Hell's Belles, with Dirty Femmes and MF Ruckus, at Oriental Theater, 11/2/12
DIRTY FEMMES / HELL'S BELLES / MF RUCKUS @ ORIENTAL | 11.02.12
Last night the Oriental was invaded by a sentimental army of superfans, with performer and audience meeting on an equal plain of adoration for music that was at least two decades old. Jen Korte's Violent Femmes tribute band, the Dirty Femmes, were beautifully complimented by original Violent Femmes' vocalist Gordon Gano on violin, while MF Ruckus, as Iron Maiden, explained the perils of the number of the beast, and all female AC/DC sycophants Hell's Belles delivered enough testosterone -- and classic rock fetishism -- to satisfy the audience's bounty of good ol' boys just off their blue-collar jobs looking to hear some radio hits they've loved since puberty.
As always, the Dirty Femmes brought the perfect combination of nostalgia and skill to Violent Femmes songs such as "Gimme the Car" and "Kiss Off," with Korte's longtime love of the material shining through in her unmasked smile. And Gano provided a damn-sight more than iconic novelty with his role on fiddle, particularly with his stunning, metal-worthy solo on "Add It Up."
This classic ode to pubescent sexual frustration -- with the eternal line "I look at your pants, and I need a kiss" -- sung in the context of last night's show drove home the dynamic of a tribute concert. Korte's vocals were cool, powerful, and in control, which is somewhat antithetical to the nature of most Violent Femmes songs.
When the band's debut album was released in 1983, Gordon Gano was a 21-year-old-son of a Baptist preacher from the Midwest, and judging by his songs, there was an intense degree of confusion and repression in the young songwriter. Korte sounded amazing performing these songs, but she didn't necessarily embody them. She never approached the vunerable anxiety of lines like "Why can't I get just one fuck?/I guess it's got something to do with luck/But I've waited my whole life for just one."
And that's okay. If Korte were trying to make the songs her own on a personal level, it wouldn't work. People don't go see tribute bands to experience the content of the songs; they go for the context of the recordings. The bands on stage aren't singing the lyrics in the circumstance for which they were written -- they're singing them as fans, as an embodiment of what they love and cherish about music. Which, if you think about it, is probably a more sincere form of expression than 80 percent of the bands that only play original material.