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Before she was the lead singer, pianist, lyricist, and composer for the "Brechtian punk cabaret" duo the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer was a Wesleyan University graduate who had been involved in theater for a number of years. After college, she founded the Shadowbox Collective, a group that performed plays as well as street theater. (Palmer herself was a busker who performed as a living statue.) In 2000 she met drummer Brian Viglione; though Palmer could not read music, she formed the Dresden Dolls a year later and became the main musical force behind the group. She also continued to explore other creative avenues, and in 2006 released The Dresden Dolls Companion, a book that featured original art, a history of the band and its first album, and a partial autobiography by Palmer. At the end of that year, the Dresden Dolls performed the Palmer-penned musical The Onion Cellar with the American Repertory Theatre. In 2008 she released the solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer, which featured Ben Folds as both a producer and a performer. After paying tribute to Radiohead on the 2010 EP Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele, in early 2011 Palmer released Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, an album filled with references to Australia and New Zealand and written while on tour there. 2012 saw Palmer working towards the release of Theater Is Evil, her first studio album since breaking ties with major labels following Who Killed Amanda Palmer. The album, which featured collaborations with a group of musicians dubbed The Grand Theft Orchestra, was funded by fans through a campaign on the pledge-based fundraising site Kickstarter. The project's original goal of $100,000 was exceeded tenfold, with over a million dollars in pledges being collected.
Amanda MacKinnon Gaiman Palmer (born April 30, 1976), sometimes known as Amanda Fucking Palmer, is an American performer who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. She has had a successful solo career, is also one half of the duo Evelyn Evelyn, and most recently is the lead singer and songwriter of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.
Life and career 
Palmer was born in New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital, and grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. She attended Lexington High School, where she was involved in the drama department, and attended Wesleyan University where she was a member of the Eclectic Society. She staged performances based on work by the Legendary Pink Dots, an early influence, and was involved in the Legendary Pink Dots electronic mailing list, Cloud Zero. She then formed the Shadowbox Collective, devoted to street theatre and putting on theatrical shows (such as the 2002 play, Hotel Blanc, which she directed).
With an interest in the performing arts, both in music and in theatre, Palmer spent time busking as a living statue called "The Eight Foot Bride" in Harvard Square, Cambridge; Edinburgh, Scotland; Australia (where she met Jason Webley); as well as many other locations. She refers to this line of work on The Dresden Dolls' self-titled CD, with the song "The Perfect Fit":
"I can paint my face And stand very, very still It's not very practical But it still pays the bills"
as well as on the A is for Accident track "Glass Slipper":
"I give out flowers To curious strangers who throw dollars at my feet."
The Dresden Dolls 
At a Halloween party in 2000, Palmer met drummer Brian Viglione and afterwards they formed The Dresden Dolls. In an effort to expand the performance experience and interactivity, Palmer began inviting Lexington High School students to perform drama pieces at her live shows. The Dirty Business Brigade, a troupe of seasoned and new artists, performed at many gigs. The invited costumed characters mingled with the crowd before and during the show, and veteran groups sometimes joined in with a choreographed stage act. Life-sized marionettes, coin-operated boys, living statues, and other undergroundlings greeted fans while circus and burlesque drew the audience into the Dolls' music, creating a participatory atmosphere that allowed the audience to experience numerous types of art simultaneously.
After developing a cult following, the band recorded their eponymous debut album, The Dresden Dolls, in 2002 with producer Martin Bisi (of Indie, Brooklyn, New York fame). They produced the album before being picked up by Roadrunner Records.
In 2006, The Dresden Dolls Companion was published, with words, music & artwork by Amanda Palmer. In it she has written a history of the album The Dresden Dolls and of the duo, as well as a partial autobiography. The book also contains the lyrics, sheet music, and notes on each song in the album, all written by Palmer, as well as a DVD with a 20-minute interview of Amanda about making the book.
In June 2007, as part of the Dresden Dolls, she toured with the True Colors Tour 2007, including her debut in New York City's Radio City Music Hall, and her first review in the New York Times.
July 2008 saw the release of the second Dresden Dolls book, the Virginia Companion. It is a follow-up to The Dresden Dolls Companion, featuring the music and lyrics from the Yes, Virginia...(2006) and No, Virginia... (2008) albums, produced by Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie.
The Onion Cellar and Cabaret 
Palmer conceived the musical/production The Onion Cellar, based on a short story from The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. From December 9, 2006 through January 13, 2007, The Dresden Dolls performed the piece in conjunction with the American Repertory Theater at the Zero Arrow Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While Palmer was openly frustrated with the direction of the show, fan and critical reviews were very positive. Palmer, as part of her solo career, returned to the A.R.T. in fall 2010 for a two-month run of Cabaret, starring as the Emcee.
2010 Reunion Tour 
A reunion tour to selected venues in the United States took place in 2010, starting on Halloween in New York City and ending in San Francisco on New Years Eve.
