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Violent Femmes + Flogging Molly + Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

What happens when the openers are also the headliners?

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If nothing else, the folk-rockers Violent Femmes have ensured that angst-ridden teens over the last four decades have been able to count to 10. Ten being for everything, everything, everything, everything. But that's hardly all they've accomplished and I would know because I have well-worn copies of their 10 studio albums plus all their side projects from nasal lead singer Gordon Gano's alt-rock ,star-studded solo album to his glorious gospel band, The Mercy Seat, to bassist/multi-instrumentalist Brian Ritchie's eclectic solo stuff that turned me onto extra-stellar jazz icon Sun Ra. Heck, I even bought the records of long-gone bands the members have produced.

In other words, while attendees at their concert this Friday, co-headlining with another all-time-favorite band, Celtic folk-punk-pirate rockers Flogging Molly, can expect to sing along to “Blister in the Sun” off their 1983 debut, the band truly has made a ton of other great music in the last 38 years.

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Flogging Molly has been around over two decades and have come a long way since forming organically and piecemeal at a bar called Molly Malones in L.A. I happened to catch them there once, but it was at their record release show, an in-store at a tiny punk rock record store in L.A., promoting their 2000 debut studio album, Swagger, recorded by legendary producer Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana), that I realized it was the beginning of their road to the big time. They’ve only released six studio albums in their career, but nearly each track is a rollicking—or sometimes heartbreaking—live show, sing-along staple. The outfit manages to retain five of its original members: singer/songwriter (and guitarist/banjoist) Ireland expat Dave King, fiddle and tin whistle player Bridget Regan, accordionist Matt Hensley, bassist Nathen Maxwell, and guitarist Dennis Casey.

It was King who once told me, while sitting at a bar table littered with drained pints of Guinness and some emptied Bushmills shot glasses, that their songs contain, “A lot of tinges of sadness, but you’re celebrating that sadness. It’s just a part of life. And by celebrating that fact, you’re getting rid of a lot of ghosts that haunt you.” Added Casey of King, “He is a great human who sinks his teeth into the ass of life.”


By contrast, openers Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a punk rock Traveling Wilburys formed in 1995, simply stick their collective tongues out to the ass of life. The all-covers supergroup fronted by Spike Slawson (also of Irish folk-punk influenced bands Filthy Thieving Bastards and Swingin’ Utters) and has contained formidable members from CJ Ramone (The Ramones) to Fat Mike (NOFX), began as what seemed like a gag by releasing a smattering of seven-inch vinyl singles scattered across California punk labels such as Fat Wreck Chords. But the covers—concert goers should anticipate hearing covers ranging from Dolly Parton to Barry Manilow—aren’t for poops and giggles. They’re earnest. Twenty-six years later, the run-on joke that isn’t a joke runs on.




Which brings me back to the Femmes. Way back in college, I hosted a show way left of the dial since freshman year and while I spun the likes of NOFX and the Ramones, I made it a point to start every single show (and mixed tape that I’d made for friends and love interests beginning in high school) with a cut from a Femmes album. My favorite had always been the horny—seriously, lots of brass courtesy of a sideband called The Horns of Dilemma—The Blind Leading the Naked from 1989. It featured a killer cover of Marc Bolan and T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution” but the song that remains my A.T.F. is “I Held Her in My Arms.” But I think I’ve come to believe as the band itself probably believes, which is that their G.O.A.T. is their sophomore effort, Hallowed Ground. That said, their latest, 2019’s Hotel Last Resort, released deep into the Trump administration, features both a haunting version of “God Bless America” that would’ve been right at home on Hallowed as well as a re-orchestration of their song “I’m Nothing” that appeared on New Times from the Clinton administration. Gano and Ritchie harmonize singing, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat? A liberal fascist full of crap? I’m nothing.” If you only know their debut you don't know nothing.

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