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Watch Amanda Palmer perform 3 songs in a creek bed during SXSW

Amanda Palmer performs a set of songs at a private residence in Austin, Texas, during SXSW 2019.
Amanda Palmer performs a set of songs at a private residence in Austin, Texas, during SXSW 2019.Mary Mathis | MPR

March 16, 2019

As part of The Current's programming during the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer performed songs at a private residence nestled along Waller Creek.

Songs Performed

"The Thing About Things"
"In My Mind"
"Bigger on the Inside"
The first and third songs are on Amanda Palmer's 2019 album, There Will Be No Intermission, available on 8 ft. / Cooking Vinyl. The second song appears on Palmer's 2011 live album, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under.

Song By Song

About this Performance

The residence belongs to the mother-in-law of KUTX program director Matt Reilly — who, coincidentally, used to work with The Current's program director Jim McGuinn when Reilly and McGuinn worked at WXPN in Philadelphia.

The home is in a residential neighborhood that backs up against Waller Creek, which winds its way into downtown Austin — really into the heart of the SXSW experience; for example, Stubb's, one of the showcase locations, also backs up to the creek.

For the overall appeal, we wanted something that gave a sense of place; e.g. outdoors, not in a studio, so when our previous plans fell through (street busking, parks, etc.), our music director, David Safar, reached out to Matt Reilly.

For Amanda Palmer's performance, she was early enough that the sun wouldn't be too bright. She's playing a uke, so we wouldn't have to amplify her and it seemed fitting. While we were recording, she'd say things like, "This is sunny songs by a creek; I'm your host, Amanda Palmer."

But when we were talking it through, she felt the last song she was going to play was too sad, heavy and long to do in the same location, so she spied the creek drainage and said, "In there would be PERFECT!" So we got some burlap bags and blankets to throw down and give her something to sit on while she played her last tune.

     – Brett Baldwin

About Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer began her arts career as an "Eight-Foot Bride," giving flowers and intense eye contact to passersby on a busy street corner. While Palmer has since gone on to write her own music and tour the world, her early days busking gave her valuable experience that has changed her perspective on how to "make it" as a musician.

Palmer played piano and sang in the Boston-based duo the Dresden Dolls with guitarist/drummer Brian Viglione. The pair became known for their "punk cabaret" sound and theatrical performances. The Dresden Dolls toured the world and signed to a major record label, but Palmer soon became frustrated with the steep cuts that the label took of the band's profit, which made it difficult to sustain herself as a working musician.

After becoming discouraged by her record deal, Palmer decided to start releasing her music for free online, asking fans to contribute what they could. In 2012, she launched a Kickstarter campaign for the album Theatre Is Evil with the project Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra. The campaign far surpassed its $100,000 goal, raising nearly $1.2 million, making it the most money raised by a musician on Kickstarter.

Since then, Palmer has used crowdfunding to support her artistic projects (which she describes in the TED Talk "The Art of Asking."). She makes a living through the crowdfunding website Patreon, where fans give monthly donations that Palmer says allow her to "Make what I want, when I want — liberated from commercial interests — by paying me a set amount of money every time I create something."

Palmer has used Patreon to fund her solo albums, including 2019's There Will Be No Intermission. The album, released on March 8 (not coincidentally, International Women's Day), delves into a number of intimately personal topics, from mental health to close relationships and changing familial roles. "It's the most personal thing I've ever made," Palmer told NPR.

In "Voicemail to Jill," Palmer addresses a close friend about to have an abortion. "Isn't it strange how you can never tell / who is in an identical hell," Palmer sings over softly hammered piano keys. "A Mother's Confession" exposes Palmer's fears about being a new mother. On most of the album's tracks, Palmer accompanies herself on piano, creating a soft and sparse backdrop to her expository lyrics.

In his Album of the Week review, Mark Wheat calls the album a "once in a lifetime achievement."

"That's the genius of Amanda Palmer, making universal work that is so darn personal," Wheat continues. "She looks and sounds like a Goddess, handing us wisdom from a very high consciousness, but still humbled herself by how hard real life can be for all of us."

After releasing There Will Be No Intermission, Palmer is embarking on a two-year world tour, which she describes as a "solo piano and storytelling tour" to bring these reflective and cathartic songs to her listeners.

     – Colleen Cowie

Amanda Palmer - official site

Video Credits

Cameras: Nate Ryan, Mary Mathis, Brett Baldwin
Video Edit: Minju Kim, Helen Teague
Audio: Veronica Rodriguez, Corey Schreppel
Production Manager: Erik Stromstad