The Violent Femmes played here last year, and their show at The Tobin Center was remarkable and inventive. This time around, they were still daring anyone to call them a nostalgia act. They played a brand new song they had never played live to open up. Who does that? Crazy people, maybe. Or a band tired of wondering what it means to be safe.
Yes, they played the hits. They played new stuff. They took a quiet break and Gordon switched to the violin.
Really, though. If you are going to go see a show, shut up and watch. This presentation, at The Aztec Theater, was marred by an audience that wasn’t there to watch and listen. At least two different people in front of me were removed by bouncers for recording the show. During Gordon’s taking up of the violin for Good Feeling, everyone around me broke out in conversation. Before that, during one of the songs, the people behind me were kicking the seats. I had had enough.
The singular act of putting down an electric guitar and playing the violin during a rock and roll show is an act of vulnerability. Hammering on a Weber grill is just asking for the kids to look at you askance. Playing four different bass guitars, half of them acoustic, and then switching over to the xylophone is like dancing in a minefield. Bringing a massive saxophone that rightly belongs in a museum is an act of trust. I don’t get what the gong was for—I think they had a roadie hiding behind it. The Violent Femmes bring all of their gear, as a man once said.
For me to ditch the show before American Music, which is the greatest Violent Femmes song ever, that means that something had to have gone wrong. I’m not too keen on the vibe in downtown San Antonio at night anyway—lots of physical violence, lots of big trucks driving too fast, and lots of stereotypical unsafe hobo activity to go around. That’s my hangup, not yours.
It is totally not the band’s fault, but I could not enjoy the show. I love watching this band live. I love the percussion, I love the addition of a horn player, and I love what they do every time they start to play. You never know what’s going to happen, and there’s a reason for it.
The Violent Femmes are not here for bullshit or nostalgia. And if you can’t enjoy the show, stay home. Brian may seem indifferent, but I suspect he does not want you there if you can’t suspend your interest in social media and absorb the hammering vibrations of his bass playing. Victor De La Whozitnow? The Violent Femmes have a drummer. His name is John Sparrow. He is walking around like a God on this Earth, and he’s in the band now.
Shut up and watch.
I will not go back to that venue. They do not have it under control. They do not provide a chance to hear music played live the way I like it, and that’s just my preference. If it’s your thing to go out and make videos with your cheap phone and act like a shithead, hey, this place is where you want to be.