Amanda Palmer’s heart-stopping, Trump-eviscerating take on Pink Floyd’s ‘Mother’

When I woke up this morning before my alarm the first thing I did was check my phone to see if the MUCH anticipated Amanda Palmer video had dropped yet. It hadn’t.  Two nights earlier I had a dream about the video. One day earlier I had been pretty much beside myself with anticipation. Palmer had been dropping hints about the new video for the past few weeks and some of her posts inferred that the video might be considered controversial by some.

I’ll admit, I was nervous. Was Amanda about to unleash something that would bring her a world of backlash? But then I remembered, this is Amanda Fucking Palmer we’re talking about. If she has something to say she’s going to say it and she’s going to say it intelligently and then she’ll willingly engage in public debate about it. She will not back down but she’ll also hear all sides of something and will participate in a back and forth. And in the end, not everyone loves everything she does and says.  I am not one of those people. I think she’s brilliant and has a heart as big, bold,  messy,  complicated, compassionate, artistic, bloody and authentic as anyone I’ve ever been a fan of. This is in fact one of the things that I’ve long admired about her. Amanda Palmer, like her or not, is as real as they come.

Which brings us to today.

A few hours ago I got the notification that the video was now out in the world. So I put my headphones on and took the deepest breath quite possibly of 2017 and hit play.

Within ONE NOTE I was spellbound. Because Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff, with a cast of several musicians including cellist Zoe Keating had just released their take on Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” identifiable from the very first note. The first thing on the screen is a close-up of Palmer looking on the verge of tears as she sings the lines “Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?/Mother do you think they’ll like this song?/Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls?/Mother, should I build the wall?”

amanda solo

Holy shit. I sat there stunned and felt a hurricane of emotions whirling inside my ribcage.  The hints Palmer dropped in the days leading up to the sharing of “Mother” told us that it had something to do with her disdain for the current administration. But I could have never predicted that she would have chosen such a PERFECT song with which to express it. And let me be perfectly clear, Amanda Palmer is a spectacular songwriter and she could have written an original and it would have likely been epic. But she didn’t need to. The perfect song was already out in the world. She and musician/composer Jherek Bischoff did something incredible with it.

The imagery in the video is startling and tear-inducing and evoked so many things at once.  In it you’ll see children building a wall. You’ll see Melissa auf der Maur. You’ll see Zoe Keating playing her cello. You’ll see Jherek Bischoff conducting a string quartet. You’ll see dancers and actors , including one portraying our current President, creating a piece of work that is difficult to take in with one viewing. I’ve now watched it four times and I’m still discovering new things.

mother collage
Screen shots from “Mother.”

I am not going to tell you how the video ends. You’ll see that in a moment. Some people’s feathers might get ruffled. Not mine. I think it was one of the boldest, bravest things Palmer could have done. My interpretation is that it’s meant as a moment of honest-to-God compassion. A moment of “I know everything is really fucked up right now but I am determined to not let my heart turn black.” It’s edgy. It’s going to make some people uncomfortable. I get that. But I hope people also appreciate the artistic message of it.

I am not going to say this is Amanda Palmer’s finest hour because I know with every drop of blood in my veins there are many more to come. But this is the most extraordinary videos she and her team have ever done. And believe me, between her solo and Dresden Dolls material there is some insanely great videos out there.

By the time I got to the end of my first viewing of “Mother,” I was trembling. TREMBLING. I felt like crying and yet I also felt hopeful. Isn’t that what art is all about?

ALP eye
Yours truly. One take. No “let me get the best angle.” This was the one and only selfie I took, just before sitting down to write.

OK then. Here’s “Mother.”  With endless depths of appreciation to Amanda and Jherek.

Anatomy of an unexpected 7th row experience at the Boston Roger Waters show

So I saw Roger Waters in Boston on Sept. 28, 2017 at the TD Garden.  It was the second night of his Beantown visit and a stop on his Us + Them Tour which began in May. The concert was insane and I’ll tell you more about it in a minute but first this story deserves a moment of backstory which begins with my love for the band Lucius. They’re a four-piece indie-pop quartet with I’ve been all about since their debut full-length album from 2013 called “Wildewoman.  Last year’s “Good Grief” is also tremendous and so is their latest single “Million Dollar Secret.” Lucius is vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig,  guitarist Peter Lalish and drummer Dan Molad.  When you’re done reading this, go check them out. Trust me on this. But what does my love for Lucius have to do with Roger Waters? As it turns out… everything!

I got wind of the fact that Jess and Holly would be touring with Waters  several months ago and have been following the Lucius posts on Instagram  (in particular Instagram stories since rehearsals started and especially since the tour began in May. BTW, do yourselves a favor and follow them post haste @Ilovelucius because their Instagram stories are pure gold. Lots of backstage footage and quick looks into what it must be like to be part of a monumental tour such as this. And once the tour started and I knew there was a Boston date on it, the embers started burning in the back of my mind. But the tickets went fast and ones being sold by scalpers were way gross amounts of money.  Plus, I’m a bit of a seat snob and knew I wouldn’t be happy in nosebleeds at the cavernous Boston Garden. I decided it was OK to miss the show. I was fine with it. But still the embers burned, especially after footage became readily available and I saw JUST HOW BRILLIANT Holly and Jess were singing with Rogers. Again though, I let it go. I just can’t go to EVERY show.

