Lessons Of The Dead (re-printed from the lefsetz letter)

got waylayed in london today. i lost my passport somehow, and did not realize this until i tried to go through customs to get onto the train to paris for the show.
holly, neil’s daughter, was getting on the train with me, since she’s coming on tour for 5 days to help with merch (how awesome is that???? also, my sister is coming. i can’t wait. girl power party for my birthday.)

she waited outside in the hot british sun for two hours, eating my prop-stash of evelyn evelyn twix bars while i threw myself on the mercy of the american embassy and got a temporary passport.

i am going to make it to the show with about 30 minutes to spare. we. are. ninjas.

still trying to figure out where my passport went and the current theory is that it flew out of my back pocket on the way from dublin to london, out of the van window, and all the way to iceland where it jettisoned itself into the volcano headfirst, combusting in a mighty burst of fiery glory.

anyway: lefsetz……
he keeps saying the same things over and over again, but i keep nodding my head in sick enthusiastic agreement….so hard it almost fucking falls off.
for those of you who don’t know him, bob lefsetz is an idealistic and loudly-opinionated crankster who writes an industry newsletter called “the lefsetz letter”.
if you’re interested in the biz, i recommend subscribing. there’s a lot of repetition, but when he hits it, he hits it.

for god’s sake, read this.

bob wrote:

I went to see the Grateful Dead exhibit at the New York Historical Society.  Thank God I slept late.  Turns out they don’t open until noon.  Finally, a rock and roll museum show!

Not that I’d recommend it.  You see there’s very little there.  It’s kind of like going to Carvel and getting only a dollop, going to In-N-Out and getting a cheeseburger or going to Mrs. Fields and getting half a cookie.  We want the complete ice cream cone, shots and all, a Double Double, enough cookies to fly high above the astral plane on the sugar buzz.  And that’s what the Grateful Dead delivered.  It wasn’t a concert, but an experience.  They played for hours.

And most people didn’t give a shit.

Actually, very few people cared at all for a very long time.  The Dead were famous for playing for free, not only because they believed in the cause, but for the exposure.  The best way to convert new Deadheads was to get them to a show.  One can argue the Dead didn’t make a decent studio album after 1970’s “American Beauty”, but their live show grew their audience. Slowly.  Steadily.  And now we’ve got all the pundits saying to do it like the Dead.  Well, exactly how did the Dead do it?

Not through hit songs.  By time “Touch Of Grey” finally made it to MTV in the eighties, the band had been at it for more than two decades and was already established as a monster touring attraction.  The music was important.  But it wasn’t enough.  What made the Dead an institution was community.  The audience felt like they belonged.  They felt bonded both to the act and their fellow fans.  The Dead weren’t interested in everybody, just those who cared.  And this is much different from today.  When the goal of every band is world domination.  Quickly. Accompanied by bags of money.

It took the Dead years to even make an appealing record.  Their first three albums were stiffs.  Completely.  They only got a bit of traction upon the release of “Live/Dead” in ‘69.  It was the first Dead album that was truly listenable.  Then came the dynamic duo of “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty”, a one eighty in sound, and suddenly the alchemy took hold.  Fans of the records went to see the fully-developed show and were hooked.  And took their buddies.  All in search of a good time.

That’s what the music represented.  Get high, lay back for a few hours and let’s see if we can lift the roof off this joint.  You’re not waiting for the hit.  You’re not amazed by the pyrotechnics. But if the band stands on stage playing long enough, we’re all gonna fall into a groove, you’ll feel it and be transported.

Not that it always went down that way.  There could be hours of lousy music.  But the band was trying.  To create something new and different each and every night.  Miss a show, and you missed a once in a lifetime experience.  So, you had to go.  Just in case.  And while you were there, you met Bobby and Sue, Sally and Dave, like-minded people from all over the country, who too were in search of the elusive experience.  One that only the Dead could deliver.  Especially as years went by and music became slick and expensive, when the money was everything.

