The Dresden Dolls

For the album, see The Dresden Dolls (album). For the 19th century doll, see dresden doll.
The Dresden Dolls

The Dresden Dolls:
Amanda Palmer (left) and Brian Viglione (right)
Background information
Origin Boston, Massachusetts, US
Genres Dark cabaret, piano rock, alternative rock, Indie rock
Years active 2000–2008, 2010–present
Labels Roadrunner[1][2]
Members Amanda Palmer
Brian Viglione

The Dresden Dolls are an American musical duo from Boston, Massachusetts. Formed in 2000, the group consists of Amanda Palmer (lead vocals and piano; additional: keyboards, harmonica, ukulele) and Brian Viglione (drums and percussion; additional: guitar, bass guitar, backing vocals). The two describe their style as "Brechtian punk cabaret", a phrase invented by Palmer because she was "terrified" that the press would invent a name that "would involve the word gothic".[3] The Dresden Dolls are part of an underground dark cabaret movement that started gaining momentum in the early 2000s.


Band formation and name

The Dresden Dolls, 2002
Photo by Kyle Cassidy

The duo formed a week after Brian Viglione witnessed Amanda Palmer perform solo at a Halloween party in 2000. Their live performances soon gained them a cult following. During these performances the two band members often wore dramatic make-up and fancy clothing that pushed their cabaret/theater aesthetic. They encourage fans to become involved at their shows, with the fans' own stilt walking, living statues, fire breathers, and other performance art becoming an integral part of the show. The Dirty Business Brigade coordinated the fans' performances.[4][5]

The band's first name was Out of Arms.[6] At some point, the name became The Dresden Dolls. The name, according to Palmer, was "inspired by a combination of things," including the firebombing of Dresden, Germany and the porcelain dolls that were a hallmark of pre-war Dresden industry; an early song of the same name by The Fall; and a reference to the V. C. Andrews novel Flowers in the Attic, where the classically blond-haired and blue-eyed protagonists are called "the Dresden dolls". The name also evokes Weimar Germany and its cabaret culture. Additionally, Palmer "liked the parallel between Dresden (destruction) and Dolls (innocence, delicacy), because it is very much in keeping with the dynamics of the music, which sometimes goes from a childlike whisper to a banshee scream within a few seconds."[7]

Growing fame and performances

The duo was featured in a webcast performance at the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[8] After a self-promoted demo recorded and released in 2001, their first release was the mostly live compilation A Is for Accident (Important Records), followed in 2003 by a self-titled debut produced and recorded by Martin Bisi (Swans, Sonic Youth) at The Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The album features fellow Boston-area musicians Ad Frank (guitar on "Good Day") and Shawn Setaro (bass on "Good Day," "Gravity", and "Jeep Song").[9] Two songs off the album ranked in the Triple J Hottest 100, 2004: "Girl Anachronism" at number 30 and "Coin-Operated Boy" at number 12.[10] In 2003 they were crowned the winners of Boston's long-running WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble.

On October 6, 2005, The Dresden Dolls were interviewed by the subject of one of their songs, Christopher Lydon, on the radio show Open Source.[11]

Tours, festivals, books, and theater

The Dresden Dolls, 2002

In March 2005, the duo supported Nine Inch Nails on tour. On June 5, The Dresden Dolls hosted a free concert at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. When a power outage unexpectedly delayed their performance, city streets became a temporary stage for some of the many performers (living statues, stilt-walkers, and fire-breathers) who had come from across the world to entertain audiences. The entire event—concert and street performances—was filmed and the resulting DVD, Live: In Paradise, was released in Europe on October 10, 2005 and in North America on November 22, shortly after the band's fall 2005 tour.[12]

The Dresden Dolls' second studio album, Yes, Virginia..., was released on April 18, 2006.[13]

Over the summer of that year, the duo performed at South by Southwest, Bonnaroo, Britain's Reading and Leeds Festivals, and Lollapalooza, in addition to touring with Panic! at the Disco as their opening act. During the support tour, the band presented "Fuck the Back Row—A Night of Celluloid Vaudeville". The events consisted of screenings of short films from friends and fans, performances by local artists, and a solo show by Palmer who performed mostly cover songs inspired from film soundtracks.[14]

In June 2006, The Dresden Dolls Companion[15] was released by Amanda Palmer. The book contains a history of the band and their first album—The Dresden Dolls—as well as a partial autobiography. The book also contains the lyrics, sheet music, and notes on each song on the album, as well as a DVD featuring a 20-minute interview with Palmer about the origins of the band and the first LP. The interview was conducted by a friend while Palmer compiled the artwork for the first LP.

