Dresden Dolls reunite for trio of jaw-dropping shows in Woodstock


Once again I find myself in this familiar, delicious space of having experienced something transcendent and not knowing what to do with myself. Not only that, I experienced it three nights in row. Once, twice, three times a Dresden Dolls show and I loveeee them!

What led to this shows is a long story.Fear not, it’s not my story to tell but I will say this: Amanda Palmer spent most of the pandemic in New Zealand. Brian Viglione’s been doing this, that and the other thing (giving drumming lessons, working with other bands and other cool shit) over the past few years. The last time punk cabaret duo extraordinaire Dresden Dolls played together was five years ago.

They’ve been missed. Indeed like the deserts miss the rain. Sure there are albums and YouTube clips to enjoy but the live show experience, well that’s another enchilada entirely.

But. They’re back. They’re goddamn back. Reunited and it feels so good!

I was lucky that I checked my email (I’m a bit OCD with that tbh) at just the right moment because it enabled me to say eff it and snag tickets to all three shows at the 400-person capacity Colony venue in Woodstock, New York. I mean I HAD TO. I knew I’d want to write about the shows so I frantically bought my tix and will always be thankful I didn’t miss out because it’s extremely rare that I’ll ask to be guest-listed. I fucking hate doing that. I’m a fan first. Always. So with golden tickets in hand, off I went to enchanting Woodstock.

By the time I got to Woodstock, I was tired af but all of that evaporated as I drove by the venue and into the parking lot and saw one of my favorite things: A line of Dresden Dolls fans. We are not normal. We’re all a bit mad and we’re all a bit tattered and torn. Said another way: We’re magnificent.

With steam punk, goth and new wave fashion sensibilities, the in-line chatter was rich and all three nights I made new pals and ran into some old ones. That’s just how it is at Dresden Dolls shows. We understand each other. It’s a thing. Always has been. We listen to each other and help each other and in the online community, the support fans have shown one another has surely saved some lives. I’m not kidding.


The Dresden Dolls played shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10, 11 and 12 and here I am, a handful of days later, still thinking about what I saw and heard.

The set lists on the three nights were fairly similar and my memories are already starting to blur together (in a wonderful way) so I’m not going to attempt much in the way of “on Thursday Amanda said this and on Friday, Brian did that” but rather will try and capture more of an overall take on the combined experiences. We cool?

Every show started with The Doors’ “Alabama Song” playing through Colony’s sound system giving way to Brian and Amanda’s arrival on the stage and launching into “Good Day.”

It’s track one from the 2003 self-titled debut album and goddamn it was glorious to hear it live, toy piano and all! Plus the song reminds me of when I first became a Dresden Dolls fan. Memories, light the corners of my mind…

“So you don’t wanna hear about my good song” sang Amanda as Brian, who can play anything, strummed his acoustic guitar behind the drum kit. The moment he set it down and grabbed his drumsticks we were off to the races and we didn’t stop for two and a half hours. My oh my what a good day indeed (times three).

With the start of the show I was able to exhale and felt the grin on my face widen because one of my favorite bands was playing and the room felt cozy, safe and perfect. The Colony seemed to understand what it has been tasked with. This was not an ordinary band (though, to be clear, few are) and these were not ordinary fans. The Colony’s old bones held us tightly and both the sound and site lines were great. Full disclosure, I opted to not be with the masses on the floor and camped out in the balcony (small, perimiter style one) all three nights which I loved. I could see well and it brought me immeasurable joy to be able to look down and see all of my fellow fans bobbing their heads, smiling and singing.

After “Good Day” it was “Sex Changes,” “Gravity,” “Bad Habit,” “Backstabber,” “Modern Moonlight” and “My Alcoholic Friends.” Each one exquisite, emotional, crazy, turbo-charged and insane on the membrane fucking spectacular. So much so that it took me a moment to realize something.

Amanda and Brian ripped through these seven songs before saying much of anything to us.Why?
Because, in my opinion, they HAD TO. Because we were STARVING and needed nourishment before anything else. We couldn’t wait. And they needed to feed us. They needed to make that kind of primal connection with us. Hello could wait.

This was every once of us at the Colony:

Only after The Dolls made sure we were all satiated did the wine get flowing and the stories, chatter and mayhem begin in earnest.

We all needed not only to be fed, but maybe to be courted a bit. To be assured that order had in fact been restored to the universe and The Dresden Dolls were back in the same room at the same time.