And speaking of money, there was a ticket stub from 1994 with a printed price of $25.  I don’t care how many years have gone by since, there’s no way you get to the ticket prices of today. When the promoter and the act are adversaries, when the promoter is a public company and no gig is a transcendent event, just another blip on the cavalcade of revenue producing dates. Bill Graham might have been a motherfucker, but the band respected him, was in business with him.  Today, the goal is to rip off Live Nation.  To be overpaid by AEG.  And if the fan is fucked in the process, well, you can’t sell a record anymore, it’s got to be this way.

But the Dead could never sell a record.  They weren’t even stars by today’s anemic sales standards.  Sure, eventually some of those albums went gold, “American Beauty” even platinum. But it took years and years.  Then again, create something desirable and you can sell it for years.  Is anybody going to want “Poker Face” down the line?  If you believe so, you’ve drunk too much kool-aid, and not the kind Ken Kesey was spooning out.

So, you’ve got to ask yourself, are you selling singles, hits, or a whole oeuvre of music?

The Dead weren’t selling hits.  They seemed unable to write one.  And it wasn’t about the album.  So don’t give me any mishegas about preserving the long form.  But it was more than a track.  You couldn’t distill them down to one three minute song no matter how hard you tried.  How to square “Uncle John’s Band” with “Dark Star”?  Impossible.  Which is why when someone tells you to settle on one sound and stay there you should scratch your head.  Might be easier to sell at first, but down the line, your one-dimensional sound lands you on oldies radio at best, maybe you can play the lounge at the casino, whereas the Dead ended up filling stadiums!

The free music, the tape trading?  That’s been overstated.  Most Dead fans had never heard a live cassette.  But those circulating cassettes did so with such fervor that the legend spread. So if you think the way to emulate the Dead is to give your music away, you’re missing the point, that’s one tiny element.

But, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to give something away.  The Dead did this regularly.  Their fan club was free.  You got sample discs, newsletters and the ability to buy tickets.  In other words, every transaction was not a revenue generating event.  This was about music and life more than money.  And, as a result, the band’s fans thought the performers had their best interests at heart, and responded by not only buying ti
ckets, but creating comics, home made merch and endless artwork.  This is how they evidenced their belief.  So strange in an era where rights holders clamp down on any innovative behavior by fans.  Don’t remix my music, don’t do anything unauthorized.  Maybe I’ll have a contest, with strict parameters, but it’s all got to be controlled.


The Dead were out of control.  They were on an adventure without a destination.  Sometimes leading their fans, sometimes being led by their audience.  They solicited feedback.  They didn’t know exactly what they were doing.  No artist really does.  You can’t plan art, you can only start.

Traipsing through the exhibit, one was struck not so much by what a long strange trip it was, but that it was over, that what the Dead represented is now long gone.  The Dead were the precursor to Silicon Valley.  We used to need to get a new computer, we knew all the specs, now they’re sold at Best Buy for cheap and most people don’t care what’s inside.  It’s a mature industry.

And music is positively over the hill.

First and foremost, everybody wants to get paid.  Not only the labels, but the songwriters and performers.  They want the cash right away, not realizing that the heyday of the late twentieth century might be just that, a heyday, that’s gone, never to return.

Music is free and concerts are events you attend infrequently, hell, who could afford to go once a month, like we used to?

How successful would ecstasy be at $125 a hit.  Imagine if a puff of marijuana cost $75.  You’d still want to get high.  But it would be a rare event, and you’d expect to see skyrockets, you’d expect to have the time of your life.  Ergo all the dancing and pyrotechnics on today’s stages.  Because if you pay that amount of money for a ticket and the show’s not stupendous, you’re beyond disappointed, you feel ripped off!  And you’re not eager to go again.