On August 16, the East Providence Community Theatre in East Providence, Rhode Island premiered a full-length, fan-written jukebox musical, The Clockwork Waltz, featuring songs from The Dresden Dolls' three albums. The show was encouraged by the band and their management.[16]

In December 2006 and January 2007, the music of The Dresden Dolls was featured in an original production—The Onion Cellar—at the American Repertory Theatre's Zero Arrow Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[17][18] The play is co-authored by Amanda Palmer, from her original concept.

On January 14, 2007, the duo took a temporary hiatus. Palmer worked on her solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, while Brian Viglione toured with Boston-based HUMANWINE[19] and other local Boston acts, along with touring with Jesse Malin and offering drum clinics.

In June 2007, they joined the True Colors Tour 2007,[20] including their debut in New York City's Radio City Music Hall[21] and their first review in the New York Times.[21]

On July 10, 2007, the DVD, Live at the Roundhouse, was released in the U.S.

From December 27, 2007 to January 13, 2008, their Winter Tour started at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC, and ending at The Norva in Norfolk, Virginia.[22]

On January 15, 2008, they entered the studio to record new material for their fourth album, No, Virginia... Released on May 20, 2008, it is a collection of B-sides and rarities, along with new recordings of old favorites and cover songs that were previously only available as live versions. The album spawned the single, "Night Reconnaissance".

July 2008 saw the release of the second Dresden Dolls book, the Virginia Companion.[23] It is a follow-up to the Dresden Dolls Companion, featuring the music and lyrics from the Yes, Virginia... and No, Virginia... albums.


In September 2008, rumors began to circulate about the future of the whole band. Viglione confirmed that the band was on hiatus but emphasized that he and Palmer are on good terms and that they will get together again when it feels right for both of them.[24][25] In late July and early August 2009, a rumor began to spread that the band was "reuniting for performances in 2010" but Palmer clarified in her blog on August 7: "There's been a ton of press lately re-printing an old quote from an old interview that's now blown up into a full-fledged press rumour that Brian and I have planned Dresden Dolls' shows for 2010. Not true. We aren't planning any shows. Sorry about that, blame the gossip whores."[26]

2010 reunion tour

In 2010, a reunion tour to selected venues in the United States occurred. It started on Halloween in New York City and ended in San Francisco on New Year's Eve.[27]

2011/2012 tour

The Dresden Dolls played a show in Mexico City on December 9, 2011.[28] They had a tour of New Zealand and Australia in January 2012, supported by The Jane Austen Argument in Australia,[29] and Hera, House of Mountain and Princess Chelsea in New Zealand.[30]


On April 15, 2015, they had a show in NYC to celebrate Record Store Day and promote the release of The Virginia Monologues.[31]


Demos EP
Studio albums
Live album
Compilation albums

Musical style

The Dresden Dolls are arguably the most commercially successful dark cabaret band, bringing more mainstream attention to the still fairly underground genre. Their piano and drum driven rock music, incorporated into alternative rock[32] song structures with piano replacing the rhythm guitar, has seen them fall into the piano rock genre.[33][34]

