Review: The Dirty Femmes at hi-dive, 4/7/12


Like any relationship, a live band needs to first find common ground with its audience, and then and work from there. This is made extremely easy when you're whole set is duplicating material the audience is already familiar with. The crowd will burst with enthusiasm because your songs are their songs. There is nothing cheap about this. Or pretentious. Or spurious. It is rock ardor at its finest. And last night's debut of the tribute band the Dirty Femmes, covering the Violent Femmes first album in it's entirety, was fan-boy glory at it's finest.

Like the Velvet Underground or Iggy Pop, the Violent Femmes were one of those rare underground acts that never made much money yet somehow wrote a handful of songs that even the most casual music fan can identify, which naturally makes for an ideal choice for a tribute show. Last night's hi-dive crowd was the perfect mixture of party girls, rock fans and record geeks, all eager to not only hear a rendering of folk-punk's godmother album, but to hear it interpreted by a band who knows what to do with the material.

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It was obvious that Jen Korte pulled off the experience of both enjoying VF's music as a fan -- bonding with the audience over the love of an album that debuted when most of us were in diapers -- while still delivering a crisp, satisfying rendition of music we all know and love. When violinist Adrian Short joined the band to add a little anxious spice to "Gone Daddy Gone," the band gelled around the song in a way that defied the fact that this was their first time on stage as a VF tribute.

"Are you guys enjoying this?" Korte asks the audience -- their unbridled enthusiasm led her to say, "We should do this again some time." She then launched into a slowed down, a capella intro of "Add It Up," teasing the audience with those familiar lyrics "day, after day, I will walk and I will play," before bursting into it, head on with the audience shouting back "why can't I get, just one fuck, why can't get just one fuck!"

"This next song is going to be a little awkward, because my parents are here," Korte says with a small laugh, "but that's okay: They're good sports." The band then murdered us all with a perfect rendering of "Gimme the Car" shouting "Come on dad gimme the car tonight/I tell'ya what I'm gonna do/I'm gonna pick her up/I'm gonna get her drunk/I'm gonna make her cry/I'm gonna get her high/I'm gonna make her laugh/I'm gonna make her . . . sshhhh."

The song's an anachronistic novelty about male pubescent angst leading to terrible, anti-woman behavior has a comical edge to it when sung by a woman, especially one as charismatic as Korte, who switched to a lo-fi mike and whispered the monologue/sweaty-preacher parts of the song, drawing us all in to her stage charm.

The eclectic crowd's fandom for the Violent Femmes debut album expressed itself in different ways: While some danced and shouted for joy at the opportunity to hear a beloved record performed live at full volume, others stood thoughtfully off to the side, arms folded as they waited for the band to fuck something up.

Though when the band flipped the album's track listing on it's head, closing their set with the hopelessly recognizable guitar intro of "Blister in the Sun," the audience all came together for the love of this one song. Even the thoughtful record-geeks -- who would typically inform you that "this really isn't the Violent Femmes best song, you should check out . . . " even if you didn't ask -- were clearly thrilled to be where they were, hearing what they were hearing.

Earlier in the night, Kitty Crimes slowly made the audience her own, gradually drawing the crowd away from the bar with her infectious beats and relentless skills as an MC. It was clear from the beginning that most of the crowd were there for the Dirty Femmes (probably half a dozen bodies were present for her first song), but by the time Kitty Crimes finished her set -- assaulting the crowd with empowering vulgarity and uncompromising sexuality -- it seemed most everyone had temporarily forgotten why they came to the hi-dive in the first place.

At one point Crimes was joined by two hyper sprites as backup dancers, along with the ever-present Piper Rose, who for the most part sat stoically cross legged at the side of the stage, some kind of antelope skull on her head with burning stage smoke curling out of one hand.


Personal Bias: I came to see Kitty Crimes.

Random Detail: Outside some guy tried to sell me an old pot cookie he held bare in his sweaty hand.

By the Way: From a certain point of view, the Violent Femmes could be categorized as a Christian band.

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