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Amanda Palmer looks for volunteers, finds criticism

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What seemed to Amanda Palmer like an innovative approach to assembling a touring band is being harshly criticized by some musicians, who accuse the Lexington lass of trying to get something for nothing. At issue is Palmer’s open invitation to anyone who plays strings, saxophone, or brass to join her on stage. (Her tour to promote her new CD, “Theater Is Evil,” kicked off this week in Philadelphia and pulls into the Paradise for three shows Nov. 15-17.) On her website, Palmer posted a most unusual appeal: “Wanted: Horn-y and String-y Volunteers for the Grand Theft Orchestra Tour.” Musicians interested in augmenting her band, which includes her and three others, are told to send an e-mail and be available for a short rehearsal before the show. The compensation? “We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.” That Palmer, who’s married to sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman, is crowdsourcing some part of her band is not all that surprising. She tapped fans with a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the new CD, raising a whopping $1.2 million. But her Pilsner-for-play scheme is not being well received among some musicians, who have posted dozens of angry comments on Palmer’s website. “Stick your merch and your sanctimonious blathering where the sun don’t shine,” wrote one. “How dare you ask musicians who spent years of study and expense to develop their craft to play for you for free.” Wrote another: “I’m a saxophone player with an honors degree in music performance. Playing and teaching is my livelihood, and unfortunately beer and hugs won’t pay my rent.” Attempts to reach Palmer, who played in D.C. Wednesday night, were unsuccessful. But in an interview with The New York Times, she hardly seems stricken by the criticism. “To me it seems absurd,” Palmer said. “If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where’s the problem?”

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