Written by Jordan Chan
May 17, 2006 at 08:00 PM
ImageI wasn’t sure what to expect when I pulled up to Numbers.  It was slightly past 8pm and a line of people already started wrapping around the club.  They crowd was a mixture of chains, leather, suits, ties, dress shirts, spikes, collars, “wife beaters”, jeans, and I’m sure a dog collar or two.  Sitting idle, the Violent Femme’s tour bus was seen clearly visible in the parking lot next to the small.  30 minutes later, the doors finally opened.  I walked up to the counter for my pass which has the name Violent Femmes encircling a star that says “25 years, ESTB 1981”.  Wow, they have been around for that long?

Die hard Femmes fans all know the band was discovered by Pretender’s on the streets of Milwaukee in 1981, when Beta was popular.  Since then, the Violent Femmes produced over a dozen records and performed countless sold out shows worldwide.  Femmes music has also been featured in several soundtracks including “The Crow”, “Mystery Men” and “South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut”.  2006 brought about the release of “Archive Series No. 1 Live in Iceland” and a live concert DVD titled “No, Let’s Start Over”.  The DVD, based on the description on the website, seems like a bootleg of a bootleg.

The Femmes took the stage around 10pm or so in the sardine can of a venue.  The crowd, packed shoulder to shoulder, somehow managed to throw their hands up in the air when red lights bathe the stage.  I have to admit, I’m not a big Violent Femmes follower, so it came to my surprise when I saw them on stage.  I had thought they were the roadies or sound techs.  No at all what I expected.  The Violent Femmes looked like they just got out of their 9 to 5 job at a call center for major credit card company.  I guess 25 years on the road caught up to them.  But 25 years worth of fans were also present supporting their music.

It was almost midnight before the Violent Femmes shut down for the night.  Some of the more recognizable songs played were “Add it up”, “Blister in the Sun”, “Kiss Off”, and “Confessions”.  Femme fans however seems know exactly every song played during the two hour set.  There was also a song about Jesus walking on water which apparently is also the song title.  Violent Femmes also featured a horn section, The Horns of Dilemma, tooting their way into several songs towards the end of the show.  I can’t exactly classify the sounds that the Femmes are popular for.  Through the night, I have heard a mixture of horns, spoons, a box, religious rock, folk-rock, bluegrass, jazz, and for a lack of a better word, garage rock.  I think however, the most distinctive sound of the night is Brian Ritchie’s bass.  He alternated between an electric bass, a stand up bass and his for signature sound, the acoustic bass.  They also have no set list and seem to play whatever they feel like randomly.

Again, the Violent Femmes were not what I expected.   Though they seem a bit more seasoned than expected, their sounds were timeless.  I think fans that were from the first Femmes show over two decades ago, came back with their off-springs, who were also fans of the band.  And, like those fans, I would definitely go back to another Violent Femmes show.