Thursday on the town: The Dresden Dolls!

Dec 28, 2007

How about something far more cheerful in my life these days - like Lyssa, Laurelinde, and I going to see the Dresden Dolls last night?

After arriving home from work yesterday afternoon I hurried into the bedroom to change into more suitable attire for attending a concert put on by what is best described as a punk cabaret duo, namely Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione. I traded my jeans for black linen trousers, black elastic braces, threw on an electric blue necktie, and pulled my Victorian-cut tailcoat from the closet. I traded the USB key on my watch fob for a brass skeleton key and was set for the evening. Lyssa wore her bone china-white lace blouse, a red housecoat, and black trousers; Laurelinde wore most of a tuxedo and the pocket watch I'd gotten her for Yule. Suitably attired, the three of us hit the local Metro station and rode the train all the way out to Chinatown, where the synagogue the Dolls would be playing at was located. Surprisingly, we didn't catch much attention on the way there, something that I'd half expected.

It seems that we were in a hurry to stand in line in the freezing cold yesterday afternoon. It didn't take us long at all to walk to the synagogue and take up position at the end of a line that stretched down and around the block. It felt like home, standing there with other Dolls fans: There were gothic lolitas standing next to boys and girls in china doll makeup, vickys and steampunks huddling together for warmth, old-school and new-school punks watching the rescue squad drive by, and a sizable contingent of fans who don't fit into any particular subculture save the fact that they're fans. There was even someone scalping tickets, much to my surprise. They let us into the building somewhen between 1745 and 1815 EST5EDT. I didn't look at my watch because I was more interested in keeping my coat buttoned up to conserve what little body heat it was possible to retain. The interior of the synagogue, I must admit, is most impressive. Have never been inside of one before last night, I don't know if it's par for the course or not but the sanctuary itself was beautifully decorated, with tasteful stained glass windows on each wall and above the second floor balcony a dome with a Seal of Solomon inlaid in the ceiling, illuminated from the sides by white spotlights. Photographs, of course, will be posted later.

We wound up sitting in there for better than 45 minutes before the show began. The "let's kill some time" CD the sound crew was playing looped back on itself three times before the house lights went down. I suspect that this was partially due to Meow Meow, the opening act, arriving late in DC, and partially due to Palmer's coming down with the flu shortly before the concert (the first of their tour this year) began. Just after the lights dimmed, a lone figure paced from the back of the sanctuary to the front singing a folk piece solo with a surprisingly strong voice: Amanda Palmer singing The Wind Through the Grain (I think - want to check me on this, Lyssa?) as their opening number. Palmer has an amazing voice on her own, which she employed skillfully throughout the evening by filling the space with her unamplified voice. Viglione, on the other hand, is really coming into his own as a performer in my opinion. The percussionist and guitarist of the duo, most of the time his antics are confined to playing instruments, but last night he took a more active role on stage: Singing (albeit unamplified), goofing around behind the drum kit (especially during Coin Operated Boy, which they sang the original lyrics for I hasten to add), yelling at various components of the drum kit whilst a roadie affected repairs and playing to the audience.

Last night was, in the words of Palmer, B-side night, because they played many songs that usually wound up as backing tracks on singles, as opposed to their more popular songs. They did play some old favorites, however, including the aforementioned Coin Operated Boy, Rid of Me, and even a cover of an old favourite, Science Fiction Double Feature from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As much as I'd wanted to, I wasn't sure if I should have used some of the Pittsburgh callbacks or not, being in a synagogue and all, but that didn't seem to stop Lyssa or anyone else in the know.

About a third of the way through the set, Meow Meow, the opening act, arrived at the synagogue in a flurry of suitcases and black clothing. As it turned out their train was late, but the Dolls were gracious enough to let them take the stage for a bit. The opening act took the form of a kitschy cabaret-style act, all thick and fake French accents, glamour, and generally hamming it up. The woman who took front stage had at some point dressed down during the trip, and so the majority of her preparations took the form of getting audience members to help undress her while she adjusted the slinky black show clothes underneath (a nice touch, that), and vamping for the first couple of rows, who really seemed to enjoy her act. Afterward, Meow Meow's keyboardist and Amanda played a duet (the title of which escapes me at the moment) to close out the belated opening act.

By the end of the evening we'd sung ourselves dry and decamped to find dinner, which we found at Legal Sea Foods on 7th Street. Legal's is a very up-scale restaurant in DC proper that specializes in seafood - if your thing is steak or vegetarian you'll probably be out of luck, but I must say that most everything there is extremely tasty and very well made: The calamari is flavorful on its own and tender, the cod and haddock are cooked until they're just done, the scallops are excellent, and the coffee isn't bad, either. Expect to pay about $20us for a meal; I recommend that you dress appropriately if you go. Service was attentive, polite, and helpful, and it's well worth the wait if you arrive during the dinnertime crush. By all means, pass your time in the bar. I give Legal Sea Foods in DC one flaregun - if you're in the area, make the time to go here for dinner and bring an empty stomach and hearty appetite. I highly recommend this place.