May 16, 2016 Violent Femmes Bring Fun To Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 5-3-16
“We’ve always done what we wanted and how we wanted,” says Violent Femmes’ Vocalist/Guitarist Gordon Gano. He also said, “Fundamentally there’s no difference from then until now. It’s a natural continuation.” This sentiment seems to ring true throughout the life-line of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Rock band. Perhaps longevity really does come from a rock-steady resolve, but without doing it the way you wanted, it can not nor will not survive. An organic timeline that connects point A to point B, or where ever they are now, has been driven by doing it the way they wanted it done. No pretense, it is just what it is, their way.
Although, along this Rock-n-Roll journey, the Violent Femmes have experience their share of bumps in the road. It was bound to happen, as it does with anyone who is working in close proximity for a period of time, but it is how one proceeds that matters. Fortuitously, the band was able to subdue these disagreements, and their 2013 reunion at Coachella developed into a full-fledged reclamation of the group. The Violent Femmes played together, the heavens parted, the fans rejoiced, and they were able to resolve their differences. “The start of us playing music together again was completely unexpected,” Gano had stated. Thankfully for fans it happened.
Even in the title of their new album, We Can Do Anything, and on their current worldwide tour, their “mantra” remains true with their approach as a whole to what they have created musically. Taking to the road through late July, the Violent Femmes have been bringing their fun show to stages all around the US, and on Tuesday, May 3rd, they made a stop at The Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona. A night full of excitement from the moment the doors opened, Gano, Bassist/Backing Vocalist Brian Ritchie, and newest Drummer John Sparrow were ready to bring a good time to the desert.
Entering the music scene over thirty-five years ago and on the heels of their aforementioned ninth studio album, We Can Do Anything, “Femmes,” lovingly named by the Punks of yore, have created timeless hits. Numbers like “Blister in the Sun,” which they opened up their performance with, had the mood set in the right direction. They then went into another favorite, “Kiss Off,” followed by newer track “Memory.” The latter of the two is a song Gano has relayed as one that had been buried way down into their archives. Found, recorded, and now released, in the live rendition the quirkiness of their ’80s sounds came sparking itself back into fans’ memory bank. They kept that level of excitement high as they went into “Big Car,” a track introduced as making its live debut. Well-received by the audience, the band was in a groove and ready to rattle off a set full of newer and older songs.
With each track performed, including “Country Death Song,” “Please Do Not Go,” as well as “Jesus Walking on the Water,” the crowd sang in unison, swayed, smiled, and entered into some great mass of kindred shared memories, some might say even brightly building new ones. Thereafter, more surprises came with “Good Feeling,” “Never Tell,” and “Hallowed Ground.” Feeling the good vibrations in the crowd from start to finish, Gano and Ritchie both engaged upfront as Sparrow provided a strong beat from track to track as the main set closed out with the trio of “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Black Girls,” and “American Music.”
As the Violent Femmes finished up, the crowd demanded an encore. Graciously meeting the demand, Gano, Ritchie and Sparrow returned to deliver “Mirror Mirror (I See a Damsel)” in its full “oompa” stylized marching taunt and the audience clapped along to the beat. Finally, delivering every young boy’s question of, “Why can’t I just get one kiss?…Why can’t I get just one screw…,” they went into the finale of “Add It Up,” which was the consummated Punk song to close out the evening.
Performing at what some fans called their highest energy in years, Violent Femmes offered over a three-decade span of tunes, as well as a ton of great new material. We Can Do Anything is not reaching back, but building forwards and is a great body of work that fits nicely into the collection of the Violent Femmes works; much as the evening performance by the Violent Femmes did. An evening that brought yesterday and today into one place of time, a performance of Femmes Alternative-sparked, sometimes unconventional, lyrically-driven music that feels right. Like a comfortable pair of ripped jeans and a soft cotton t-shirt… their music acknowledges to being just the right sound, feel, and beat.
In enough words, Violent Femmes are the American staple of Alternative Rock, bringing tremendous hooks, catchy lyrically sought after verses, and a singular stylized Folk Punk Rock sound that crisscrosses seamlessly between all social, economic, and cultural standings. Their sound, on any given day, can be heard across a radio dial. Without question, it is on this tour that they really are celebrating with their fans. It was an evening of merriment and excitement where the Violent Femmes’ old and new songs presented the band’s established way.
The evidence of how the Violent Femmes have uncompromisingly created their own being was clearly marked and defined within the over-packed concert venue. From the theater’s barricade in front of the stage to the auditorium floor, lifting upwards towards the balconies and flowing out of the housing arena and stretching itself to the entrance doors…Marquee Theatre was packed. Packed with people from all walks of life and age categories enjoying the sounds of the Violent Femmes.