April 14, 2013


Blister in the Sun: Violent Femmes Connect With Timeless Debut Album

Kevin Winter
Kevin Winter

Is there a more Coachella appropriate song than "Blister in the Sun"? Especially as the sun fades on the hottest day of the weekend (that's 97 degrees, BTW)? It's fun, festive, danceable and everyone knows the lyrics—what else do you want? 

Perhaps that explains the positively rapturous welcome the reunited '80s band received on the main Coachella stage Saturday afternoon. Who knew 18-year-old bros with six-pack abs missed this band so much? Coachella's legacy-artists-up-top lineup strategy may have fallen short with the sparsely-attended Stone Roses gig, but festival producers absolutely nailed it with the Violent Femmes.

It helped that the quartet played their self-titled 1983 (!!!) debut from front to back, and for the first time ever: "We haven't played a show in about six years, so this is a really big day for us," singer-guitarist Gordon Gano said onstage. "Not sure if you noticed, but we're playing the full album. I don't think we've ever done that." And there's not a weak song among its 10 tracks, just good ("Kiss Off"), great ("Gone Daddy Gone"), better ("Blister in the Sun") and best ("Add It Up").

Its lasting connection to youth is understandable, too. Gano wrote the bulk of the folk-punk tracks while he was still a pimply high school senior in Wisconsin, and they deal in universal pubescent angst and frustration—sex, sex, more sex, drugs, and more sex again. Who doesn't get  lyrics like, "Why can't I get just one kiss? / I look at your pants and I need a kiss" and "When I'm walking I strut my style then I'm so strung out / I'm as high as a kite and I just might stop to check you out / Let me go wild like a blister in the sun." It sounds like the 5th period freedom cry day dream of any 17 year old.

And musically there's nothing complicated here, or over anyone's head; it's simple acoustic riffs, accessible to anyone with the most mediocre guitar skills. And they sound sloppy and loose, and sometimes downright ... off ... but that's the charm; the unpolished, unhinged, mouth-off smart alec-ness of it all is truly timeless. Kids like the high school version of Gano will exist forever, and carry that sentiment with them to death.

The band still do, that's for sure. They're probably the least hip people at Coachella, dressed in baggy khaki cargo shorts, Big and Tall button-ups, bellies sticking out; these guys were plucked from their family lives and ushered right onstage. But when those kids jumped for joy, spinning, twirling, hip shaking in freak-out abandon to "Blister in the Sun," "Add It Up" and the rest of Violent Femmes, a giddy, wide-eyed and knowing smile came over snare drummer Victor DeLorenzo and swept across the stage.