Fast forward to the morning of September 28th. This was a particularly unusual morning as it was the first time I decided to walk to my recently moved office at the Portland Press Herald (day job). It was just under seven miles. For the first half hour or so I had a headlamp on and a bunch of reflective gear. About six miles into my walk and a lifetime later, the sound of a text momentarily interrupted my music. I looked at my phone to see a message from my friend Mary Allen (correct spelling, I know you’re wondering) Lindemann. She had two tickets to the Waters show THAT NIGHT and did I know anyone who might be interested? I didn’t really off the top of my head  but did offer to help her sell them. The tickets were WAY out of my price range (like WAY WAY WAY out).  But then something entirely unexpected happened. She told me she didn’t want them to go to waste. She GAVE them to me. I am going to pay her something soon for them but she took a HUGE loss on these. But that’s just how she is; kind and generous. It was more important to her that the tickets weren’t wasted then to recoup what she paid. I’ll forever be in her debt. I scampered the rest of the way to work, in a state of shock, and reached out to my friend Lee. And when I say “reached out” that means I basically told her she HAD TO go to this show with me.  She realized that resistance was futile and later that day, off we went to Boston.
There’s a difference between seeing on your ticket that your seats are good and actually having an usher bring you to them. At a venue as large as the Garden, which can hold just under 20,000 people for concerts, having a seventh row seat that was, and I’m not making this up -dead center- is insane. It’s incredible. It’s other-worldly. Lee and I looked at other and didn’t really know what to say.  How did this happen? Said more succinctly; What in the actual fuck?

And when the clock struck eight and the show started, Lee and I experienced a concert that, two weeks later as I sit here and finally write, I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It was stupendous. It was powerful. It was everything. Roger Waters was RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Holly and Jess were RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Songs like “Time,” “Welcome to the Machine,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Pigs” “Dogs,” “Money,” “Another Brick In the Wall (Part II & Part III,” “Us and Them,” “Mother” and god almighty, “Comfortably Numb” were performed RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

RW hand on heart
Roger Waters in Boston on 9.28.17 Photo by Aimsel Ponti

Here’s a montage of the clips I shot put together by my tech savvy pal Shamus:

It was one jaw-dropping moment after another all night long for two long sets of music.

The giant, remote controlled inflatable pig that hovered above the crowd and circled the arena during “Pigs” was amazing. The local kids who were on stage during “Another Brick in the Wall” were amazing. The entire band- including guitarist Jonathan Wilson who sang lead on a number of tunes- was amazing. Holly and Jess were amazing. Their vocals blew the roof off the building.

Oh and Waters’ hatred of Donald Trump; that too was amazing. Here’s a collage of photos I snapped of Trump quotes projected onto a massive screen behind the stage with the words “Trump is a Pig” as the finale. I might add that Rogers also took a knee eliciting a wave of boos but an even bigger wave of approval.

trump collage

And when the show ended at 11 p.m. with “Comfortably Numb” we were all showered with pink confetti with one vital word printed on it:

Resist confetti.JPG

I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe that I went to this show. Many of these songs are ones I’ve known and loved most of my life. I mean who doesn’t love “Comfortably Numb?” Who doesn’t love pretty much the entire “Dark Side of the Moon” album? Who didn’t, at one point or another, go through a phase with the soundtrack to “The Wall?” Who hasn’t sung “WE DON’T NEED NO EDUCATION!” at the top of their lungs?  Who isn’t a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl for god’s sake?

As a music lover and writer, this was a night that left me fairly speechless. I had pretty much no time to even get excited about it because it all happened so quickly. There was no build-up. Somehow I woke up extra early that morning, walked to work in the dark, got the text to end all texts and ended up getting home at 2 a.m. after one of the most tremendous concerts I’ve ever seen. It took me three days to fully recover.

Holly & Jess show start
Holly Laessing and Jess Wolfe blowing my mind with Roger Waters in Boston on 9.28.17. Mediocre iPhone photo by Aimsel Ponti

You just never know what’s going to happen. I’m sad my friend couldn’t make the show herself and had to sacrifice her tickets. But I’m sure glad I was the lucky recipient because this show was on a scale I’ve rarely seen. If you’re able to catch a future date of this tour RUN, RABBIT RUN to it.

As for Holly and Jess, they should probably write a book about their experience at some point when their time on the tour is over. And maybe someone’s been shooting a documentary? Here’s hoping. Congratulations to them both for CRUSHING this gig, a truly great gig here on earth.

Ponti out.