Theatre Is Evil

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Theatre Is Evil
Theatre Is Evil.png
Studio album by
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
ReleasedSeptember 7, 2012 (2012-09-07)
GenreAlternative rock
Label8 Ft. Records
ProducerJohn Congleton
Amanda Palmer chronology
Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under
Theatre Is Evil
You Got Me Singing
Singles from Theatre Is Evil
  1. "Do It with a Rockstar"
    Released: June 2012
  2. "Want It Back"
    Released: July 9, 2012
  3. "The Killing Type"
    Released: September 6, 2012
  4. "The Bed Song"
    Released: February 14, 2013

Theatre Is Evil is the second studio album by Amanda Palmer, and first with her band The Grand Theft Orchestra. It was released on September 7, 2012 in Australia,[1] on September 10, 2012 in the United Kingdom and Europe, and September 11, 2012 in the United States and Canada.[2] The album has been released by Palmer's own record label, 8 Ft. Records, with distribution handled by Cooking Vinyl in the UK and Europe, and Alliance Entertainment in the US.[3][4]

The album debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 chart with 24,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, much of which can be attributed to her Kickstarter campaign.[5]

The album was written over the four years since her solo debut album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, in 2008. The recording and release process was funded by a Kickstarter project that raised a total of over $1.2 million.[6][7][8][9]

An art book, filled with images inspired by the content of this album commissioned to artists Amanda knows, has been released.

About the Grand Theft Orchestra[edit]

The Grand Theft Orchestra is composed of Amanda Palmer, Michael McQuilken on drums, guitarist Chad Raines, and Jherek Bischoff on bass.[10] Thor Harris replaced McQuilken for the second half of the live tour of this album.[11] The band regularly switches instruments during their live performance, including in their version of The Dresden Dolls's song "Missed Me".[12]


After posting the album name to her Twitter account, there was a debate amongst fans about whether the album should be spelled "Theater Is Evil" or "Theatre Is Evil". Palmer took a vote and "Theatre Is Evil" eventually won,[13] causing some of the CDs to have to be reprinted.[citation needed]


The album was crowdfunded by $1,192,793.00 pledged via Kickstarter. Backers could choose from a number of bundles offered for different investment amounts.[14] At the time it closed, this was the most successful Kickstarter campaign by any musician.[14]


The song "Do It With a Rockstar" was released on a limited basis to promote the album in June 2012,[15] followed by "Trout Heart Replica", "Want It Back" and "The Killing Type".

In September 2015, in promotion of the album, an EP called Selections from Theatre is Evil was released.

On December 19, 2015, a piano demo of "Grown Man Cry" recorded in 2007 was released.[16]

On December 23, 2015, a demo of the song "Bottomfeeder," under the name "Raggin' On The Man", was released.[17]

Music videos[edit]

The first music video released for this album was a stop-motion video for the song "Want It Back" and features Amanda Palmer prominently nude on a bed with the rest of the bandmates, clothed, as the lyrics to the song crawl across their bodies. It was "filmed on and around Brunswick Street in Melbourne, Australia in March 2012" and was produced, edited, and directed by Jim Batt.[18]

The second music video was for "The Killing Type," directed by Tim Pope, who had previously directed many videos for The Cure. It features scenes from the band playing in an all-white room, dressed in all-white clothes, playing all-white instruments and another scene where Amanda seems to contemplate killing her lover while in bed with him.[19] A music video for "The Bed Song" was also shot as part of the band's residency at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, which was the first residency in a new program led by Gideon Lester, to have artists do their work with student assistance on campus. The video was released February 14, 2013.

Amanda Palmer has also released lyric videos for every song on the main disc of Theatre Is Evil on her YouTube channel.[20]

Through Patreon donations, a retroactive music video was produced for "Grown Man Cry" and released on July 27, 2017.


