This blog entry is me finally getting my thoughts together about Evelyn Evelyn. For those of you who don’t know, Evelyn Evelyn is Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley dressed up and performing as conjoined twin sisters. For those of you who follow Amanda Palmer and/or Jason Webley more closely, yes, I was aware of the huge internet backlash when Amanda Palmer posted about the twins on her blog. Yes, I know this is coming late. But at the time of the backlash, I decided to wait until I had more to go on than the first blog post, which Amanda, Jason, and everyone else involved were calling hastily-written and poorly thought out.
So I got a ticket to one of their shows and pre-ordered the CD, based off of my fondness for the songs Elephant Elephant and You Only Want Me Cause You Want My Sister. When the CD arrived, I also fell in love with the song Evelyn Evelyn, which I relate to probably more than is healthy. Other than those three songs, I wasn’t very impressed with the album. Still, I had a ticket, so I went to the show.
I don’t think I’ve been so uncomfortable at a show in my life. I was in the front row, close enough to clearly see facial expressions. Amanda and Jason played the twins looking so miserable, I felt guilty for being there. I know they were going for shy, but they looked terrified. I might have felt better if they had smiled when various members of the audience shouted out “We love you Evelyn!”, but they looked even more unhappy.
Adding to the exploitation vibe was Sxip Shirey, who was acting as host. (Oh yeah, did I mention that Evelyn Evelyn never spoke normally? They told the story of their birth, the first Tragic Events track on their album, and they answered questions from the Chalice of Knowledge, using the improv game The Three(or, in this case, two)-Headed Oracle.) Anyways, Sxip announced the songs, and, along with Stage Boy, helped get instruments on Evelyn Evelyn. Which sounds fine in theory, but they played it very poorly. The first time the accordion came out, Sxip stood holding Evelyn Evelyn while Stage Boy put on the accordion, while Jason’s Evelyn had her eyes squeezed tight looking even more miserable than the rest of the evening. The second time the accordion was brought out, Evelyn Evelyn tried to back away, but Sxip caught them and held them again. During Elephant Elephant, Sxip came out and stuck kazoos in their mouths, and they glared after him as they played the instrumental. During the song Chicken Man, Amanda’s Evelyn had a breakdown, screaming and hitting herself with a drumstick. Sxip came out and gave her a Twix bar to calm her down, then, as soon as she had calmed, spent several minutes trying to take it back as the Evelyns shared it. So in addition to making the Evelyns look too mentally unstable to cope with performing, we got the impression that they are performing for small amounts of chocolate. Near the end of the show, Sxip actually gets a monologue about how he’s going to get Evelyn Evelyn to star as Annie and have them repeat every syllable to emphasize that there are two of them, and is interrupted when Amanda’s Evelyn shoots him. However, this came across more as “the abused dog finally attacks” than “we’re not being exploited, we shoot anyone who tries.”
So I’m sorry Amanda and Jason, but no matter how many times you say that Evelyn Evelyn was created with love, and that it’s not meant to come across as a freak show, it does. I went into the show trusting you two to pull it off tastefully, because I really wanted to like it and to see you succeed. In my opinion, you didn’t, which probably doesn’t matter to you too much, as the rest of the audience seemed to have a great time. But it’s big for me – I get to deal with my first disappointment by one of my favorite musicians.