If you put the songs of Amanda Palmer's solo career into a random playlist, you will hear a beautiful hodgepodge of piano ballads, ukulele folk songs, and even electro Krautrock parodies. She got her first shot at notoriety as a pianist/songwriter in a punk-rock Tori Amos blender with the Dresden Dolls, where she stretched the boundaries of what you would expect from a piano-based group. Her relationship with the ukulele, though, Palmer told the New Times, started as a joke. "I picked one up before a friend's benefit concert for bands from Iraq. I wanted to do something silly and learned a Radiohead cover on the ukulele. I was smitten with the freedom of being able to walk around a room with an instrument. Being a pianist is like being stuck in a ten-inch corset all your life."
The recent tour sees her playing both instruments with Jason Webley and Jherek Bischoff accompanied by a local string quartet. "We use the show as an excuse for the three of us to hang out, so we hang out onstage. Jason is a junkyard Tom Waits. Jherek is an orchestral composer who is all strings and beauty. Jherek hunts down the string players for each city's show."
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That task that was more difficult for the final show of the tour, a date in Havana, Cuba, where they arranged an all-female Cubana string quartet to join them. "Getting a show in Cuba where they have no internet was difficult. The cosmic timing of his [Castro's] dying right before we play there is not lost on me."
While Palmer had no comment on Cuban politics, she has always been expressive on what's going on in America. She recently tweeted, "IF YOU COME ACROSS AN AMERICAN ARTIST RIGHT NOW WHO HAS NO POLITICAL OPINIONS OR IS AFRAID OF TALKING POLITICS, BE VERY CONCERNED." She pours her left-wing political leanings into her lyrics and also puts her money where her mouth is, donating proceeds for her Key West show to the local ACLU chapter. Lately, though, her lyrics have had an audience of one in mind. "The only song I've written since the election is a lullaby to my 1-year-old son. It wasn't political — unless you want to interpret 'you need to go to sleep' as Orwellian."
She has plans to get back to the writing desk in the future but is looking forward to performing in front of the Floridian and Cuban audiences, hopeful that maybe one of these shows will be the one her toddler son chooses to watch. "I normally bring him to soundcheck if he's not too cranky, but he goes crazy at shows. He can't handle hearing me on the PA while I'm ignoring him. It makes his mammalian brain think, 'My mother is the most giant voice in the world and she can't hear me!'"
A Night with Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley, & Jherek Bischoff. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 11, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; cultureroom.net. 954-564-1074; Tickets cost $25 via ticketmaster.com.