Palmer planned an extensive tour schedule in support of the album. In June 2012, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra began with a short six-date stint of small club shows throughout Europe and the US, beginning in Berlin and ending in Boston.[21] A full-scale tour began on September 10, 2012, this time reaching 33 cities throughout North America and Europe.[22] According to Palmer's husband, she planned to spend approximately 14 months on the road in support of Theatre Is Evil.[23]


A controversy arose at the start of the full-scale tour, when Palmer crowdsourced volunteer horn and string players among her fans to back the Grand Theft Orchestra onstage for a few songs in each city. She was criticized, most notably by Steve Albini, who questioned her for asking for further indulgences from her audience.[24] Palmer had explained that most of the Kickstarter money was actually spent on covering the cost of creating the album, producing and shipping the rewards, and setting up the tour.[25] Albini called the breakdown "absurdly inefficient".[24]

On September 14, 2012, following an article in the New York Times[26][27] Palmer wrote on her blog that she considered the issue to be about artists' choice more than anything else.[28]

On September 19, 2012, Palmer announced that she had decided to pay the volunteer musicians. This included retroactive payment to volunteers at the start of the tour.[29]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Rolling Stone[32]
Beats Per Minute78%[33]
Drowned in Sound[34]
The Guardian[35]
The Independent[36]

On July 11, 2012, Ben Folds, fellow friend, producer and musician, posted the very first review of Theatre Is Evil on his Facebook page, stating that he was "listening to 'Theatre is Evil' everyday, more than once. It's good. It's really good," and in summary that, "This record is as good as it gets. You're going to shit when you hear it. It's going to be around for ages. Otherwise, it's total crap."[37][38]

Kate Mossman of The Guardian wrote: "Theatre Is Evil feels like sitting on the bed of your tattooed, far cooler cousin 30 years ago, while she tells you 'all you need to know' about music."[39] Adam Rathe of Spin said: "If Theatre Is Evil does anything, it should make clear that [Amanda] Palmer's not just a fundraiser par excellence but someone who's energized enough people with her work to be able to create exactly the kind of record that makes people love music in the first place."[40]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Amanda Palmer, except where noted.

1."Meow Meow Introduces The Grand Theft Orchestra" 0:18
2."Smile (Pictures or It Didn't Happen)" 6:28
3."The Killing Type" 4:29
4."Do It with a Rockstar" 4:25
5."Want It Back" 4:09
6."Grown Man Cry" 5:16
7."Trout Heart Replica" 7:09
8."A Grand Theft Intermission"Jherek Bischoff2:07
9."Lost" 4:31
10."Bottomfeeder" 6:13
11."The Bed Song" 6:07
12."Massachusetts Avenue" 4:40
13."Melody Dean" 4:02
14."Berlin" 7:17
15."Olly Olly Oxen Free" 4:06
iTunes bonus track
16."The Living Room"7:12
Australian bonus track
16."Denial Thing"2:57
Kickstarter bonus tracks
16."Denial Thing"2:57
17."The Living Room"7:12
18."Ukulele Anthem"5:32
19."From St. Kilda To Fitzroy"4:55
Kickstarter Deluxe bonus tracks
20."Video Games" (featuring Dot.AY) (Lana Del Rey cover)Elizabeth Grant, Justin Parker5:00
21."Provanity" 3:58
22."The Assistant" 4:41
23."Not Mine" 2:52
Commentary album[41]
1."Theatre Is Evil Intro (Commentary)" 1:03
2."On Meow Meow's Introduction" 0:53
3."Meow Meow Introduces The Grand Theft Orchestra" 0:18
4."Smile (Pictures or It Didn't Happen) (Commentary)" 1:28
5."Smile (Pictures or It Didn't Happen)" 6:28
6."The Killing Type (Commentary)" 1:32
7."The Killing Type" 4:29
8."Do It with a Rockstar (Commentary)" 1:04
9."Do It with a Rockstar" 4:25
10."Want It Back (Commentary)" 1:08
11."Want It Back" 4:09
12."Grown Man Cry (Commentary)" 1:36
13."Grown Man Cry" 5:16
14."Trout Heart Replica (Commentary)" 1:41
15."Trout Heart Replica" 7:09
16."A Grand Theft Intermission (Commentary)" 0:57
17."A Grand Theft Intermission"Jherek Bischoff2:07
18."Lost (Commentary)" 1:55
19."Lost" 4:31
20."Bottomfeeder (Commentary)" 0:36
21."Bottomfeeder" 6:13
22."The Bed Song (Commentary)" 1:45
23."The Bed Song" 6:07
24."Massachusetts Avenue (Commentary)" 1:45
25."Massachusetts Avenue" 4:40
26."Melody Dean (Commentary)" 0:57
27."Melody Dean" 4:02
28."Berlin (Commentary)" 1:04
29."Berlin" 7:17
30."Olly Olly Oxen Free (Commentary)" 1:30
31."Olly Olly Oxen Free" 4:06

Selections from Theatre Is Evil[edit]

Before the release of the album, Palmer sent a free 3-track digital download EP to fans through her newsletter, titled "Selection from Theatre Is Evil" featuring three promotional singles.

