September 25, 2006

Violent Femmes

On September 9th I saw the Violent Femmes play Get Downtown! Greensboro. It was a free concert for the college kids in the area and it was funFunFUN!!!

First, me & my peeps went to McCoul's, which is an Irish restaurant with a large patio and outdoor balcony situated a block off the downtown main drag. There Pep and I ordered the most heavenly crisp-but-juicy, fried haddock with chips which we washed down with generous glasses of Boddington's. The fried onion rings were excellent too as were the spicy hot wings. (Hey - I didn't eat breakfast, ok!?)

Five hours and a honkin' huge tip later, our group ambled over to the outdoor stage which was set up in front of a railroad overpass in a section of Greensboro that used to be the red light district when I was a kid. It's all re-claimed these days with hyper-expensive condos and national chain bars like Rum Runners, but a friend of mine who is a professional musician reminisced recently about playing that part of town 20 years ago. He said when his band started playing, the folks bashing each other over the head with pool cues stopped, and when the band took a break an hour later the fights started right up again without missing a beat.

Anyway, so the Femmes played in front of the train overpass. The first train that came through drowned them out completely for a few seconds, but someone must have called the railroad, because later trains came through so slowly they didn't have to blast warnings. The passing trains gave the boys in the band a chance to goof with the audience as they facetiously tied some of their songs into a spontanous train theme.

I had never seen VF play before. I was pleasantly surprised to find them something like a gritty, foul mouthed, punk acoustic version of the Bare Naked Ladies. (Yes - I know VF came first!) I love Gordon Gano's old-time gospel voice and Brian Ritchie tore up the bass and the marimbas. Today I checked out Brian's personal web site. He's into playing traditional Japanese instruments. He has a wonderful story there about the first time he played stones with natural holes in them, called iwabue, which he found on a California beach.

What pleased me even more than the original members of the band, was the section of their group they call the Horns of Dilemma. The Horns are a rotating group of musicians who sit in with them as they are available. One of The Horns is Greensboro native, avant garde electric rake player, Eugene Chadbourne.

The last time I saw Eugene Chadbourne play was back in the 80's in the basement of a macrobiotic restaurant on Tate Street called The Hong Kong House. The basement of the Hong Kong House was a tiny cement-lined fire-trap with a stage the size of a placemat. I saw Alseep at the Wheel there and that's where I saw Eugene play brilliant, original shockabilly compositions on a garden rake he'd electrified and hooked to an amplifier. I have one of Chadbourne's albums on vinyl, so I was psyched to see him sitting in with the VF that night, doing his electric rake thing.

I'll be the first to admit that I am no music critic. So what can I say about the show? The band was energetic yet relaxed and I loved every minute of it. They played all the staples folks want to hear and sing along with. It's 100% home-grown American music that appeals to cutting-edge hillbillies everywhere.

The crowd was exceptional because it was made up of beautiful children. By that I mean college students. Rarely have I seen so many high-dollar tattoos and remarkable piercings. Each of the more complex inkings I saw surely cost them a semester's worth of tuition. That more than anything else sets this generation apart from mine. Mine didn't have the green to splash all over their skins. Instead, we had to buy books. ok - enough old lady grumbling. I wouldn't have inked up my body even if I'd had Paris Hilton's money.

But the beautiful children and their expensive skins provided wonders to behold the whole night long. I say this because they wandered all night! A steady stream of children flowed by the place I stood. I know they were in constant motion because I saw the same ones go by at least four different times. This let up a bit after the band played "Blister in the Sun" and the lightweights left. I had almost decided I would begin petting them on the heads as they passed like the chain of little lambs their heads reminded me of. How I wished I had some oats to feed them, if for no other reason than to make them stand still!!! "Kids these days," ye ole hag said as she shook her fist.

The crowd greatly improved after the wanderers left and the rest of the night true fans stood in place and sang, sang, sang along with the band. It was a wonderful night of dancing under the street lights.

Back home, I checked out their entertaining web site, where they offer up pithy descriptions of amusing moments of life among the Femmes. For example:

* When Victor was on hiatus for nine years, Lou Reed asked Brian, "Whatever happened to your old drummer?" Brian said, "As a matter of fact, he is currently playing with Mo Tucker." (from Reed's old band, Velvet Underground) Reed deadpanned, "Any port in a storm."

* Brian Ritchie was sunbathing on a beach next to Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin for 3 hours. Ritchie didn't talk to Plant or introduce himself because he hates Led Zep. Later he read an interview where Plant said the Femmes were one of his favorite bands. Ritchie felt like an asshole.

* Victor and Brian bumped into Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake in the hotel lobby. They introduced themselves and Kerslake said, "I have never heard of you." Then he asked, "What kind of crowd do you have, are there any girls?" DeLorenzo said, "About 50/50 boys and girls." Kerslake said, "You are lucky, we only have boys."

And this:

* Rolling Stone magazine said Gano's voice "can clear a room faster than a methane explosion."

The Violent Femmes - DON'T FEAR THEM!!! They can save you!!!

Posted by Chai-Rista at September 25, 2006 12:23 PM | TrackBack

Sounds like huge fun! Thanks for the report.

Posted by: rp at September 25, 2006 03:16 PM

I have Kiss Off and Add It Up on my iPod as I type this.

I am so jealous. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Gordon at September 25, 2006 07:16 PM

Thanks so much for writing this up! Sounds like a great time had by all.

Posted by: keysunset at September 25, 2006 09:04 PM

Key posted a link so I came to check out your review. Thought it was great! Very cool, thanks.

Posted by: Enough About Me at September 25, 2006 10:03 PM

Chai, I loved reading your description of the evening. I only know their song, "Blister in the Sun," (which I love), but the concert sounds wonderful from your description. Thanks!

Posted by: AMAI at September 25, 2006 11:08 PM

Good mates went and I was supposed to go, unfortunately I choose to work for if I had know the CHAI chick was going to be there...I'd have said "Boss, Bite me! I'm going to see VF!"
Next time...maybe!

Posted by: gaelgurl at September 26, 2006 03:39 PM

GG - in that crowd I don't think you'd have ever seen me. It was huge! But we had a blast. Sorry you missed it!

Posted by: Chai at September 26, 2006 03:49 PM