SHOW REVIEW: Violent Femmes
May 30, 1998--Philadelphia (Drexel University)
By: Jen Brown
On Saturday, May 30, the day after attending a major music festival in Camden, NJ, I took a ride across the Walt Whitman bridge into Philadelphia. I was there visiting a friend at Drexel University. However in addition to visiting her, I was also there to see the Violent Femmes play that evening. The show was only for Drexel students and their guests. Throughout the day local Philadelphia cover bands played popular songs to keep the students entertained. In addition to the live music, free food was provided. During the day it seemed to me that much of the Drexel crowd was not your typical Violent Femmes fan, which go me wondering, why on earth the college would bring the band to their school for a free show. However when it came time for the Violent Femmes, people mysteriously showed up.
The band opened with an old favorite, Country Death Song. Shortly into their set, they played the song that most of the college students wanted to hear, Blister in the Sun. Naturally, as soon as the opening chord was played the entire audience went crazy. People in the crowd began singing even before Violent Femmes lead singer, Gordon Gano could open his mouth. By this time a healthy mosh pit had gotten started and everyone was on their feet dancing. The group played songs ranging from their debut self titled album, Violent Femmes, to their upcoming release Freak Magnet. Including Kiss Off and Add It Up, two more college favorites.
About half way through the show, Brian Ritchie, bass player of the Violent Femmes announced that the show was no longer a rock concert, but a party, meaning that they were going to do "What ever the we want." At this time Brian Burrell, front man of Yolk, the band which had been on prior to the Violent Femmes, joined Gordon, Brian, and Guy on stage. He, along with Rithcie, played a duet on the didgerido. A didgerido is an Australian instrument. The Violent Femmes are known for their use of unconventional instruments on their albums and during their shows. After the mellow sounds of the digerido duet, the band needed something to get the crowd going again. They accomplished it by playing a song off their ADD IT UP album, Dance Motherf***er Dance.
Also, what Violent Femmes show would be complete with out the ever popular pink flamingos. Often during Violent Femmes shows people in the crowd bring bright pink flamingo lawn ornaments to wave around. This, for those of you who may not be up on your Violent Femmes history, comes from the song Flamingo, off of their WHY DO BIRDS STING? album. Another highlight of the evening was the playing of Color Me Once. This song was originally done for the Crow soundtrack.
The Violent Femmes are one of those rare bands that sound great on their albums, but sound even better live. Although the Violent Femmes are basically a rock band, the elements of folk that they bring into their music help to make the live shows more enjoyable. Although I have never seen the Grateful Dead, I would think a Violent Femmes show is a similar experience. The band has such a wide variety of music, from slow mellow ballads like Color Me Once, to fast-paced up beat songs like Blister In The Sun, no two shows are ever the same. Also, the band does not simply get up on stage play and then leave. The members speak to the crowd during their shows, in fact, according to Brian Ritchie, the Drexel audience was extremely fortunate. This is because apparently drummer Guy Hoffman does not speak to the crowd frequently. That night, he was quite open with us. You can tell that the trio really enjoy what they do.
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