All tracks are written by Amanda Palmer, except where noted.

1."Want It Back"4:09
2."Trout Heart Replica"7:09
3."Do It with a Rockstar"4:25

Piano Is Evil[edit]

On July 27, 2017, Palmer released an acoustic remix album titled Piano Is Evil. It is a track-by-track cover of Theatre Is Evil (excluding the Intro and Intermission) performed solely by Palmer on piano.[42]


Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra[edit]

  • Amanda Palmer – vocals, piano, synthesizers
  • Jherek Bischoff – vocals, upright bass, guitar
  • Michael McQuilken – vocals, drums, percussion, programming (Thor Harris replaced McQuilken for the second half of the live tour of this album.)
  • Chad Raines – vocals, guitar, trumpet, keyboards, programming

Guest musicians[edit]

  • Meow Meow featured on "Meow Meow Introduces The Grand Theft Orchestra"
  • "Trout Heart Replica": Paris Hurley - violin 1 & 2, Alex Guy - viola, Maria Scherer Wilson - cello, Paul Kikuchi - concert bass drum, orchestra arrangement by Jherek Bischoff
  • "A Grand Theft Intermission": Paris Hurley - violin 1 & 2, Alex Guy - viola, Maria Scherer Wilson - cello, Horns: Mick Fraser, Benjamin Gillespie, Eamon McNelis, Phil Noy, and Paul Willy, orchestral arrangement by Jherek Bischoff
  • "Melody Dean" features David J on bass
  • "Massachusetts Avenue", "Berlin", and "Olly Olly Oxen Free": Horns by Mick Fraser, Benjamin Gillespie, Eamon McNelis, Phil Noy, and Paul Willy. Horn arrangements by Chad Raines


  • Produced by John Congleton at Sing Sing Studios (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Assistant Engineer: Adam Dobos
  • Mixed by John Congleton at Elmwood Studios (Dallas, Texas)
  • Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound (New York, New York)


Chart (2012) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[43] 34
US Billboard 200[44] 10
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[45] 3
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[46] 18
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[47] 8