Evelyn Evelyn 
In September 2007, Palmer collaborated with Jason Webley to release Evelyn Evelyn's debut EP "Elephant Elephant" via Jason's Eleven Records. Their full-length album, Evelyn Evelyn was released March 30, 2010, followed by a worldwide tour.
Solo career 
In July 2007, Palmer played three sold-out shows (in Boston, Hoboken, and NYC) in a rare "with band" format. Her backing band was Boston alternative rock group Aberdeen City, who also opened along with Dixie Dirt. In August 2007, Amanda traveled to perform in the Spiegeltent and other venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, and also performed on BBC Two's The Edinburgh Show. She collaborated with Australian theater company, The Danger Ensemble; both again appeared at the Spiegeltent in Melbourne and at other venues around Australia in December 2007. In June 2008, Palmer established her solo career with two well-received performances with the Boston Pops.
Her first solo studio album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, was released on September 16, 2008. Ben Folds produced and also played on the album. The title is a play on an expression used by fans during Twin Peaks' original run, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" A companion book of photos of Palmer looking as if she were murdered was released in July 2009. Titled Who Killed Amanda Palmer a Collection of Photographic Evidence, it featured photography by Kyle Cassidy and stories by Neil Gaiman, as well as lyrics from the album.
"Strength Through Music," a track from Who Killed Amanda Palmer, indirectly references August Strindberg. The song contains an audio clip of a web cartoon called Strindberg and Helium; the cartoon almost exclusively quotes Strindberg's work.
In Autumn 2008, she toured Europe with Jason Webley, Zoe Keating and The Danger Ensemble, performing songs mostly from her debut solo album. She did most of the shows with a broken foot she had sustained in Ireland when a car ran over her foot as she stepped out into a street.
In April 2009, she played at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
In 2009, Palmer went back to her alma mater, Lexington High School in Massachusetts, to collaborate with her old director and mentor Steven Bogart on a workshop piece for the department's spring production. The play, With The Needle That Sings In Her Heart was inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel's album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and The Diary of Anne Frank. It received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Lexington community and abroad. NPR's Avishay Artsy interviewed the cast in a piece featured on All Things Considered on closing night of the production. Amanda described this process as "what it's all about" in her blog.
Palmer began using the ukulele during a concert as a gag, but soon it became a regular part of her repertoire. Later, she recorded a full album with ukelele accompaniment: Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele. She now sometimes peforms during free ninja gigs in public locations, open to all ages.
On April 20, 2012, Palmer announced on her blog that she launched a new album pre-order on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter project was ultimately supported by 24,883 backers for a grand total of $1,192,793 — at the time, the most funds ever raised for a musical project on Kickstarter. The album, Theatre Is Evil, was recorded with The Grand Theft Orchestra, produced by John Congleton, and released in September 2012.
On November 9, 2012 Amanda Palmer launched the first music video from Theatre is Evil for "Do it With a Rockstar" on The Flaming Lips' website. The video was co-created and directed by Wayne Coyne, lead singer of The Flaming Lips. Subsequent videos were released for "The Killing Type" and "The Bed Song".
Participating with fans on the Internet 
Palmer is noted for her use of the Internet, regularly using the latest innovations to make new fans and connect with old ones. This includes her forum, her blog, use of many free music and social networking sites, fund raising, and direct-to-fan marketing. Her grasp of the evolving landscape of music is epitomized by her successful use of Kickstarter to crowdfund her 2012 album Theatre is Evil.
Dispute with Roadrunner Records, fans' "ReBellyon" 
After the release of her music video for the song "Leeds United," Palmer sparked controversy with a post in her blog. She claimed Roadrunner Records had wanted to pull certain shots from the video that exposed her stomach, because "...they thought I looked fat." After her fans read about this, they posted pictures of their stomachs online with messages to Roadrunner, lyrics, and words of comfort. They then sent their pictures to the record label, and started a website. The fans coined a term for the movement: The ReBellyon, and put together a book, "The Belly Book," of over 600 pictures and stories from fans. The book was sold over the internet to fans all over the world. Pitchfork Magazine and The Guardian were among publications reporting on the controversy.
Partly because of the Leeds video controversy, Palmer attempted to disengage from her contract with Roadrunner Records, going as far as composing and performing a song called "Please Drop Me," which asked the label to free her from the contract.
After a long legal battle between Palmer and Roadrunner, and her repeated pleas to discontinue her contract with Roadrunner, Palmer announced that Roadrunner Records finally released her from their label. Her appreciation was punctuated with another new song: "Do You Swear to Tell the Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth So Help Your Black Ass" as a free download to celebrate her new freedom. She repeated the announcement during an appearance on the Australian music quiz show Spicks and Specks.
