Tonight I went with a friend of mine to Artscape, a free art festival held in downtown Baltimore every year – this was my second year going (last year was much better since I was able to actually attend more than one event), but it’s great to go at all if you can because there’s three or four different stages with all sorts of different musical acts or bands performing. It’s kind of like a small-scale Music Midtown with the same variety of acts, but (my favorite part) this is FREE! 😀 A shame I missed out yesterday – Isaac Hayes was performing, and how cool would it have been to hear the theme from “Shaft”?? But I digress…
Tonight we went to see the Violent Femmes (who aren’t really “violent”, nor are they “femmes” – false advertising, I say! When I hear “violent femmes” I want to see catfights!). I hadn’t really known much about them other than that they did the hit “Blister in the Sun” and occasionally hearing “Kiss Off” yet not knowing the title of that particular song until I looked it up about 3 minutes ago. After that concert, though, I’ve got quite a bit of appreciation for their artistry. Not only did they rock out, but I heard them cover all sorts of genres – rock, pop, blues, country… this is a rather versatile group.
But see, the first thoughts that usually enter my head when I hear someone mention “Violent Femmes” are either “out of tune” or “bad singing”. But this is where they actually ROCK – while most, ok, all bands have some semblance of musical harmony (“The Shaggs” notwithstanding – I’d say that “My Pal Foot Foot” is more an excercise in dada than actual music), you have to admit that singer/guitarist Gordon Gano doesn’t exactly have a throat of gold. Furthermore, during the concert they brought out a brass ensemble during one of the songs, and they belted out the most bizarre cacophony I have ever heard outside of the dopper effect on a bicycle bell.
However, being “out of tune” or having “bad singing” doesn’t really hold them back – they rock out at practically everything else! Guitar melodies went up and down with fingers flying all over the place! Bass lines thumb-da-da-thum-thum’ed like crazy! In fact, one of the best things to see during the concert was the percussionist rocking out INCREDIBLY hard on the drums! He was beating those drums as if they owed him money! What’s more, unlike most percussionists, this guy was not sitting down on a little stool for the duration of the concert… oh no, this guy was running around and jumping up and down and banging and beating and clanging and clashing all over the place! Amazing!
This is where we flashback to last-year’s Artscape: at this same particular stage last year I saw the “Preservation Hall Jazz Band”, best known for their performance of “When The Saints Go Marching In”. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but apparently they’re one of the must-see things-to-do down there. They performed at last year’s Artscape, and it was an overall entertaining show.
The best part was (and you’ll have to skip ahead to about 5:55 into the song to hear something similar) their percussionist – he looked as if he was ready to fall asleep for most of the set, but when they came to that final song and launched themselves into a rowdy version of “When The Saints Go Marching In”, boy howdy did that guy become alive. He rolled into one of the most impressive drum solos I’ve seen – when you’re hitting those drums and cymbals hard enough to cause one of your cymbals to go flying across the stage then I consider that a fantastic feat.