When Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley decided to join together to do a musical project, they decided to literally join together. They created Evelyn Evelyn, conjoined twin musicians, built a story and characters, recorded and released an album, and they’re now on tour together. This show was billed as Evelyn Evelyn with Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley and Sxip Shirey “also appearing.” There’s a point in this absolute pleasure of a three-hour show when Amanda Palmer thanks people for coming to such an odd show, and practically begs the audience to tell their friends in whatever way they can that they should come see the show. I’m game for this; read on to be convinced.
Sxip Shirey opened the show by walking to the microphone, taking out a harmonica, explaining what key it’s in, taking out a second harmonica, explaining what key that one’s in, and then introducing us to his pitch-shifter pedal, making the keys of these harmonicas a complete afterthought. Then he pointed to a table full of odd colorful contraptions, and said “and this is a table full of weird stuff.” He then proceeded to play it all. His songs are a combination of looped beatboxing, whistling, breathing, harmonica jamming, and playing of various self-made instruments. He’s got a music boxes duct-taped together, he’s got a marble and a glass bowl, he’s got all types of bells, and while he’s got the manner of someone making it up on the spot, it’s wonderfully composed. When later he kept being referred to as “the amazing Sxip Shirey,” nobody was arguing.
When he finished his set, he immediately grabbed the microphone to introduce Evelyn Evelyn, and he turned into the MC for the evening. He was playing the character of the man who discovered these twins, and acted as their manager throughout. The twins (who bare some resemblance to Amanda Palmer and less to Jason Webley) were dressed in a specially made dress for the evening. They sat down at the piano and glanced around cautiously at the audience before starting into the song “Evelyn Evelyn.” What a discovery! The Amanda Palmer-resembling Evelyn played the right hand of the piano parts while the Jason Webley-looking one played the left hand. This probably took a lot of practice.
They later moved to the accordion and the guitar, neither of which they were too keen on touching. They seemed scared by the audience at times, and it was only when singing and playing that they were comfortable. The lyrics to the songs are all important, as they tell of the pain of being conjoined at the hip to a twin sister. “You Only Want Me ‘Cause You Want My Sister” rings of sadness, while “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn” is clearly a sarcastic tug at the audience.
At one point, they told of the “Tragic Events of September” as they had on their debut album. Sxip Shirey brought up some volunteers from the audience to help illustrate this dark story with shadow puppets. At another point, they took questions that the audience had provided by writing them down and putting them in a magical bowl. Sxip brought out the questions, and each Evelyn alternated words when answering. (It was like two musicians were playing an improv game with each other, except it was just each Evelyn trying to make the other Evelyn laugh.)
Both the music and the interactions between the different characters on stage were filled with all sort of surprises, and I’d need to give a **SPOILER WARNING** to go on, so I won’t go on. Needless to say, Evelyn Evelyn received a gigantic warm ovation upon the completion of their set, and then they left into the night. We were then told we were about to be treated to performances by both Jason Webley and Amanda Palmer! Excellent!
Jason Webley came on after a short break, and played a couple of songs on the accordion and one on the guitar. Unlike the Webley-resembling Evelyn, Webley is a confident, aggressive performer, demanding participation out of his audience at all costs. He plays while standing on top of a small wooden stage so that he can stomp on it to his heart’s content, adding percussive punctuation to his music. He did three songs by himself, then began to play “Icarus.” But before the vocals could start, Amanda Palmer came out to sing it along with him. The screaming made it apparent that this was an Amanda Palmer audience.
So after Jason Webley left the stage to nearly unbearable amounts of newly acquired screeching fans, Amanda Palmer took over to play her set. As is her style, she spent a lot of time between songs chatting with the audience about all sorts of touring adventures, which this time included having a Twitter follower make the band breakfast in Corning, California, thus saving them from having to go to Denny’s. And of course the breakfast maker was at the show. Amanda Palmer is a top of example of the power of the super fan. Whether she has a record label or not, she’s got a career.
She explained that her next release is an EP of ukulele Radiohead covers (can I suggest the title “OK Ukulele” please?), and followed that up by playing a quiet cover of “Fake Plastic Trees.” She then played the song she wrote to celebrate her release from Roadrunner Records, “Do You Swear to Tell …” Jason Webley came back out to perform the “only song they’ve ever written together” (wink wink), a song called “Electric Blanket,” which they claim was able to fool one European audience into thinking it was a Simon & Garfunkel cover. We got the fan-requested “Coin Operated Boy,” and then it was encore time.
For the encore, Amanda started by herself singing “It Runs in the Family,” my personal favorite song from Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, before being joined again by Jason Webley, Sxip Shirey and “Stage Boy” to sing Webley’s own “Drinking Song.” This time, he demanded that everyone get out of their chairs, sing along, and be drunk. So arms locked with the audience members around us, we had no choice but to follow instructions.
When the song finished, there was no need for an additional encore. This had been the perfect ending to an amazing show. We saw great performers do their own thing, as well as a creative presentation of a new talent. The outpouring of love from the audience was infectious, and it was all smiles on their faces when leaving. With any new project that “joins together” independently successful musicians, you never know how many chances you’re going to get to experience it. So if you get the chance, take it.
Evelyn Evelyn also play tonight, May 23, at Great American Music Hall at 8:00 PM