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A little of everything

Amanda Palmer gives insights into the craft, performs and makes sure

March 21, 2009|ANN POWERS | POP MUSIC CRITIC

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Amanda Palmer is certainly good with a bon mot. The Dresden Dolls diva is emerging as one of the more vibrant characters at this year's South by Southwest conference and festival, playing winning sets, offering quotable quotes and even storming the halls of the Austin Convention Center on Thursday when the keynote by Quincy Jones delayed her panel by over an hour.

Palmer and her fellow panelist John Wesley Harding presented an impromptu mini-set, with Harding playing Palmer's ukulele as she belted out yet another take on Radiohead's "Creep," along with versions of Prince's "Kiss" and part of the immortal "We Are the World," when that single's producer, Jones, let his keynote stretch past its allotted time.

Later, she traded insights with Harding about the essence of their craft: songs.

Palmer blogs, Twitters and answers all of her fan mail to keep in touch with the fans vitally supporting her grass-roots career. Sometimes, she said, the ideas that were transformed into songs remain at the level of a blog post.

"Sometimes, I think silence is going to be the new punk," she said. "We're all going to throw our BlackBerrys off bridges and start talking to each other again."

Always attuned to the path of the independent musician, SXSW has become more focused on the idea of the artist as businessperson since the major-label system began falling apart. The panel that featured Palmer and Harding offered powerful guidance for artists who now must be their own engine and safety net.

But things sometimes got a little poignant. "I fear a little world where all the artists, all they think about is business," said Harding. "That would be sad."

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ann.powers@latimes.com

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