7/12/17 Echo & The Bunnymen, Violent Femmes

(i) lineup

1a. Echo & The Bunnymen
2b. Violent Femmes

(1a) (Echo & The Bunnymen’s) setlist

    1. Rescue
    2. Villiers Terrace
    3. All That Jazz
    4. Seven Seas
    5. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
    6. Over The Wall
    7. Never Stop
    8. Bring On The Dancing Horses
    9. Nothing Lasts Forever
    10. The Killing Moon
    11. The Cutter

Encore:

  1. Lips Like Sugar

(1b) highlights

  • Echo & The Bunnymen! Love these guys and this was my first time seeing them live
  • Not many groups that formed over 30 years ago can still sound good today – the Bunnymen are one of them
  • if you claim to be a fan of the Bunnymen, but have never cried in a dark room to “The Killing Moon,” then you’re a liar
  • the chorus of “Lips Like Sugar” is one of the greatest choruses ever written, please fight me on this, I love a good squabble over the important things in life
  • the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island is pretty freaking cool – the idea of seeing a show right on the boardwalk with all the rides and games just behind the stage is so charming

(1c) lowlights

  • our seats were pretty far away and the Bunnymen didn’t have a screen or anything to watch, so they were very small; their moodiness and goth aesthetic was still evident from the high seats though, thank god
  • the band was billed as the headliner, yet they performed first for this co-headline tour and I was anticipating them closing. I wish their set was longer, but can’t complain much for the great performance they put on.

(1d) overall thoughts

Like most of the music I listen to, I first discovered Echo & The Bunnymen back in high school. Around 14, I got really into The Smiths, The Cure, U2, Joy Division and similar 80’s groups, so it wasn’t long before I discovered Ian McCulloch and his moody tunes. Sophomore year of high school, we actually had to take a required religion course for a semester, so I ended up in a class called Hebrew Scriptures. Miraculously, the teacher of that class was not only a big 80’s music buff, but mentioned in passing that before he considered entering the seminary, he was a touring roadie for Echo & the Bunnymen for several years. Naturally, I was in awe.

Some of my earliest memories with EATB music is riding in the back of my parents’ car with my headphones on (back when you would put headphones on instead of in, what a time to be alive), wearing all black, and feeling emo af listening to the dark, sexy sounds of men from the 80’s who emotional and wore makeup because being different is being cool. I probably listened to “Lips Like Sugar” hundreds of times on a playlist stuck between The Cure’s “Disintegration” and New Order’s “Ceremony.”

Seeing EATB at Coney Island very much reminded me of that time in my life, and by the looks of the crowd, that music transported others too. Everyone was in their late 30’s to mid 40’s, mostly tattooed, and felt like they were from a different time. It’s not difficult to allow yourself to be carried away by the music when you remember how, in some form or another, it was there for you when no one else was.

Bottom line: Whether it’s 1984 or 2017, Echo & The Bunnymen are moody, broody artists who know exactly how to tap into just that perfect realm of Sadness. But that doesn’t mean they won’t also make you dance with lips like sugar kisses.

(2a) (Violent Femmes’) setlist

    1. I’m Nothing
    2. Memory
    3. Good For/At Nothing
    4. Love Love Love Love Love
    5. Blister in the Sun
    6. Kiss Off
    7. Country Death Song
    8. Waiting For the Bus
    9. Jesus Walking on the Water
    10. I Held Her in My Arms
    11. Gimme The Car
    12. Gone Daddy Gone
    13. Black Girls
    14. Add It Up
    15. American Music

(2b) highlights

  • Fun Fact: it’s impossible to dislike Violent Femmes, and if you say you do, then by God you cannot be helped
  • Violent Femmes feel like a true phenomenon – they tore through the alternative scene for a solid as all hell 7 years in the 80’s, took some time off, then came right back for another solid 11 years and it feels like no one noticed
  • I feel like most of life can be broken into two parts: the very brief window of time before having heard “Blister in the Sun” and then the rest of your life after hearing it
  • Not many bands can start a song, then completely stop singing and playing their instruments so the audience can finish an entire verse and chorus, but the Femmes can
  • If you think because VF mostly sang “coming-of-age” DIY Midwestern garage alternative rock when they were young so their high-level energy must be behind them…you’d be wrong. These guys are still killing it
  • There was what can only be described as a 10-foot tall brass saxophone onstage the whole show that was played maybe 3 times, amazing
  • Amanda Palmer randomly showed up to join the band on a few songs; as a Dresden Dolls fan, that was pretty cool
  • The drummer, who is currently John Sparrow, played drums standing up, oh and his “drums” were a single snare drum, a giant gong, and a genuine backyard BBQ grill on wheels – need I say more

(2c) lowlights

  • again, our seats were far, but Violent Femmes actually had a screen to watch and the crowd was pretty into it, so not too many complaints here

(2d) overall thoughts

Violent Femmes are a band with music so specifically iconic that I struggle to remember the first time I even heard them. They’ve always existed in culture and the zeitgeist for me in a strong visceral way. To put it super crudely, there’s something about VF that feels so youthful, fun, and particularly DIY that I imagine discovering them as a weird kid in the 80’s is how alternative 90’s kids felt discovering Blink 182. The songs are kind of dumb but speak so specifically and strangely to that audience. (Violent Femmes have a thick layer of authenticity that Blink is lacking, but there’s an analogy somewhere there.)

With probably one of the most fully-realized debut albums ever, VF had and still have some of the most iconic singalong songs I can think of. Even after hearing “Kiss Off” and “American Music” one time, you feel like you know the words. Every song feels familiar and intimate, and I really think that punky garage band quality of their sound convinces people that they could’ve written “Blister in the Sun” or “Good Feeling” too. Like, do you even remember the first time you heard “Gone Daddy Gone”? It feels like it’s always been in the air, in the back of your head, on the tip of your tongue.

The guys are older now, decidedly less punk with their t-shirts tucked into their jeans, but damn, they can still jam. Name another band who can bring a 10-foot tall brass sax and BBQ grill onstage and use them as instruments. Who else would have the guts? They still sound great, they still have that wink, wink-nudge, nudge attitude, and they still want everyone to singalong. By the looks of this show, everyone is still willing to join in and everyone sure likes American music.

Bottom line: Gordon Gano might be the original Rivers Cuomo; only the best of the best can make authentic dorkiness genuinely cool. Violent Femmes started out by speaking for the weirdos, so I only hope they continue being a mouthpiece for those not afraid enough to be different.

Bonus Material!

Clip of “Blister in the Sun”:

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