The Violent Femmes, The Parthenon, Wellington, 2003
Before Rage Against The Machine came along, if you were a teen sniffing out rebellion with training wheels, perhaps even a swear word or two for emphasis to upset any parental listenings, you played The Violent Femmes… on your tape deck. At school, via student radio, orientation parties, the Violent Femmes were immensely popular here in NZ - hell, we gave these Milwaukee sons their first gold disc! I never saw them on previous tours though. Crime. This show at The Parthenon (the open again, closed again James Cabaret) was brilliant. I mean these guys were popular, and everyone wanted a raucous show, so to get it in a smaller venue like this was electric. The Femmes were so much tighter than I expected. I guess a compact, stripped back three piece like this allows no place to hide, and the endless years of shows made them fierce. I have never seen a bass player attack his guitar and play lead before, but Brian Ritchie was mind blowing: leaping about, posing, strumming, hacking, slapping that guitar. It was all the more striking because he must be six foot plus, and was wearing a sort of leather kilt and combat boots. And they just kept playing as the whole crowd circled and sang along. I think this must be a notable gig for the amount of times I have heard a record(s) by a band before I was ever lucky enough to see them. That might play into expecting too much, cause too much anticipation in a lot of cases, but I think that night I didn't expect the show to rock like it did. Writing this I am craving to see them again - not sure if that is possible. I think they came to Australia last year, but there have been a few ‘break ups’ in recent years… and lawyers. Not sure if I can think of a band that sound anything like The Violent Femmes, before or since. Surely that is a ringing endorsement given music’s tendency to cannibalise itself every few years. Thanks Gordon and the Two Brians. “Daaaay. After toodaaaaaaaay!” Play ‘Add It Up’ from debut The Violent Femmes.