"Music and theater are tied so closely together, sometimes there's hardly a difference," says Amanda Palmer, vocalist-pianist of the Brechtian punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls. Palmer, along with fellow spook leader and drummer Brian Viglione, are KISS for the art crowd, or Cirque du Soleil for the music crowd. Pantomime makeup, live shows that mimic cutting-edge theatre, songs that opine about childhood fears and bad relationships-like "Detroit Rock City" with less leg kicks and fire, more sublime art-faggery.
Palmer's raw voice is the right vehicle for her lyrics, which she flatly explains are all about "the same bastard and epic breakup." Viglione's animated drumming and complementary mime face-cake are the foil.
It couldn't have been scripted better-Palmer and Vigilone formed the Dolls in 2000 after meeting at a Halloween party. Their deranged pizzazz has quickly made them more successful than gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello, their stylistic counterparts in the Northeast. This year they took home three shiny little trophies at the Boston Music Awards (including Best Live Act) and were nominated for MTV's coveted Woodie Award.
Their live show nods to the deep theatrical background of Palmer, who once toured as a living statue on stilts. Looking to cultivate regional freaks, the Dolls even post Internet ads looking for burlesque dancers, fire-eaters and synchronized umbrella openers to warm up the audiences at each tour stop.
Everyday, as they've said, is Halloween.
The Dresden Dolls play with the Ditty Bops and Count Zero at the Epicentre, 7 p.m. on Nov. 20. $12. 858-271-4000.