VIOLENT FEMMES Arena, Fortitude Valley 19/03/05[Originally published in Rave magazine, Brisbane 29/03/05]
If I say “another stinking night at the Arena”, you’ll know exactly what I mean. For the sake of my health I missed first band The Whats (although singer Tim Screamfeeder assured me they were fantastic, and that’s good enough for me), and entered the blazing inferno of wall-to-wall punters in time to catch an utterly redundant solo rendition of Neil Young’s “The Needle And The Damage Done” by support act The Vasco Era. Just time to paddle through the yellow mile of piss to the bar so I could bathe in the humidity from two thousand steaming armpits. I think I slid over the puke stain I made at a Divinyls gig in ‘88 (take that, Poxy!) and staked my spot near the open doorway. You all know the term “ugly drunk” - well, there I was, ugly sober, more than a little hyper-critical, and despite the odd $6 Tooheys, utterly sideroaded on the lager-lined Fun Expressway.
As a live prospect a folk band, even if it is the Violent Femmes, is not exactly what you’d call dynamic. Drummer Victor DeLorenzo did his best to keep things moving along, leaping around his stripped-back kit like a monkey with a bottle rocket in its poo-tube, and beefy sweat-shop Hercules Brian Ritchie flexed through a staggering array of bass-like instruments. Perennial geek-turned-god Gordon Gano stayed rooted to the spot in his Hawaiian shirt but did appear to be having fun, and beamed through his glasses as the room lit up for their umpteen- thousandth rendition of the first album; let’s face it, the Femmes would be nailed to the “Jesus Is Your Fiend” sign if they hadn’t. Their second album Hallowed Ground got a welcome hammering, but just like their 2003 Arena show there was rapturous applause for the early stuff, blank looks and conversation as loud as the band for anything more recent than 1984. These chambre-clad clowns in the crowd should have stayed at their own karaoke recital of Kiss Off, though extended workouts of Get In The Car and Black Girls, complete with a local ring-in Horns of Dilemma and party hooters, thankfully drowned the fuckers out.
When the Femmes connect with the crowd they’re on fire; when the audience is checking their text messages and fingering their girlfriend’s see-through tank tops, no amount of kitsch gospel can save them. Then the old hoary chestnuts are whipped out for the encore, and once again it’s wall-to-wall smiles, people bouncing off the centre poles, and an unlikely collection of bevans, hipsters, fifty-somethings and even a counterfeit Nick Cave all singing along to Add It Up. In that golden moment, even if you were a fetus in 1983, you couldn’t have resisted rediscovering the awkward teenager in you. A teenager, that is, ready to punch out the tittering ninnies to the left of me.
So in conclusion:
1) Girls from Darra are happy to pay $42 to hear their favourite song from high school then leave to smirk at the Dollar Peeps.
2) Fence in a bunch of or’nary decent folk (you know, “consumers”) together, feed them a dozen Vodka Cruiser, light a fire under their ass, and they will turn loud, boorish, disrespectful, and use the lit screen of their mobile phones in the place of cigarette lighters.
3) Cranky, jaded fucks long past their use-by dates should never go out in public sober, let alone whore themselves for free tickets. See you Darra fuckers at the bar.