Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review - Amanda Palmer, The Academy and EVERYWHERE

When you attend three concerts in ten days there's a definite period of "burnout", where the idea of standing in a crowded area under the hot sun has absolutely zero appeal. After two massive Phoenix Park gigs last week, I had a touch of the gig blues. And then, of course, I went to see Amanda Palmer, ferocious punk-cabaret artist and Kickstarter pioneer. Amongst other things.

In typical Palmer fashion, the singer began her gig not at 7pm but at 3, outside The Academy, armed with homous, orange juice and a ukelele. The singer's "ninja gig" took place beside The Hags With the Bags on Liffey Street, giving newcomers to her concerts a taste of what was in store. A chirpy beginning from support band Bitter Ruin quickly gave way to the feminist-pop-punk anthem, Map of Tasmania. As the hundred-strong crowd belted out the chorus of "Oh. My. God. Fuck it!" stragglers began to wonder what on earth was going on - Palmer is certainly a spectacle. Standing on the statue armed with only a ukelele, she powered through a quick little setlist that served to pique the interest of newcomers and send die-hards into a spiral of excitement.

Things I am not: a photographer. Pic one of two I took...
Come seven pm, it was time for the support acts - two of which were made up of the Grand Theft Orchestra, Palmer's backing band. Jherek Bishoff and The Simple Pleasure are quirky, classical and discoish all at once - both sets are storming. The real magic occurs when the truly bonkers Palmer takes to the stage, again armed with only her ukelele, and plays a totally unrehearsed, banter-filled set of covers and classics. NWA feature, as do The Beatles and (once again) the infamous Map of Tasmania. Things crank up a notch when her vassist, guitarist and, er, string quartet take to the stage, and Palmer ploughs through a stream of punky, shiny, catchy numbers from her last two albums, "Theatre is Evil" and "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?". Highlights include "Lost", a bouncy song about loss and love, dedicated to a crowd member who recently lost her mother. It's an amazing tune - and even more amazing that Palmer dedicated it to what most artists would look upon as an anonymous fan. Shout out also to Dresden Dolls classic "Missed Me" - sung, in a terrifying, shrieky, cabaret way - while crowdsurfing around the Academy.

Love her or hate her, Palmer is an astonishing live act. I've never seen a set less polished - it seems as though she's letting the crowd dictate what happens. The band chat, and Amanda takes a toilet break halfway through the set. That's not to say the set wasn't electric - just downright bonkers. Songs like "The Killing Type" and "The Bed Song" really benefit from the string quartet, but her rockier songs suffer a little. That goes unnoticed, however, because Palmer is just astonishing live. The raw power of the woman as a performer is enough to take the crowd's breath away, all on her own. Her stories, giggles and intensity totally captivated the crowd, and when she played a new (and remarkably intense) song, you could have heard a pin drop in the Academy.

Palmer is rapidly becoming known for her contreversies, crowdfunding and...well everything but her music. Her set of half covers ("no one can cover Tom Waits!"), covers and stormers from her new album prove that this woman is first and foremost a musician, one that I was privileged to see not once, but twice, in one day.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Legs and the patriarchy

Now that it's what passes for summer, it seems as though you can’t open a magazine without seeing an article about “beach bodies”, “summer pins” and whatnot. I have merrily ignored such articles for the last twenty summers (I said that mostly for dramatic effect. The first eight years don’t really count) but for some reason, this time around I felt a strange guilt creeping in. Not so much regarding the “beach body” – show me a diet that can get rid of my stomach in ten days flat, and I’ll show you a diet that will have me hospitalised – but definitely my legs. I’m not normally self-conscious about them, but then again, they’re usually covered up by gloriously thick black tights. However, I’m terrible in the heat, so the less clothes the better, really. I’d prefer to look ridiculous than to overheat. Or even worse, have to spend our rare lovely days curled up in a pair of thick black tights, overheating.

Gramatically incorrect
Without sounding like a moany self-deprecator, my legs are potentially the worst part of me. I can recognise that without feeling bad about it, but lately I’ve been analysing ‘em and wondering just what I can do to make them look better. I blame the heat, but also the sheer volume of legs that have been on show lately. Skinny legs, fat legs, tanned to perfection. Legs riddled with cellulite shoved into tiny denim shorts. One particular leg that it looked like a shark had attacked. Tattooed legs. Most of all, pale legs – though none, I would argue, so pale as mine. I am milk-bottle. I am computer tan. If you showed a coroner my legs, he’d probably tag me and notify my family. I am paler than pale, scarred with shaving bumps and lumps, and plagued by weird spots that refuse to go away no matter how much I moisturise. Which brings me (sort of) to my next issue.
Shaving is a big deal. Caitlin Moran, somewhat memorably, wrote about it in “How To Be A Woman” (“Take your furry minge to Dublin, I say!”) and it’s something that feminists get slightly up in arms about. To shave or not to shave, that is the question.  Nobody can deny that it’s an absolute bitch to have to do. No matter how expensive my razors are, I always end up lacerated in several places. What’s more, some outcrops of hair simply refuse to be mown down, and I notice them in the middle of Stephen’s Green six hours later. “Damn you, hair!” I think, wondering if Sellotape would take them off. My leg hair is super dark, so believe me, you notice it. But back to feminism…I’ve actually been asked why I shave my legs if I’m a feminist, if you can believe it. I do it because I want to. Because right now, my slightly bleedy legs feel like dolphins.  Who doesn’t want that?! If you don’t, more power to you, you’re not spending a fiver on razors every six weeks.
“But…Áine. Your legs don’t look that much better shaved. They’re still bumpy and now they’ve got cuts all over them!” This brings me to my final argument, the argument that started the blog post: I don’t really care. The previously mentioned magazines very much typify the “typical” woman, assuming she wants beautifully tanned, toned legs. Assuming she wouldn’t look like two-tone chocolate spread if she did use tan. Or worse, freckled.  Because women’s magazines can be such a useful tool for the patriarchy, it’sbetter to ignore them, I find. Newsflash, kids: if anything is telling a woman how her body should be (browner, skinner, more muscular, blonder, sexier…you get the picture) it’s an instrument of the patriarchy, which is there, of course, to PUT US ALL INTO OUR PLACES AS WOMEN. “Woman should look like this!” grunts the patriarchy. “Woman no look like this. This no reachable standard for woman. But trying to look like this keep woman busy and stop her getting into trouble. Fake tan and 5:2 diet keep woman quiet”. It bloody worked, too.

So, I propose a backlash – a proper one.  It is this: we stop buying fake tan. We stop shaving. We let our gorgeous – genuinely, because no matter how pale, freckly, scarred or fat your are, you are inherently sexy – women’s bodies run free. God knows I do. My forays into fake tan have been scary for most, and 9/10 times my legs are not a bottlenose dolphin, but a forest. But when I do shave or tan, or do anything to change my beautiful self, I do it for myself. My legs are mine, in all their awful glory,and I love them. I’m going to show them off, tan-free and just a little bit unevenly shaved. I haven’t done this for Heat! or Marie Claire, and I definitely haven’t done it for the Goddamn Sexist Marketing Campaigns. I’ve done it  because I like dolphins and because I can use my beautifully silky legs to entice men (and ladies) and then teach them all about smashing the patriarchy.