So blame Universal.  And Live Nation.  And the acts.  But blame yourself too.  Because you no longer want to take a chance, you no longer want to risk going to a less than stellar show. And when you go, you want something akin to “Avatar”, all special effects with a lame story.  Whereas, when done right, music is enough.  Doesn’t matter how the performers look, doesn’t matter if they’re playing in front of a black curtain, if they’re in the groove, it’s transcendent.   But how transcendent can it be if the show’s on hard drive, if it’s the same every night?  That’s a movie, not music.

So, as you can see, we’re screwed.  Everybody’s paying lip service to a bygone era, but not emulating it.  Bands are not willing to follow their own direction, starving until their audience finds them, getting so good that they can’t be denied.  And an audience brought up on music videos wants the show to be just like the clips, or they’re pissed.  Shit, the Dead couldn’t play the same song the same way the following night, never mind a hundred nights straight!

The Dead never had their victory lap, no cover of “Newsweek” and appearance on the “Today Show”, no acknowledgement by the mainstream.  Because they weren’t made for everybody. Just for a small coterie.  But in America, a small coterie can keep you humming along quite well, throwing off a ton of cash, keeping everybody in smiles.

One of the signature Dead moments was a cover tune, in its most famous incarnation, segued into from Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”.

In between, it wasn’t sure where the band was going, but then you realized they were headed down that road feelin’ bad.

If you’re not willing to go down that road feeling bad, you’re not a believer in rock and roll.  The artist has to be able to keep his eyes open as he drives to the next gig, possibly a thousand miles away.  The fan has to wake up hungover and go to work.  And the label has to be willing to throw its hands in the air and realize that it may never get its money back.

But everybody had a very good time.  An extremely good time.  Such a good time, that they want to do it again.  The act wants to play more gigs, the label wants to make more records and the fan wants to go to more shows.  All in pursuit of that peak experience, unique, unavailable anywhere else.

Imagine if every love affair were identical.  That you went to the brothel and overpaid to get your rocks off.  That’s today’s music business.  You come, but you’re not satisfied.  And believe me, one thing Grateful Dead fans were was satisfied.  They felt by pursuing their interest in the San Francisco band they’d be rewarded in a way they were not in work.  They might even acquire a love interest.  And the music would inspire them and keep them warm at night.

That’s rock and roll.  And you see glimpses of it now and again, but it’s mostly absent today.  Because everybody must get paid.  Everybody must get STONED, and you must NEVER FORGET THIS!

YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

RAHHHHHHHH BOB

xxx
AFP
001

p.s
If you would like to subscribe to the LefsetzLetter,
http://www.lefsetz.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1

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  • cirruslvr (aka ShelBel)

    I’ve been a reader of Lefsetz for over a yr now, and I can’t agree with you (or him) more. Yes, sometimes he runs into “flogging a deceased equine” territory, but at least he’s passionate- and he’s only repeating himself because the people who really SHOULD be listening aren’t.

    Hopefully some day I’ll actually get to one of your shows, AFP. I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather see at this point in my life, for the very reasons stated above.

    • mismatchedsocks

      do what you do because it’s what you want to do, not what the record companies/fans/promoters/reviewers…whoever want you to do.
      madonna made music and an image she wanted to make. In the beginning i’m sure she was along for the ride, but i think the majority of her career is what she’s made of it, and more power to her for it.
      i can’t remember the last time i went to a concert that required an arena…or a $100 ticket to get in. between shows like the warped tour, nerdapalooza, and various local music fests, paying that much for one over produced, over choreographed, over hyped, and ultimately underwhelming experience isn’t worth it to me anymore. seeing afp in orlando, with neil there doing a reading from the wkap book, was an experience like nothing you could get from the mega-band shows. and having the opportunity to interact with them afterward…still brings a smile to my face.
      keep doing what you do because it’s what you want to do…the rest of us will continue to be here for you because it’s what we want to do.

  • philoSophie

    FANTASTIQUE.

  • RedIndianGirl

    YOU GO, AMANDA! You get it. This is why I love you.

