Amanda Palmer at The Warfield, by Joshua Huver

Amanda Palmer (photo: Joshua Huver)

“If you can, you must,” Amanda Palmer said to an intimate TEDx-style solo performance at the Warfield in San Francisco on Friday, May 10. Throughout the night, Palmer returned to that mantra and the power of deeply connecting to each other.

It got heavy. But Palmer is a master at inviting trauma out into the open and making it lighter for everyone. Shedding light on the uncomfortable is part of her job. “If you don’t deal with your trauma it goes down into the basement of your soul and lifts weights,” Palmer told the audience.

Amanda Palmer at The Warfield, by Joshua Huver

The show Palmer is presenting on her There Will Be No Intermission tour is more than four hours long and actually features one intermission, but holds maybe an hour and a half of music. Including a pair of Disney sing-alongs (for The Little Mermaid classic “Part of Your World,” Palmer asks the audience to hear it from the perspective of an unborn fetus), the show largely consisted of new material that she has written in throes of self-doubt and real-world struggles.

In the last seven years between 2012’s Theatre Is Evil and her latest record, There Will Be No Intermission, Palmer's life has been heavy. There has been a heartbreaking amount of death and loss curtailed by marriage and a birth, and whether she's speaking about abortion, trying to connect to the humanity of the Boston bomber, or asking for help, she remains a polarizing figure among music fans.

Amanda Fucking Palmer, as she is affectionately referred to by both fans and haters, gave a lot of her credit to Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette stand-up special as well as the recent Bruce Springsteen one-man solo tour. Seeing The Boss on stage made Palmer reflect on her music collection and her influences. She couldn’t imagine him talking about an abortion in his show. But statistically, it's one of the most common threads that connects women across the world regardless of age, race, or background.

“It was all old British white men. I love them so much,” Palmer admitted of musicians she loved growing up. “But, you know they have a specific set of things that they wrote about.” She described the lyrics as cryptic and cool and indiscernably vague. “You know, certainly they weren’t writing about subjects that were immediately affecting me as a 17-year-old girl in the suburbs of Massachusetts. I had hundreds of CDs but there wasn’t a single song in the collection that could hold my hand going through an abortion at 17 in high school.”

She vowed to be that voice of understanding. If you can, you must.

Not only is she vocal about her own trauma, she's vocal about the effect of receiving stories of other people’s trauma, which she's done through bulletin boards of the early 2000s, MySpace messages, and staying after every show to meet every fan that she can. Over the years, those experiences have been met with an equally deep-seated passion from the other side of the spectrum — condemnations, vitriol, and death threats also poured in. It got to the point where even people that she thought were on her side were telling her she was taking it too far. That’s when Palmer devoted her career to connecting to as many real people as she possibly could, and telling her stories as open and honestly as she could. To shining the light on all of the darkest parts.

Amanda Palmer at The Warfield, by Joshua Huver

But bearing compassion for the worst of the worst has, in her own words, gotten her in trouble. The Irish Times even did a piece in 2015 on how she survived “being the most hated woman on the internet.” On a local level, she became the most hated human in Boston after she wrote a poem trying to identify with 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the brothers involved in the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

“I sort of dared to empathize with that kid who was just caught. Like, what was he thinking? How would it possibly feel to have just fucking done that and just be waiting to be found? This 19-year-old kid was from my neighborhood. I had friends with kids that went to high school with this kid. So I wrote this poem and it happened in a few waves. So the right-wing people, again they were easy to ignore. They were calling me a terrorist sympathizer and a terrible poet and a bleeding-heart liberal and I was used to that. But what was really painful was the people from the left came at me as well. 'This is tasteless. It’s too soon you. Don’t do this. Why are you doing this.' But the most hurtful: ‘We get that you believe in compassion and empathy but you have to understand that we believe that there are people with whom we do not empathize. There are people for whom you do not have compassion. He is one of them and you’ve crossed a line.' I just didn’t agree. We will be crippled by darkness if we don’t have compassion for the heart that is the darkest.”

Taking her career each personal interaction by every personal interaction with a fan or otherwise, Palmer’s unapologetically public journey through life continues. She drops another pin on the timeline here in 2019, giving her another unique way to stay connected to those who need her message while simultaneously holding space as a lightning rod.

Amanda Palmer at The Warfield, by Joshua Huver

“When I started this tour nearly six weeks ago, I had no idea how bad things would get so fast. I don’t know how much you guys have been reading the news but its fucking bad,” Amanda said. “If you’ve got a womb you’re in trouble.”

Thus, this deeply personal album that took seven-plus years to ferment and manifest, arrived perfectly in time to combat a message that abortion and women’s right to choose is being stripped away in states like Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio. Palmer and her fans have rallied around her upcoming performance in Atlanta on Friday, May 17 — the only one she is playing in Georgia — and are transforming it into a major event. From free admission to a wedding ceremony that Palmer herself will officiate beforehand, she continues to offer herself to her fans.

But there was also good news among the harsh realities of navigating life. Amanda Palmer wants to write another Dresden Dolls record.

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