Cyn told me that she heard the Avetts were booked on opening night before the Violent Femmes were added to the bill, but I didn't believe her. I mean, I'd never even heard of them before. But now I see how that could be true. They've probably sold more albums than the Femmes. But we were still wondering how many people would leave after the Avetts were finished. Which brings us to our featured attraction...
The Violent Femmes got back together! Woo woo! Earlier this year, they were approached by Coachella for a reunion show. Summerfest decided to get in on the action and also made them an offer, and they were added to the opening night lineup on the main stage. This year is the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album, so they decided they'd play it straight through. That's not too exciting, since they normally play most of the songs on it, but hey, it was Violent Femmes!
Victor Delorenzo, Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and John Sparrow took the stage. It was kind of odd to see John there, but he keeps time, and also fills in some of the drum sound for the songs where Victor played a full kit on the original album. Victor had a tom, a snare and a high hat. Brian played his acoustic bass, for the most part, the electric once or twice, and xylophone for "Gone Daddy Gone" of course.
So they opened with... "Blister In the Sun," and played almost without stopping until the end of side 1, when Gordon spoke a bit. He apologized for not thanking us for our applause, with the excuse that they were playing the songs as they appear on the album, and there's no talking in between songs on the album.
So, "Blister," "Kiss Off," "Please Do Not Go," "Add It Up," "Confessions," "Prove My Love," "Promise," "To the Kill," "Gone Daddy Gone" and "Good Feeling." "Confessions" included the noise jam by the Horns of Dilemma. This featured Sigmund Snopek, who played various instruments on various songs throughout the show, including keyboards, like on "Good Feeling." Gordon played violin on that song.
After the album was over, they did a few more early songs. First, was "Jesus Walking On the Water," followed by perennial favorite "Country Death Song," for which Gordon played banjo. "I Held Her In My Arms," "Gimme The Car." "Black Girls" and "American Music." The encore (the word, which Brian reminded us, means "again") was "Blister In the Sun." I was guessing (or just hoping) it would be "Add It Up." "Black Girls" included Snopek on alpenhorn. Peter Balestrieri on baritone sax, for "I Held Her In My Arms." Jeff Hamilton played guitar or mandolin on most of the later songs. For "Jesus Walking," Gordon played violin, and his sister Cynthia came onstage for vocals. They didn't introduce her, but she sounded exactly like the voice on the record, so I have to assume it was her.
After the Avetts were finished, a lot of people left, but the place still looked pretty full (but there were few bleacher seats sold). My friend Steve mentioned that the age of the crowd had gone up. That's probably true, but there were still a lot of kids there. The two teenage girls behind us were singing along with every song. After the Femmes started, the remaining audience went wild. But since three of the first four songs were their biggest hits, and the fifth song was kindof obnoxious, that's when people started filtering out.
So... musicianship. As mentioned earlier, Sparrow was onstage to provide the beat. Enough said. Gordon's guitar playing actually sounded pretty album-like, at least early in the show. He hasn't exactly done a lot to advance his practice over the years, though. Ritchie has. His bass guitar solos are always changing and improving. He must be out of practice, though, after the five-year hiatus. He seemed to be off his game. A couple of solos just didn't have the magic.
The show let out shortly before midnight. They started somewhere around 10:30, so they played for barely over an hour and a half. Too short. (I think the Avett's played for over two hours.) It was so much fun!