  • Denise C.

    Amanda you’re so beautifulll!!!! I’m still in shock from the concert of yours I went to last May! You threw cake at me which sounds mean but it was the best thing ever!!!

  • spacedotdotdot

    Insightful commentary is never, ever a bad thing. :)

  • MauraLee

    What a powerful piece. Agree on the whole thing; The music industry can be rather selfish, not giving back the same amount (or even more) than what it’s been taking for the last fifteen years or so. It’s a disappointment, but it’s the freedom of the local artist that keeps most of us sane. To not be molded to the conformity of man-kind’s music taste (meaning: the average human being, listening to the radio on their commute to the office) is remarkable, and it makes people curious. Some of these curious people become fans. The fans create a cycle with this independent music: Fans listen to music, buy tee shirts, wear tee shirts, more people see the tee shirts or overhear a song being played in the car/beatbox/ipod next to them, people grow curious, and so on… It’s all a circle, and we’re all living in the middle of it. This is how it has been, and this is how it shall remain. This is what will thrive: the love for the art, be it music, or even a different medium (painting, photography, etc). Everything is about circulation, like a heartbeat, and everything is just a part of this living thing called ART.

    And it’s absolutely marvelous.

  • always72

    Love love love this article! I am am ex-deadhead and have seen well over a thousand shows. I have seen you and several of your “incarnations” in double digits and am sure this spirit hit home with you! Thanks for posting!

  • ZenJenn

    I wish I could read this to some of my favorite bands…Sadly they speak Japanese and I have no way of communicating with them for longer then about 2 minutes if I’m lucky. -sigh-

  • southcoasting

    Lefsetz does go on a bit, but it’s a great piece. That’s basically why I only go to small local shows, and buy bands putting out their own music on the cheap. Can’t remember why or when I last went to a major gig… altho I am going to see Bob at the Hop Farm in July, but hell that’s something else entirely.

  • marissabee

    Amanda, you are rock and roll.

  • RiverVox

    When worlds collide…spent my 20’s as a deadhead and am now on the AFP punk cabaret bus. Once a freak, always a freak! But seriously, the connection we felt to the Dead, whether real or imagined, is rare and priceless and profound. It was accessible, social and always a unique Experience, not just a packaged product to be consumed. We don’t need a Music Industry. We need people, playing music in a room, singing together.

  • fiducia

    This is why I love you. You’re fearlessly creative. I feel like you’re a friend, though we’ve never met, who travels the world doing really cool shit and sharing it with us as best you can and as openly as you can. I’ve seen the live streams of your shows and YouTube videos of your shows and I’ve bought your CD’s because your music is wonderful but your presence and your charisma and enthusiasm on stage is what makes you utterly unique and transcendent. I admire you SO HARD! Rock on.

  • mark

    I saw the Dead at Madison Square Garden in 1994 & was in a good mood for like nine days afterward. I used to love waiting in line for concert tickets, making tapes, and reading a friend’s Relix magazines. I still love American Beauty and a nice Bandana. Oh & I bought the WKAP DVD direct from “You”.

  • http://www.myspace.com/fedrickk.falco Frederickk

    That’s a great piece, it really is, but I want to become a musician. Does that mean I won’t have a chance? That’s depressing!

  • http://www.iterativearts.com bud latanville

    here-here!

  • stellifera

    this, indeed. he describes the AFP-/Dolls-community. it’s exactly why i love you so much.

    off to sleep now. i’ll say hi tomorrow after the show.

    xx

  • Mia

    Amen to that!

  • EVIL MONEY

    Bob suggets that money is evil.
    Bob suggets that you can’t make “transcendent” music if you have the intent of making money.
    Bob suggets that songs like “Poker Face” are not desirable creations, can not “be sold for years”, and nobody will want them in the future.

