Last Night: Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra at Fitzgerald's

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Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra Fitzgerald's September 18, 2012

Rewind: Crowdsourcing or Exploitation? Amanda Palmer's Search For Volunteer Musicians

The Internet is at times simply a giant game of telephone. Something happens, someone comments on it, someone comments on the comment, and so on and so forth. Little things become big things and things that don't matter somehow become the only things that do.

Amanda Palmer decided to conduct an experiment in crowdsourcing musicians. Some musicians consider their time and skills to be worth more than beer and merch. Editors saw the chance for some great headlines. And that's how you get from a blog post by Amanda Palmer to a blog post titled "Who Killed Amanda Palmer's Career?"

Since I've written my own blog on the subject it made sense that I go check out her live show to see if a) see if she had anything new to say about the controversy; and b) check out her Houston-based volunteers.

Those rumors about the end of her career? If Tuesday night's crowd was any indication, those rumors have been greatly exaggerated.

This tour has only been going for about a week now, and watching Palmer and her Grand Theft Orchestra perform felt like checking out a play that was still in rehearsals. While she has interesting ideas on how to present the songs those ideas haven't been fully realized.

At the merch table there, was a box for audience members to leave a note about something bad that had happened to them in their room. Palmer read those cards during the show, recording the bit on her phone so she could play back the audio later in the set. This was an interesting idea but didn't quite work it was hard to hear the audio over the music and her singing.

When she got away from the big ideas and focused on the music itself, the show shined. Because of the theatrical nature of her music she'll always be something of an acquired taste, but it's hard to deny her ability to write a catchy song.

As for the elephant in the room, Palmer did in fact say a few words on volunteerprofessionalishmusician-gate. I don't have a complete transcript with me, but the general thrust of it was that they had been able to pay some of the musicians at other shows and that she appreciates any musicians in the crowd who showed up.

The crowd seemed firmly behind her and how she's handled things, which I imagine will blow the minds of the people who thought this was going to somehow ruin her.

And who were the "professional-ish" musicians she was able to crowdsource here in Houston? None other than four members of Two Star Symphony. Oddly enough they were rehearsing for their own performance later this week so they did not perform with the opening acts.

Their total amount of time onstage? I'd peg it at a max of 15 minutes, but probably closer to ten. Add in the 20 minutes earlier they would have spent with the opening act and you're looking at less than 40 minutes of work, plus the time it took to rehearse with the band earlier in the day.

I doubt that will change anyone's opinion, but in this giant game of telephone, even the smallest facts are important.

Personal Bias: Given my love of crowdsourcing and giving away things on the internet I'd say that I like the idea of Amanda Palmer, which is different from actually liking Amanda Palmer. (Did I mention I wrote a blog about all of this yesterday?)

The Crowd: Lined up around the block, eager to sing along, and mostly polite. The girls outnumbered the boys, but the boys had a juggler among their ranks, so there's that.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I sacrificed a bobby pin to fix that toilet," said the woman who fixed a faulty toilet chain in the restroom. And yes, she did wash her hands afterword.

Random Notebook Dump: Palmer said she spends a lot of time online but that she prefers to be on stage at a show because that's where all the real people are. As the guy from the internet reviewing her show I've yet to figure out if that means I'm real or just a figment of her imagination.

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