Thor & Friends - Thor is Thor Harris and not the Norse God (nor the old Max's KC performer). If you are like me, you know him from his run with the Swans, who you can see at this same club in about ten days. But before he gears up with the guitar power of the Swans, he has consciously put together a guitar, bass, and drumless outfit to open up tonight (and also back up some of Amanda Palmer's songs). He has a synth player mostly handling the bottom sounds and a viola handling the drone. That leaves himself and two other vibes players to move around to various xylophones. Thor adds a bit of clarinet as well to this intriguing sound. Amanda Palmer even grabs a pair of mallets and joins in. The band began with rhythmic droning pieces, but work in more melodic works. There was quite a bit of complexity here and the band handles it well as a serene ambiance prevailed. Yet it is a setting that kept you quite alert and mentally active with all that was coming out of this band. The Swans unplugged? Not really, but this was an imaginative spin on that concept. Ultimately this was a fine set that would be even more successful in a smaller room.
Noah Britton - In an uncredited appearance, the writer of one of the songs on the new Jack + Amanda Palmer LP made an appearance here to do a couple of songs. Britton's comdey troupe, Aspergers are Us, is appearing at the Kennedy Center tonight. Britton played a deep voiced folk cut that was quite original and then a singalong that showed decent finger style guitar and a nice melody. Sometimes these little interludes are a distraction, but not tonight. This was a fun surprise that went over well.
Jack and Amanda Palmer - I have not seen Amanda Palmer since the Dresden dolls were here many years ago and I was looking forward to something different tonight. She played hostess the whole way through by introducing and playing with Thor early on. She explained the evening and took questions from the audience reminding me of a funny personable Carol Burnett show opening. When her set began, she played a few tunes with Thor & Friends to start things off. Although the crowd was stoked, the tone was set early on with maybe a bit too much repartee with the audience as the first song was stopped four times. It was hard to find too much fault as the set was loose and fun. Then Amanda's Dad comes out with acoustic guitar as they sang duets from their latest album where they chose cover songs from the last 50 years to play together. The voices worked well as Jack seemed like an old folkie and Amanda has a profoundly excellent voice. Still, I would have rather heard more songs and less talking where my brain was led to debate what I was hearing...
"Love is not about perfection, it is fucked up. We are all fucked up, right?" Well no, that sort of generalization for billions of people is as meaningless as saying that it is all about perfection.
paraphrasing... 'This is a Phil Ochs song from 1964 and sadly is still going on today'. Agreed, but again awfully general, since if you talked to anyone who was there, things are radically different. If you expect major problems and bad attitudes to become extinct, well good luck. It is like expecting to win a 'war on drugs' or expecting sin to be eradicated. But hey, a Phil Ochs song is welcome and will be for centuries to come.
I know I am getting picky here, because the atmosphere was fun, but the songs can speak to the big issues better than the performer most times. And yes these are troubling times, but any sort of reading of history should remind you of why people have always been using creative means to get through it all. So long may Amanda Palmer continue with the creative songs she writes and the covers she interprets so well.
Quote of the Night: From Noah Britton in the middle of his successful sing along...
"That's it, make Minor Threat proud."