    “Poker Face” is dance/pop music and all of Madonna’s music is dance/pop.
    Madonna’s 2009 “Sticky and Sweet” concert tour grossed $222,017,248. Yes, you read that right, 222 BILLION DOLLARS.
    Therefore, Madonna’s dance/pop music was a desirable creation, it has been selling since 1982, and is still wanted in the future.

    The people who listen to Madonna or “Poker Face” may be experiencing that same “transcendence” that Bob gets from the Grateful Dead.
    Every person is unique and every person will like different things and everyone will find “transcendence” differently.
    “Transcendent” music can be made with the intent of making money from it.
    Dance/pop songs like “Poker Face” are desirable creations and probably will be wanted in the future.

    Money is not evil.
    Music made with the intent of making money is not evil.
    People who want to get paid for their creations are not evil.

    • dansemacarbe

      Hey man, I agree with your sentiments here, but that figure 222 MILLION dollars.

      • EVIL MONEY

        I caught that mistake after I hit send. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that I spelled “suggests” wrong three times at the very beginning of my comment. In addition, thanks to the magical “Wikipedia”, I found that Madonna’s “Sticky and Sweet” tour actually grossed a total of $408 million US dollars and she performed to over 3.5 million fans in 32 countries. If Madonna is raking in that kind of dough, Bob must REALLY dislike her, her fans, and her manager.

    • jennifer

      i don’t think he was suggesting those things are evil, but that they are soulless .
      i’ve been listening to madonna since i was little but i can’t afford to go and see her and i suspect
      that if i did,cool as it might be, i wouldn’t feel the same sense of connection and informality i get seeing amanda. amanda comes across as being really genuine and like she’s totally on a level with her audience..there’s no pretence.
      a lot of artists exert a lot of control over their image..it’s not so much about who they are
      but how they are seen. i think part of what amanda is about is having fun and being herself. and she makes that accessible to people by being affordable.
      i don’t believe that being in the audience of someone who is doing it for the money could compare to one where the artist is sharing something they are passionate about.

    • ColorsToDreamIn

      Seems your fruit fell more than a little far from the tree here, bruised, and then rotted. If you couldn’t blink your a$$h*le well enough to see what this commentary was actually about then mayhaps you find someone to explain it to you a little better so as to keep your mental constipation on the DL and stave off the potential of being permanently blinded by this vice you appear to have for drawing diametrically opposed constructs with crude abstractions such as good and evil.

      And what are those, anyhow? Here, allow me. I’ll get the ball rolling for you by building a new frame work for the first, and then let you fill in the rest as you will.

      Good is… ? What you like!
      Evil??? Tricky, tricky, tricky…

      Meanwhile, should you — by the end of your life — still be struggling with the would-be discomfort due in my having come up against you in these trivial matters, good. Though truly, I do hope you’ll have moved past that.

      Lastly, to clarify…

      – Money may or not be evil. Though saying or thinking it is as such certainly wouldn’t be the definitive characteristic which makes it thus.
      – The same goes for music, whatever the intent in its creation. Though if we are to go about judging things based on their intent we’d might as well hang ourselves in the oven, intent on finding peace.
      – Some people who want to get paid for their creations ARE evil. They commit atrocities. Vile, wicked, and disturbed deeds. Some of them (though perhaps far fewer than we’d first suspect) for no other purpose than the shear enjoyment of the misery and suffering inflicted upon those they are committed against. While others (the overwhelming majority, I’d assume) do as such for means of harvesting profit. Ergo, money.

      Now, for what I figure, may the appropriate time for asking yourself if this is what Bob was writing about. Good luck to you.

