At The Bar with Alt-Rock Icon Amanda Palmer from The Dresden Dolls

Best known as the mighty voice behind Brechtian punk rock cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, New York native Amanda Palmer had just finished a Melbourne tour and landed in New Zealand four years ago, when she found herself in covid lockdown and unable to leave. It’s where she weathered a marriage breakdown and navigated solo-parenting while trying to find a way to survive the stranger than fiction situation.

When Palmer arrives in Melbourne next month, she brings with her the remnants of that experience in the form of a new EP New Zealand Survival Songs. She will also give us a sneak preview of new Dresden Dolls songs which she describes as “unabashedly more emotional than ever before”.

Now a dual resident of New Zealand and the USA, Palmer takes this call from Bob’s Cove Track & Nature Walk – where she’s about to do some kayaking with her young son. She’s fallen in love with nature in NZ, discovered wineries and recommends a rosé that’s got her friends transfixed back home in Upstate New York.  But it’s her affinity with Melbourne – where the alt-rock icon began writing her bookThe Art of Asking that takes her right back to some favourite spots in Fitzroy and Collingwood.

She spoke to The Write Drop for our At The Bar Series, gives us the lowdown on where to drink in New York, wineries to visit in New Zealand and what we can expect from the new Dresden Dolls album due later this year.

Dresden Dolls.

MY CITY

Melbourne has always been one of my spots as has Boston, New York City and New Zealand. When you’re permanently touring as a musician in your 20s and 30s, you find yourself at home everywhere. But Melbourne was on the cities I landed in and looked around and said this place and I are going to get along. I deliberately chose to make my first big band record in 2011 and it’s where I chose to write my book in Melbourne.  I have a real heartfelt love for the town.

FAVOURITE FOOD MEMORY

One of my favourite places to go eat, work and socialise and bring my kid has now gone – it was the Grub Food Van. That was hands down one of my favourite destinations. I went to so many places all over Collingwood and Fitzroy. I wrote a lot of my book in Arcadia on Gertrude Street. The staff were so understanding and friendly – especially as I sat there with my laptop and ordered six coffees and spent four hours on their door step. I wrote the first paragraph of my book in Polly Cocktail bar on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. I also spent a lot of time at Ladro, Babka and 1000 Pound Bend.

FAVOURITE BAR

There is a fantastic little cocktail bar called HER. I also went to Polly because you can’t beat this place for its ambience, the furniture and their cocktail list is fantastic.

DRINK THAT DESCRIBES YOU

Amanda Palmer loves to drink! The on-going joke is that there are a few bars in the States who have an Amanda Palmer on the menu; and it riffs on the Arnold Palmer – a non-alcoholic beverage you can order. The joke is you can call it an Amanda Palmer if it has three shots of vodka in it. I also really love a Manhattan cocktail – and not just because I was born there, but because it’s the most delicious cocktail.

BEST BAR

One of my favourite destinations in New York City is Café Gitane on Mott Street. You can get a drink, but it’s mostly a café vibe. I love places that feel frozen in time and this café feels like they have not changed a piece of decor since 1958. It feels like you’re walking back into bohemian NYC with this French Moroccan decor and a gorgeous picture of Jimi Hendrix framed up on the wall as it’s only decoration. It’s a thing of real beauty with a great menu.

FAVOURITE WINE

Having spent a lot of time on Waiheke Island, I cannot recommend the Man O’War Rosé Pinque – if you are into slightly sweet but not too sweet rosés, there is something about this grape and this wine that is unparalleled. I brought a few bottles back to the States and everyone is loving it and wants to buy a box.

FAVOURITE WINERY

I had lunch with my father who came with me to NZ on this trip, and we ate at a spot called Stonyridge Vineyard in Waiheke. It was absolutely fantastic. And you can’t beat Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant for the wine, the food and view – it’s one of these classic Waiheke vineyard destinations.  Man O’War Winery is a bit of a trek but also well worth it and fantastic.

NEXT DESTINATION

I will spend a week between Melbourne and Sydney in February and then I will go back to the States. I have to put my son back in school in upstate New York, and I’ll be hard at work on the next Dresden Dolls record and vaguely toying with the idea of writing my next book.

WHAT WILL THE NEW BOOK BE ABOUT

I have had a couple of books in my head for the last couple of years, so they’re vying for attention. At some point I will have to put pen to paper and write down everything that happened to me in New Zealand because it’s absolutely stranger than fiction. I learned more than I ever could have imagined I didn’t know about myself and also about my country. I want to sit down one day and really synthesise it and put the story down.

WHERE TO DRINK IN NEW YORK

I will call my friends at The Night Heron who created speakeasys in places like water towers in Chelsea and underground tunnels that are totally illegal. They had the best bartenders, made the best cocktails and it was worth trudging upstairs and around alleyways in Manhattan for the illegal nightclub experience.

TOUR DATES

  • Hamer Hall | 3 February 2024
  • Sydney Recital Hall | 1 February 2024

See Palmer’s TEDTalk here:

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