"Oasis" controversy 
Palmer's song "Oasis" and its follow-up video sparked more controversy. The song's fictional story deals with an Oasis fan and rape victim who has an abortion. Despite these tragic events, she states that "I've seen better days, but I don't care", and directly after, informs the listener what just happened involving her process of communicating to Oasis through fan mail, first, "I just sent a letter in the mail", then, "Oasis got my letter in the mail", and finally, toward the end of the song, "I just got a letter in the mail." Palmer received an e-mail while she was in the United Kingdom from her label there explaining that "all" of the TV outlets in the country had refused to play the video due to its "making light of rape, religion, and abortion." Palmer, in response, wrote on her blog "I suggested that I might be allowed to play it if I just slowed it way down and played it in a minor key. Think about it. If they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and liliting [sic] piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?"
"I Kissed a Girl" skit 
In December 2008, Palmer performed an anti-Proposition 8 agitprop skit at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles where a Katy Perry look-alike came onstage and began singing her controversial song "I Kissed a Girl," only to be interrupted, kissed, and fondled by Palmer and comedian Margaret Cho. The skit ended with the two binding and gagging "Perry," who is forced into a mock wedding with Palmer, followed by the raising of an anti-Proposition 8 banner. Palmer mentioned, on her blog, the discontent some in the LGBT community had with Perry over her exploitation of their identity in her song "I Kissed a Girl," and said she meant the piece as a protest against Proposition 8.
Crowdsourcing musicians 
On August 21, 2012, Palmer's website announced that she was seeking fans to play with her Grand Theft Orchestra in each city on her 2012 tour. Musicians would be compensated with beer, merchandise and hugs. Angry musicians flooded her website with criticism for hiring musicians without properly compensating them. Raymond M. Hair Jr., president of the American Federation of Musicians commented that, "If there's a need for the musician to be on the stage, then there ought to be compensation for it" while Steve Albini simply called her "an idiot". Palmer defended her action by stating that, although the musicians accompanying her on the tour were paid she could not afford the $35,000 to pay the additional local musicians she wanted to include in local performances. In an interview with the New York Times she said, “If you could see the enthusiasm of these people, the argument would become invalid...They’re all incredibly happy to be here.” By mid-September, Palmer had changed her mind and announced she would pay all the musicians who had volunteered to play on her tour.
"a poem for dzhokhar" 
“then a remarkable thing happened. the people who hated the poem started writing THEIR OWN POEMS, sometimes in sloppy haiku form, sometimes in limerick form, sometimes copying the stream-of-consciousness format of the poem i had posted... and then: someone told me it was national poetry month. and i thought: this is amazing. when was the last time a thousand people argued about a stupid poem? or shared so many poems about something bad that had happened? not any time recently, that i can remember.”
On April 21, 2013, Palmer published a poem entitled "a poem for dzhokhar" on her blog, seemingly addressed to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two men accused of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombings. The poem provoked angry responses from readers who felt it was too sympathetic to the alleged bomber. In a follow-up blog post on April 23, Palmer said that the poem took "about 9 minutes to write", and that much of it was misinterpreted, both by its fans and its detractors.
Personal life 
Palmer resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with other artists in a cooperative named the Cloud Club.
She has identified as bisexual, telling afterellen.com in 2007: "I'm bisexual, but it's not the sort of thing I spent a lot of time thinking about," Palmer said. "I've slept with girls; I've slept with guys, so I guess that's what they call it! I'm not anti trying to use language to simplify our lives." Palmer has also spoken about her open relationships, stating in one interview that "I've never been comfortable in a monogamous relationship in my life. I feel like I was built for open relationships just because of the way I function," Palmer explained. "It's not a reactive decision like, 'Hey I'm on the road, you're on the road, let's just find other people.' It was a fundamental building block of our relationship. We both like things this way."
On her blog, Palmer has stated that she had an abortion at age 17. In the same blog post, she stated that she was date raped when she was 20 years old.
On January 1, 2010, she stated on her Twitter feed that she "might have told [Neil Gaiman] [she]'d marry him but also might have been drunk." On January 15, 2010, Neil Gaiman and Palmer confirmed their engagement in an announcement made to their respective websites. On November 16, 2010, Amanda Palmer hosted a flash mob wedding (not legally binding) for Gaiman's birthday in New Orleans. On January 3, 2011, the couple announced, via Twitter, that they had legally married in a private ceremony. The wedding took place in the parlor of writers Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon.
Palmer practices meditation and wrote an article titled "Melody vs. Meditation" for the Buddhist publication Shambhala Sun, that described the struggle between songwriting and being able to clear the mind to meditate. Palmer has also mentioned her pescetarianism on her blog. She has many friends who are fellow musicians, and frequently performs alongside them, either accompanying them in their performances, or featuring them in her live shows. These performers include Jason Webley, Kim Boekbinder, Unwoman, The Jane Austen Argument, Reggie Watts, Tim Minchin, Mikelangelo, Meow Meow, Neil Gaiman, Paula Henderson, and Zoë Keating.