  • Mesocyclon3

    <3 it! :)
    Saw the Dead in Tampa just before Jerry died :) Made it a life mission, on the bucket list if you will. "See the Grateful Dead play before Jerry vanishes in a puff of smoke"

  • http://gabrielgrub.blogspot.com/ June_Miller

    I’ve come from the school of performance where you give it your all. Your fucking all. It’s called hardcore for a reason. I’ve seen countless bands in the North Bay alone, and only a small handful stuck out. It’s because they were the ones slamming their fists into the broken planks on the stage, strangling themselves with their mic chords, screaming with beet-red faces into the sweaty faces of pimply little angst-filled teens JUST LIKE ME who wanted to feel something surging through them to get them to scream at the top of their lungs about love, life, ghosts, WHATEVER.

    You could tell the authentic from the bullshit every time.

    But I knew those bands were always reaching out to a certain type. Not everyone everywhere is going to listen to those guys. Someone in Jersey might think it’s cheap. Someone in Texas will think it’s queer. And as I got older, it finally dawned on me: Scenes. You hear about it all the time, but it’s not just the punk or the jock or the faggy goth (FOR-FUCKING-EVER) scene, but the North Bay scene, the East Bay, Stockton. LOCALES. Hometown heroes, dude. They’re keeping it local and proud.

    Those are the awesome local bands who will have your support when they do shows, but for the most part don’t mind their day-jobs and stick around town, making this specific sound.

    Then there are bands that are something more like what Lefsetz is writing about, and what you/the Dolls/other oddball acts with very specific fan bases strive for. You’ve attracted these people all sharing these same feelings, but with a bigger performance, bigger sound, bigger message. And they’re still feeling that awesome surge inside themselves, but in bigger numbers. You can earn a bit of a living through your art, like this.

    Being at a concert is definitely about the moment when the act you came to see is playing a song you’ve been wanting to hear them play, live.

    It’s not just about listening to the song.

    It’s about singing along as loud and as awesomely as you can, and seeing how the person who actually does this song performs it. Do they pantomime? Do they just stand there? Do they flail out during that breakdown because that would be SO APPROPRIATE. How does he do the guitar solo? etc.

    So in that sense, you have to admit there’s a visual aspect to concerts that deserves a bit of respect. That’s why I give it up to Gaga: The songs ARE pointless. Come on, “Telephone”? You think I’d normally be listening to songs featuring the lyrics ‘Out in the club and I’m sippin’ that bubb?’ However, after watching what visuals she pairs with her audio, be it music video or otherwise, it makes it more fun to recall, and get stuck in your head. You just start singing it more and more, you think about the images, and then you start to groove progressively more and more. It’s fun. It’s pop.

    Come to think of it, maybe Gaga is the first person to create audio-visual crack.

    I think if we didn’t have to pay $200 for Lady Gaga tickets, and were given some acid, we’d collectively agree it was the best show ever.

    Or freak the fuck out.

    In short, I agree with this letter.

    But I still stand by my fascination with Gaga.

  • ex deadhead

    Go to a small jazz club and see some cat play his ass off.

  • KwanTi

    I’ll need to some time to really mull this over. It is the feeling of community that has brought me back to live music. The Dresden Dolls fell into my life in 2006. Since then I’ve seen every Los Angeles performance of The Dolls or Amanda. (OK, I missed one WKAP Amanda show at The Troubadour, but that was because my dad was in the ICU on life support, and I did get to the ninja gig Amanda did two days before the Troubadour show. Oh, and I still haven’t forgiven him for making me miss Amanda.) I’ve also gone to see other bands. Since 2006, I’ve seen more live shows than I had during the preceding two decades. That’s because of the community I’ve found and experienced with The Dolls and Amanda Palmer, and two other bands (The Lost Patrol and Great Big Sea). It’s that feeling that keeps me coming back.

  • Shakti672

    Well, I’d argue that In the Dark is easily the equal of Workingman’s or Shakedown St. or American Beauty.

    Also I think “The Dead were the precursor to Silicon Valley,” is patently false. The Dead & Silicon Valley grew up together; played together in the sandbox, so to speak. It was early SV, not on the radar for most, but it was there, and equipment developed in Sili Valley helped the Dead being the Dead.

    Other than that, hear, hear!