Amanda Palmer at The Colony in Woodstock, New York. Nov. 2022. Photo by Aimsel Ponti
Brian Viglione. The Colony, Woodstock, New York. November 2022. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Amanda and Brian sure did say their hellos, both enthusiastic with their gratitude for us all being there and having traveled far to be there. I was only 4.5 hours away but I heard there was a fan there from Brazil and I met ones from Arizona and California for sure. Then they delved back into that dare I say iconic first album for a quintessential fan favorite; “Missed Me.” It was good to the last drop, last note. The song gathers steam, and angst, as it goes along. Attacks and retreats. Attacks and retreats. Vocals, piano, drums. The holy trinity. Uh-Huh.

Over the course of the three nights, two guests came out and sang “Delilah” with the Dolls and they both SLAYED. I’m referring to Holly Miranda and Veronica Swift. Bravo! BRAVO!

We also heard one new song called “Whakanewha.” Amanda wrote this one as a Dolls song about her time in New Zealand. I hope they record it because holyyyyyy shittttttt.” Funny. Poignant. Complicated. Pure Dolls.

All three shows included a trio of classic Dolls covers and as far as I’m concerned they can play them at every show they ever do forever.

First was Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right” with their friend Manta on bass, Amanda on drums (you read that right) and Brian on lead vocals and red-hot electric guitar.

Slight lyric modification was enthusiastically screamed by EVERYONE:

Your mom busted in and said, what’s that noise?
Aw, mom you’re just jealous it’s the DRESDEN DOLLS!

After this, Brian grabbed his acoustic guitar and Amanda made her way to the balcony where she stood on the edge (semi-safely) and belted out Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam.” I’ve known the song since about 9th grade thanks to an obsession with David Bowie who recorded his take on it 875,734 years ago. When I first heard the Dolls play it in 2017, I died. I still die when I hear them play it. Amanda sings it with gusto and is not shy about spraying fans with beer during it. It works. Trust me on this.

Later on we heard Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Mmmmmm! Entirely satisfying.

As the show started to head into it’s final chunk of songs we all had a feeling some doozies were coming. I mean it wouldn’t be a Dolls show without “Coin Operated Boy.” And I’ll be never be alone. go….

The song makes people happy. It’s quirky and whimsical but also timeless and musically rich. The song is a self-contained circus. But then it hits you with lines line “This bridge was written to make you feel smitten/And with my sad picture of girl getting bitterer.” It’s like five songs on at once. I WANT A I WANT A I WANT A. And live, holy hostess ho hos, it’s a spiritual experience.

This brings us to the final four. The songs Amanda and Brian chose to send us back into our lives with are all ones that made me such a hardcore fan in the first place. These four are not fucking around. These four are everything. And then some.

Never have I ever heard Dresden Dolls play “Half Jack” in the way that I did in Woodstock. {BTW, one of the nights both of their dads were at the show and I had a lovely 15 minute chat with Jack Palmer}.

The studio version of “Half Jack” is six minutes long. Six arresting, haunting, scary, riveting, intense minutes.


The live “Half Jack” was a living,breathing life force. Amanda and Brian didn’t just play the song. They delivered it like a sermon. I was transfixed. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. I was brought inside the song, into it’s chest cavity. I saw its teeth, its lungs, its heart. I saw it all. I heard it all. There was nothing held back. I get chills thinking about it. The heads below me nodding along were right there with me.

It was a put-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done type of experience but guess what? THE SHOW WASN’T OVER.

I still remember my Dolls PRIDE when I was watching an episode of “Weeds” so many years ago and “Girl Anachronism” was used to close out an episode. That song has an urgency to it like few others. 1 2 3 4 !!!!

We all obviously lost our minds.

Then we lost them again during the encore.

“Truce” closes out the 2003 album. This eight-and-a-half break-up juggernaut might be considered a “deep album cut” by some but not by anyone in that room. We sang. We absorbed. We listened as the planet was divided.

“I am the tower around which you orbited
I am not proud, I am just taking orders
I fall to the ground within hours of impact
I hit back when hit and attack when attacked”

I mean Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the end. Unlike the dude at the end of The Last Crusade, Dresden Dolls chose wisely with their last song.

In 2006 the album “Yes, Virginia” was released. They played a bunch of songs from it at these shows but ONLY “Sing” could be the one to end with.

Consider these lines:

“There is this thing keeping everyone’s lungs and lips locked
It is called fear and it’s seeing a great renaissance
After the show you can not sing wherever you want
But for now let’s just pretend we’re all gonna get bombed
So sing”

AND WE DID. Boy did we ever. I don’t know how I didn’t cry all three nights.

And, get this, on night two Brian had something happen with one of his drums (don’t ask me, I don’t speak that language and will sound foolish trying) so in the heat of the moment a decision was made.