Awards and honors


See also


  1. "Dresden Dolls". Roadrunner Records. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  2. Amanda Palmer (April 6, 2010). "FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST (Dear Roadrunner Records…)". Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  3. Speer, Deborah (April 3, 2006). "The Dresden Dolls". Pollstar. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  4. "Dirty Business Brigade website". Archived from the original on July 4, 2008.
  5. Amanda Palmer (2011-09-10). "Brigade Faq". Retrieved 2013-08-19. Q: What is the Dresden Dolls Brigade? A: The Dresden Dolls Brigade is our name for an ever-changing collection of performance artists who are an integral part of our live shows. Theater groups, visual artists, dancers, and all other sorts of off-kilter performing artists are invited to create living theater and art at the various rock clubs and theaters the band inhabits, night after night, around the world. These acts may take place in or outside of the club and may be static or roving. Some acts may take place on stage (either in place of or in addition to the traditional “opening local band”) and on rare occasions may be incorporated into the band’s set itself. Our aim is to make the experience for our audience more fun, authentic, interactive, and surreal. We seek out and encourage the expression of non-traditional arts, hoping the crowd goes home with the feeling of being immersed in a unique atmosphere....walking away feeling like they were a part of our show – not just watching one. We hope our audience will take away with them with a sense of awe and wonder, and the knowledge of artistic possibilities. Most importantly, it’s a wonderful way to give a stage to a local performance artist who might otherwise have no venue in which to showcase his or her unconventional talents.
  6. "Amandas Bio". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  7. Peck, Stacey (n.d.). "Undressing The Dresden Dolls". Newbury Comics. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  8. "Not-so-Nobel Laureates". ScienceNOW. Washington, DC: 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science. 4 (3). October 4, 2002. Archived from the original on January 6, 2006.
  9. The Dresden Dolls album liner notes.
  10. "Hottest 100 2004". Triple J. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
  11. "The Dresden Dolls". Open Source. October 6, 2006. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  12. Bill H. (September 25, 2005). "Update on The Dresden Dolls "Paradise" DVD Pre-Ord".
  13. Amanda Palmer (September 8, 2005). "Out of the Closet and into the Studio". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  14. The Dresden Dolls (November 27, 2007). "Fuck the Back Row". Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  15. Amanda Palmer (June 2006). The Dresden Dolls Companion. eight-foot music publishing. ISBN 978-1-57560-888-4.
  16. "The Clockwork Waltz". eptheatre.oirg. August 2006. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 13, 2011. The Clockwork Waltz is an original concept and story, based on and including thirteen songs written by Boston-based punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls. The story is that of a school aged girl named Amanda, living with her overworked single mother, Jill. At first, Amanda seems like a typical girl with typical problems... but a freak accident at her doctor's office starts to turn her life upside-down, inside-out, and sideways.
  17. "THE ONION CELLAR". American Repertory Theatre. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved September 13, 2011. Inside the small confines of the mysterious club The Onion Cellar, the internationally renowned rock duo The Dresden Dolls provides nightly entertainment while a series of stories unfold around them. As singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione play their songs, the Onion Cellar becomes a space where rock and roll meets cabaret with humor and humanity.
  18. On The Download editors; photo by Kelly Davidson (April 20, 2005). "Dresden Dolls take the ART". On The Download. The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. Retrieved September 13, 2011. The Dresden Dolls are taking the world by storm. This punk cabaret duo from Boston are incredible musicians whose smart, personal, intricate songs and mesmerizing live performance have earned them a cult following. Now don't tell anyone, but there's a rumor that the Dolls may be appearing at a bizarre underground club somewhere in Cambridge – an Onion Cellar, where the audience peel onions for emotional release, where you never quite know who's sitting next to you, where your life could change forever.
  19. "HUMANWINE website". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  20. "True Colors Tour website". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  21. 1 2 Chinen, Nate; photos by Hiroyuki Ito (June 20, 2007). "Power to the People (and Some Pop Too)". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. pp. B1,B5. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
  22. "The Dresden Dolls Show History". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  23. Amanda Palmer; Brian Viglione (July 2008). Virginia Companion. Cherry Lane Music Company. ISBN 978-1-60378-079-7.
  24. The Dresden Dolls interview. September 8, 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2016. Hi, it's Viggie here. I'd like to clear this up once and for all, if I may. This video is not old. It was taken at our last show at the Lowlands Festival in Holland on August 18th. And yes, the band is done. Over. Kaput. As I said in the video, we may very well play some shows together someday, but we are not forging ahead with the Dolls anymore. We are both on good terms, the video just shows our two views points and I liked the editing, actually. They portrayed it very honestly. Much love, B
  25. Brian Viglione (September 23, 2008). "Re: Brian wrote this on a youtube video yesterday...". Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  26. Amanda Palmer (August 7, 2009). "russia, puppet-lynchings & church-tractors". Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  27. Amanda Palmer (September 7, 2010). "THE DRESDEN DOLLS HALLOWEEN 10th ANNIVERSARY & FALL TOUR". YouTube. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  28. "The Dresden Dolls are Coming to Mexico City! «". Amanda Palmer. October 17, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2012. The Dresden Dolls will be coming to Mexico City on December 9, 2011 to play a night at Teatro Fru Fru.
  29. The 59th Sound "The Dresden Dolls, The Bedroom Philosopher, The Jane Austen Argument @ The Forum Melbourne", 1 August 2012
  31. "The Dresden Dolls - Full webcast from Rough Trade/record store day". YouTube. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  32. Alex Henderson. "The Dresden Dolls". Allmusic. Retrieved August 28, 2011. Formed in 2001, the Dresden Dolls have favored a most unlikely blend of alternative pop/rock, riot grrrl catharsis, and German cabaret
  33. Jordan Harper (May 5, 2005). "Press Clippings". Riverfront Times. Retrieved August 28, 2011. Clearly, the Dolls are doing something right. Actually, they're doing almost everything right, bringing cabaret theatrics back to piano rock and mixing crowd-pleasing angst with real songwriting
  34. Stéphane Leguay. "The Dresden Dolls". Premonition Magazine. Retrieved August 28, 2011. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione build and un-build a new form of piano-rock, sometimes burlesque (Coin-Operated Boy), or full of adrenalin (Girl Anachronism), sometimes perverse (Missed Me) or melancholic (Truce).
  35. "The Dresden Dolls". ThoughtWorthy Media, Inc. In the 2005 WFNX/Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll The Dresden Dolls won Best Local Act and Best Local Album. Amanda Palmer also won Best Female Vocalist.
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