  • ChuckEye

    Somehow, in some way, we’ve got to get you to Houston on a night when Beans Barton & the Bi-Peds are playing… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXuRYG3HSJQ http://www.facebook.com/the.bipeds
    The band has been playing in Houston, TX for more than 24 years. The first set normally clocks in at 2.5 hours, and the lead singer manages 8 or 10 costume changes, each a different character singing a few songs with a theatrical plot line somehow trying to string them all together into a narrative…

    (one of the rock operas a few years back ended with a cliffhanger… how many rock concerts have you been to that end on a fucking cliffhanger!?!?!?!?)

    Ok, I’m a bit biased, because I joined the band last year, but it’s an amazing show with a dedicated fanbase, and it will never try to get anywhere outside of the Houston metropolitan area because we’re fine being what we are… (and a bit of the patter between songs goes into great detail of how local musicians become the singing snackling treats for the invading spaceships… ’cause who’s going to miss local musicians?)

    But the stuff about the Dead is true. The Bi-Peds go out there and play a four hour show, with a lead singer in his 70’s, and these young whippersnappers come along thinking they’re hot shit because they’ve got a tight 20 minute, 5 song set. We’ll show them real sweat.

    Your only limitation is your own imagination. So dream on…

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/robertbwarren RBW

    I love what the Dead did to live music culture and I love the passion and the verve of this piece. So many salient points hammered home.
    BUT
    It should be noted: Of the many bands that played Woodstock, two refused to go on until they got paid in full. One was the Who, the other was the Dead. Promoter Michael Lang had to fly a helicopter from the site, wake up his small town banker in the middle of the night and get the cash.
    Just sayin’…

  • oldmanmuffinjar

    Bob rules, and is mostly right.

  • Marlee

    It’s really interesting that you posted this letter when you did, and that it was written when it was. After your show at koko the other night I was really thinking about how much of a community you have created as an artist. Now, the Dolls/AFP community was not new to me. Most of my friends are Dolls/AFP fans that I’ve met over the past 5 years at shows, on the box, etc. but for some reason I’ve been thinking about this community alot recently. in thinking about the community the other night my mind automatically jumped to my fathers experience with the Grateful Dead. My dad is a huge dead head to the point that many of my childhood memories have the dead as background music. while my dad obviously has a great appreciation for their music to be able to listen to it all day every day, the one thing I remember him talking about more than the music is the sense of community that he always experienced at their show. Now, Jerry Garcia died before my father felt I was old enough to go to a dead show with him but that sense of community was something I have always searched for when it comes to music. There are many bands that I like and respect but the ones I love are the ones that I feel have created something greater than just a band. The community that I found through the dresden dolls when I was 15 is not so different from the one my father found at a dead show when he was about the same age. And while the music of the dead and the dolls might be vastly different, the communities that these bands have created are not so different in what they strive to do. When it comes down to it we’re really just trying to find art, music, whatever that says what we don’t know how to say. The dead did it for my father and you Amanda have done that for me.

    “But everybody had a very good time. An extremely good time. Such a good time, that they want to do it again. The act wants to play more gigs, the label wants to make more records and the fan wants to go to more shows. All in pursuit of that peak experience, unique, unavailable anywhere else.” For me that quote really sums it all up. Every time I go to your shows I get to have an experience that I can’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s why I go to your shows as often as i can and it’s why my dad goes to see the remaining members of the dead in concert to this day.

    After thinking about this so much I’m interested to see what my dad has to say on the subject. Does he realize the influence he’s had on me without trying? Does anyone else have a similar story? I’m just interested to know. And as always thanks to Amanda for the great blog post!