  1. ^ "Theatre Is Evil |CD & DVD Music, Music Genres, Alternative : JB HI-FI". Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Amanda Palmer (June 28, 2012). "Next We Take Manhattan...London Is Left Burning. (Plus: Tracklist Revealed! Tour Dates Coming!)". Amanda Palmer. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  3. ^ "Amanda Palmer signs distribution and services deal with Cooking Vinyl". Music Week. June 21, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  4. ^ "Alliance Entertainment to Distribute New Album from Amanda Palmer, Social Media's Musical Queen; Theatre Is Evil to be Released September 11, 2012". The Sacramento Bee. June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  5. ^ "Amanda Palmer Agrees to Pay Guest Musicians". Billboard.
  6. ^ "Amanda Palmer: The new RECORD, ART BOOK, and TOUR". Kickstarter. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  7. ^ "Amanda Palmer Raises Over 1.1 Million Via Kickstarter, Announces New Album Title Theatre is Evil". June 3, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  8. ^ Price, Simon (June 24, 2012). "Amanda Palmer, Village Underground, London". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 7, 2022. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  9. ^ "Busking for millions". The Economist. June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  10. ^ Holly Cara Price (November 9, 2012). "Amanda Palmer: The Crancing Queen". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  11. ^ Amanda Palmer (April 2, 2013). "the GRAND THEFT "MAKE-UP" TOUR DATES are UP!! (A BLOG ABOUT THE UPCOMING SEASON OF EVIL)". Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  12. ^ Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – at The Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco, CA, The Big Wheel Magazine of 26 September 2012, retrieved January 6, 2013 "Palmer and her band switched gears and sauntered into a roaring, mind blowing performance of the Dresden Dolls' song "Missed Me", which saw all four members of the Grand Theft Orchestra switching their instruments for each verse and throwing each other about in their haste to do so."
  13. ^ "Countdown Party & Album Title!!!!!". June 2, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Reed, James (July 26, 2012), "Fans kick in a million to let Palmer make music her way", Boston Globe
  15. ^ "DOWNLOAD: New Amanda Palmer Track". The Quietus. June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  16. ^ "Grown Man Cry (2007 solo piano), by Amanda Palmer".
  17. ^ "Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra - Raggin on the Man (Bottomfeeder demo), by Amanda Palmer".
  18. ^ "Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra: "Want It Back" Official Music Video (Uncensored | NSFW)". YouTube. July 10, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  19. ^ "Amanda Palmer - The Killing Type". YouTube. September 6, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  20. ^ "Theatre Is Evil Lyric Videos". YouTube. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  21. ^ Amanda Palmer (May 1, 2012). "Amanda Palmer: The new RECORD, ART BOOK, and TOUR". Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  22. ^ "Wanted: Horn-y and String-y Volunteers for the Grand Theft Orchestra Tour!!!!", Amanda Palmer (blog), August 21, 2012
  23. ^ "If you are anywhere near Bard, come and be my Guinea Pig", Neil Gaiman (blog), August 28, 2012
  24. ^ a b Michael Nelson (September 13, 2012). "Steve Albini: Amanda Palmer Is An Idiot". Stereogum. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  25. ^ Amanda Palmer (May 22, 2012). "all you ever wanted to know about all this kickstarter money & where it's going". Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  26. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (September 12, 2012). "Rockers Playing for Beer: Fair Play?". Proquest Digital Microfilm New York Times. photo by Jude Domski/Getty Images. The New York Times Company (published September 13, 2012). pp. C1, C6. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
  27. ^ Palmer, Amanda (September 13, 2012). "poetic placement of the day: the New York Times..." Amandapalmer.Tumblr.Com. Amanda Palmer. Retrieved September 18, 2012. Mostly a picture of page C1 the NY Times with the cited article on September 13, 2012
  28. ^ Inviting performers to join her onstage is a time-honored tradition in the vein of sharing joy and having fun. The three main performers in Grand Theft Orchestra are salaried. In some cities, horn and string players will be hired as "known quantities" while other venues will have volunteer "wild cards."[citation needed]"an open letter in response to amy, re: musicians, volunteering, and the freedom to choose". Amanda Palmer. September 13, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  29. ^ "what we're doing about the crowdsourced musicians. also: we charted at motherfucking #10". Amanda Palmer. September 13, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  30. ^ "Critic Reviews for Theatre Is Evil". Metacritic. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  31. ^ Christopher, James. "Theatre is Evil". Allmusic. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
  32. ^ Rosen, Jody (October 4, 2012). "Theatre Is Evil". Rolling Stone.
  33. ^ Finlayson, Ray (October 4, 2012). "Theatre is Evil". Beats Per Minute. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  34. ^ Chris Trout (September 7, 2012). "Amanda Palmer - Theatre is Evil". Drowned in Sound. Archived from the original on June 18, 2021. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  35. ^ Kate Mossman (September 6, 2012). "Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra: Theatre Is Evil – review". The Guardian. London.
  36. ^ Simon Trout (September 9, 2012). "Album: Amanda Palmer, Theatre Is Evil (Cooking Vinyl)". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on May 7, 2022.
  37. ^ "Ben Folds". Facebook. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  38. ^ "ben folds gives "theatre is evil" its first review". Amanda Palmer. July 13, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
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  40. ^ Rathe, Adam (September 5, 2012). "Amanda Palmer on Where the Alchemy Starts and Selling Stops | SPIN | Profiles". Spin. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  41. ^ "Theatre is Evil (Commentary Version)". Spotify. September 11, 2012.
  42. ^ "Piano Is Evil by Amanda Palmer". Apple Music. July 27, 2017. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  43. ^ " – Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre Is Evil". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  44. ^ "Amanda Palmer Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  45. ^ "Amanda Palmer Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  46. ^ "Amanda Palmer Chart History (Top Alternative Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  47. ^ "Amanda Palmer Chart History (Top Rock Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved March 21, 2019.