He and Amanda walked to the edge of the stage and Brian played the entire song (rather than just the beginning) on his acoustic guitar. He didn’t use an amp and neither of them used a microphone. Instead, we all sang it with them and Amanda fed us lyrics at key moments. I’ll never forger this.

On the third night, everyone on Amanda’s team plus the two dads and a few other friends all stood on stage with them for “Sing.” I wish you could see the smile on my face right now as I sit here like a dope thinking about it.

A new Dresden Dolls will happen. More shows with happen. Have faith. They’re back.






Ponti out.

Dresden Dolls achieve nirvana at The Paradise

I’ll start by saying that the Saturday night Dresden Dolls show at the Paradise Rock Club was one of the best nights of my life.

dolls featured ??
Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione AKA The Dresden Dolls at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA 11.4.17 Photo by Aimsel Ponti

So yes, this is my  review of The Dresden Dolls show in Boston on November 4, 2017.

The story however begins back in February of 2005 because that was the first time I saw The Dresden Dolls live. It was at the tiny Space Gallery in Portland, Maine.  The entire show, professionally shot, lives on YouTube. Sometime when you have an hour and a half, click here and enjoy. I was right up front and it was glorious.

Here’s the thing; I could write thousands upon thousands of words and hit you with a zillion clips, etc. and it still wouldn’t be enough to sing the praises of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls. It’s a long, long story.  But if you’re unfamiliar with them and are curious, do some googling and clicking and when you come up for air, you just might find yourself as spellbound as I am over them.

I am however going to tell you why the show,  which was the middle one of three sold-out nights at The Paradise Rock Club was so significant, so memorable, so satisfying and so completely overwhelming.

It begins with a fellow Dolls fan named Jessica who posted on the show’s Facebook event page something along the lines of  “hey I’m going solo, anyone want to hang out by the stage with me?” I responded with “I’ll be there, let’s hang!” A bit later a Brit named Toby commented that he too would be alone and could he also join us? Of course he could. A few other people chimed in as well. It was hours before the show and I was already having a good time. That’s the thing with Dresden Dolls shows, we all kind of love each other, at least for one night. We’ve got each other’s backs. It’s special. I know that might sound silly but it’s true, it always has been.

And so I joined Toby -who had flown in from London just to go to this show – in the line outside the Paradise about an hour before the doors opened. He was chatting with a woman named Jacque, here from Manhattan for all three shows.  Soon after Jessica joined us.  The sidewalk bonding had begun, a nip of Dr. McGillicuddy’s Mentholmint schnapps was handed to me which I promptly downed (my first one and I dare say it was tasty) and when the doors opened at 7 p.m. the four of us managed to secure spots at the far left of the stage, pretty much in front of Amanda Palmer and with a perfect view of Brian Viglione and his studded Chuck Taylors that I’m very envious of.

Our posse immediately grew by several more people and the show began at twenty past eight when Amanda and Brian took the stage to much hysteria from the crowd and started us off with “Girl Anachronism.” Holy fuck.  My new friends and I started to properly freak out and the freak out continued for just under three hours. The thousand other people who were packed into The Paradise also rode the Dresden wave of ecstasy.  I imagine we all love them for different reasons. First, there’s Brian Viglione. He’s a drumming deity who can play a bunch of other instruments. Watching him play is like watching a kid running wild in a candy store and his skill is without end. Speaking of candy, here he is tossing Starburst into the crowd.

Dresden Dolls drummer and official madman Brian Viglione. Candy throwing action shot by Aimsel Ponti

And here’s Brian doing his thing. He plays with a level of animation and passion that is joyful to watch and listen to. He also has an exceptional sense of fashion. That jacket  kills me. Be sure to check out his other band Scarlet Sails.

Brian drum sticks.jpeg

And then there’s Amanda Palmer.  Palmer is probably the most out there musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a fan of. And I mean “out there” as a massive compliment. She shares more of herself than most and has a heart the size of a small planet. I’ve interviewed her a couple of times through the years for the Portland Press Herald (Maine) and she’s genuine, kind and will pretty much talk about anything and everything.

amanda collage
Here are six photos of Amanda Palmer because I had a really good spot. Taken with my iPhone so they’re not exactly amazeballs but she most certainly is.

