Violent Femmes 05.03.16

F41A8452 - Violent Femmes 050316I wore it out.   Metaphorically and literally – I wore it out.  It was the summer of 1984 when I discovered the Violent Femmes at summer camp in California.  i grew up in Tucson, which was a bit of a cultural backwater back then and we didn’t always get the newest music as quickly as the big cities.  So the first time I heard the Violent Femmes was a full year after the release of their debut album when my fellow campers from L.A. were playing it.  It was like nothing I had ever heard before and I was hooked, immediately.  I bought the cassette at Warehouse Records when I got home (yes, it was an era in which both cassette tapes and record stores flourished) and listened to it and rewound it and listened to it again until the tape was stretched and the magnetic coating was literally worn off in spots.

The Violent Femmes brought their We Can Do Anything tour to the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, AZ on March 3, 2016. The band is touring in support of the March 2016 release of their eighth studio album with the same name.  Going in, I expected the crowd to be dominated by middle-aged fans like myself – there for the nostalgia of hearing a favorite high school/college band in concert.  I could not have been more wrong.  If there was any question about whether the Violent Femmes music is still relevant 30 years after it first debuted, the demographics of the crowd answered that in the affirmative at the last night.  The Marquee crowd was clearly dominated by college students and 20-somethings.  Not only did they show up in force, they knew just about every word to every classic song in the set.  It was terrific to see that the music that I loved 30 years ago still resonates with music fans today.  The crowd bounced and danced at this show more than I’ve seen at a concert in a while.

F41A8218 - Violent Femmes 050316This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see the Violent Femmes in concert (did I mention Tucson was a bit of a cultural backwater 30 years ago) and it was enlightening.   For instance, the band’s unique sound is generated, in part, by bassist Brian Ritchie’s unique Ernie Ball Earthwood acoustic bass.  The thing is massive and unlike any acoustic guitar – bass or otherwise – that I’ve seen.  And speaking of massive, so is the massive Contrabass Saxophone played by multi-instrumentalist Blaise Garza.  And speaking of unique, so is the Weber One Touch kettle grill played by new percussionist Brian Viglione.  Once you’ve seen Ritchie playing his acoustic bass and heard the way it sounds its easy to hear it and its contribution to the Violent Femmes unique sound.

The concert was great with a terrific blend of classic hits and new material with a slight tilt towards the classics.  This was, hands down, one of the most fun shows I’ve been to in a while – the result of a great combination of terrific hits that still resonate and sound good 30 years after first being released and an infectiously excited young audience.

Review and photos by Greg Cohen

Photos © Greg Cohen 2016

The setlist included:

  • Blister in the Sun
  • Kiss Off
  • Memory
  • Big Car
  • Country Death Song
  • I Could Be Anything
  • Please Do Not Go
  • Good For/At Nothing
  • Love Love Love Love Love
  • Issues
  • Jesus Walking on the Water
  • Good Feeling
  • Never Tell
  • Hallowed Ground
  • I Held Her in My Arms
  • Gone Daddy Gone
  • Black Girls
  • American Music


  • Mirror Mirror (I See a Damsel)
  • Add It Up

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