  • Jef Fluent

    I thouroghly enjoyed your take on the state of modern music !!!!..The sacharine dross peddled these days is not made to last ..only to make the $ long enough to synthetically generate another formula hit !……A REVOLUTION is in order a new musical movement is long over due !! Grunge (for want of a non-marketing term!) was the last REAL music that exited me ! although ther seems to be a new blues/roots based thing happening around the place …and I think a return to the beginning is in order ..Strip it all back ! get back in touch with what rock ‘n’ roll is all about …where playing someone elses song inyour style was seen as a tribute & considered an honour and not theft ! My 15 yr old son is an astonishingly good guitarist/singer and I try to teach him the importance of breaking new ground all the time !!! Culture is essentially mould on the cheese of the existing order and bacteria loves to breed ! Nirvana were a brilliantly talented group of guys ..yet I felt kinda sick when the “Jocks” that beat us up for listening to “that crap” were going to their gigs two years later …The band themselves (Cobain especially) felt this too; and the song ‘In bloom’ says this ….the corporate money machine wore him down..But it was that EVIL wench of a wife {who’s father supposedly had very close Grateful Dead connections} (which is niether here nor there !) that had him killed..(see books by Ian Halperin and Max Wallace.) he was about to collaborate on a project with Michael Stipe completely away from anything he’d done before !!! any ways ..I digress..I enjoyed your pespective and try to keep positive about the state of music these days (the 60’s where a phenomenae in themselves fueled by war& protest, LSD, sexual awakening and the electric guitar !!!…a true social revolution and we owe everyone involved a great deal !!

  • cobra427

    When I try to explain the Dresden Dolls to people I often describe them as having a fan base similar to the Dead and I have been explaining them that way for years. In fact in my opinion the best part of being a Dresden Dolls fan is the people you meet along the way. I have been to over 40 DD/Amanda show all over the US. I even followed almost the entire 07/08 winter tour. Amanda said once in an interview about the Legendary Pink Dots “If I was in some random place and I saw someone wearing a Legendary Pink Dots shirt I was like oh you’re one of me, here are the keys to my car. Anything goes I trust you because you love this music.” When I listened to the interview this struck me, its how I felt about the Dresden Dolls. When I was following them on tour people offered me couches, I picked up people that would ride with me to the next city. There was a complete trust there because that is what the community is. I met many people along the way and I have people all over the US that I keep in steady contact with.

    Another thing that is amazing about DD shows is that no two shows are the same, similar to the dead. I went to a show almost every night for approx two weeks and never got bored. Every night was a new adventure. What new crazy thing are they going to do this time. I cant imagine very many other bands that I could see over and over. In fact when I started tour managing bands I would get so bored after the second show on tour because it was a repeat every night. I guess the DD spoiled me.

    To sum up I completely agree with everything in the letter and most of it makes me think of what I feel when I go to a DD show.

    I also don’t ever go to big stadium shows I find them soulless and boring. I go to concerts as often as possible 4 this month and 3 next month, all good music 15-25 dollar tickets. All of the artist big enough to play on the radio and MTV but small enough to be reasonable. I think this is how it should be.

    Sorry I started rambling, I had an intelligent concise response in my head but it did not translate.

  • Michelle

    I agree with the sentiment and retired from concert attending for the same reasons. I wanted to support the artists. The only other band that hasn’t been mentioned that might also support this theory is The Tragically Hip.

  • Luci

    Hmm.

    Quote 1 from Bob on the Dead:

    “The music was important. But it wasn’t enough. What made the Dead an institution was community. The audience felt like they belonged. They felt bonded both to the act and their fellow fans. ”

    Quote 2 from Johnny on AFP (http://brandnamelabs.com/2010/04/amanda-palmer-at-koko-in-london-2010/):

    “The level of intimacy she raises with her audience never falters and is never shattered. She makes every person feel like they’re in on the joke, part of the family, a necessary component for the total output, not just the receptors.”

    There might be something to that :)

    Also I think the lover/whore analogy is entirely appropriate:

    “Imagine if every love affair were identical. That you went to the brothel and overpaid to get your rocks off. That’s today’s music business. You come, but you’re not satisfied. ”

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