to no one. I can write a pop song if I want, I can write folk ballads if I want, I could put out an EDM record if I want, I could write a bunch of feminist essays if I want, I can make a documentary film about ants if I want, I can do anything I fucking want, as long as it's in my power and with my voice. I have this army of 15,000 [Patreon supporters] funding me to express things and shine light."

And on Saturday she shone that light in the Beacon.

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Thomas Burns Scully is a Popdust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Music Reviews

Amanda Palmer Faces The End of the World

Her new album There Will Be No Intermission wrenchingly explores womanhood, fear, and loss

Kahn & Selesnick

There Will Be No Intermission is Amanda Palmer's odyssey.

The album is a melancholic jigsaw, moving through the political and the revelatory with an intimate, theatrical power. Palmer centers the record on the trauma of living in a female body, writing about the stigma around abortion, the emptiness of loss, the guilt of bringing a son into a world that won't ever love him like as she does.

But it's proof of her strength as a narrator that none of this ever feels truly hopeless. The interlude-song structure challenges the listener to imagine the album as a series of movements, with her scintillating voice, dense lyricism, and her magnificent piano work acting as guides through the album's stark orchestral production. Her writing is poetic, but never subtle, and it doesn't—shouldn't—have to be. Palmer sees the world ending in slow motion, a perspective she skillfully reflects and pushes back throughout the album's expanse.

There Will Be No Intermission is a plea for empathy as much as it is a fierce demand for recognition. Palmer writes the personal into the communal and back into herself: "Everything is gonna be just fine," she sighs on "The Ride," but you wouldn't dare mistake that for optimism. It's a decision to live and to keep living. There Will Be No Intermission becomes a celebration of life's heaviness, of the chances she's gotten to make herself new in the face of fear. She, and the rest of us are just here for the ride.



Matthew Apadula is a writer and music critic from New York. His work has previously appeared on GIGsoup Music and in Drunk in a Midnight Choir.


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