Palmer engages with her fans on social media regularly, is willing to be bold in the face of adversity and there’s an unspoken level of trust between she and her fans. She keeps what needs to be kept private and has boundaries like the rest of us, but there’s very little she won’t talk about and if you haven’t read her book “The Art of Asking” yet consider yourself very much nudged. But the thing I love most about Amanda Palmer is her songwriting. No topic is off-limits; abortion, masturbation, sex, love, life, death and anything else you can think of. She’s also an accomplished pianist and when she sings nothing else that’s going on matters much.

The songs she and and Brian recorded for the Dolls’ handful of albums are sacred to me. They’re sacred to many people. This is why they sold out three shows at The Paradise. This is why every time they reunite to play shows we all freak the fuck out and scramble to get tickets.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you may have noticed a running theme, which is the fact that I have a very difficult time sometimes being truly present. It’s complicated. But there are times, like on Saturday night, that I’m able to let go of my worries and be the version of myself that I like the most, the version who is in the moment down to her bones. And OK, fine, I wasn’t driving that night so I may have had a few too many whiskeys thanks to both close proximity to the bar and the generosity of some of my new friends. And also because the show felt like a celebration. Jesus H. Jamesons. Jesus H. Jack Daniels. I had an absolute blast soaking in the show – and the booze – with my friends, singing along, screaming our heads off. And here’s a fun fact; if you were at that show let it be known that it was yours truly who handed Amanda a Jamesons. I mean why wouldn’t I? I was having a hell of a good time and she looked thirsty. Fan to artist moment of appreciation. All good.


The Dresden Dolls’ setlist was 21 songs (give or take) long and I’ll include it below. From album cuts to b-sides to exquisitely well-chosen covers, they chose well (despite not playing my beloved “Jeep Song.”).

As I mentioned, the Dolls hit the ground running with “Girl Anachronism” and kept it up song after song. My personal favorites of the night were “Missed Me,” “Mrs. O,” “Half Jack,” “Backstabber” and “Gravity.” But if I’m going to really nerd out, I’ll say that I loved every song and couldn’t believe how intense, wild, fun and crazy this show was.

They ended with a hardcore super deluxe favorite of mine and I’ll reveal that momentarily.

Now about those covers. Dresden Dolls OWNED Madonna’s “Material Girl” and played the hell out of the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Pop. They invited fans to dance on stage while Brian played guitar, Amanda played drums and everyone in the room sang along with The Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right.” They’re take on PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me” was also spectacular. But the cover that really, really killed me at this show was Ani DiFranco’s “Napoleon,” one of many brilliant songs from Ani’s “Dilate” album from 1996. Hearing one of my favorite bands play one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists off of one of my favorite albums was EVERYTHING.  And then some. Oh and then there’s Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam,” a song I first discovered by way of David Bowie in the 80s. They’ve been playing this one for years and I hope they never stop. It’s a passionate tale of a song and Amanda walked off the stage, up across the balcony and back onto the stage while singing it.  I mean why wouldn’t she?

The first encore song was “Amsterdam” followed by another audience singing every note one; Coin-Operated Boy. And then it was time. I crossed my fingers and held my breath and was rewarded with – we all were rewarded with- “Sing.” This song touches me on almost a molecular level.

These lyrics have never rung more true than they do RIGHT NOW:

“There is thing keeping everyone’s lungs and lips locked
It is called fear and it’s seeing a great renaissance
After the show you can not sing wherever you want
But for now lets all pretend that we’re gonna get bombed
So sing”

And you bet we sang. It was beautiful and human and powerful. It was the PERFECT song to end with. When the show was over my new friends and I said our goodbyes knowing we had just shared something profound. I hope that feeling never wears off.

Here’s my montage of clips shot from my amazing spot. Editing props to Shamus Alley.

Thank you, Brian and Amanda for giving us everything you had last night. Thank you to my fellow fans for being cool and mindful and kind and so into it like I was.

dolls HUG
Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione sharing an end of show hug at the Paradise.
Emotionally drained but happily taken photo by Dresden Dolls fan and nerdy writer, Aimsel Ponti

Here’s the setlist that is based on my notes and one I found online. I’m not 100% sure that this is 100% accurate but it’s pretty close.

Dresden Dolls. Paradise Rock Club. 11.4.17
Girl Anachronism, Dirty Business, Missed Me, Ultima Esperanza, Pirate Jenny, Mandy Goes to Med School, Shores of California, Mrs. O, Gravity, Glass Slipper, Thirty Whacks, Victim, Material Girl (Madonna), Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones), “Fight For Your Right” (Beastie Boys), Rid of Me (PJ Harvey), Napoleon (Ani DiFranco), Bank of Boston Beauty Queen, Backstabber, Half Jack, Amsterdam (Jacques Brel), Coin-Operated Boy, Sing.

Ponti out.