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2023 Darker Waves Festival

Source: Scott Dudelson / Getty

INDIANAPOLIS — The Murat Theatre was packed last Thursday night as the Violent Femmes came to town on their tour celebrating the 41st anniversary of their self-titled debut album and the 40th anniversary of their sophomore album “Hallowed Ground”


“An Evening With The Violent Femmes” had no opening act. Instead the band’s performance was broken up into two parts. The first set featured the Femmes performing “Hallowed Ground” in its entirety. Despite this being the band’s second album the choice to play it first was likely for the best as this one is a bit more on the experimental side. The performance started with “Country Death Song” which featured rattling banjo notes and some raspy vocals from lead singer Gordon Gano.


The most compelling part of hearing “Hallowed Ground” performed live is the evolution of the sound from start to finish. Opening with folk sounds that are designed to make the listener feel uneasy, thrashing into an acoustic rock song like “Never Tell”, then taking a turn into a more traditional uplifting folk song like “Jesus Walking on The Water” and ending with an entirely different vibe of the bluesy “It’s Gonna Rain”

As part one came to a close the band exited the stage with a wave, and crew members began making the proper changes for the second set. The audience up to this point had been very active but had remained in their seats for the duration of the performance. (Except for those in the pit.) Even the Violent Femmes number one fan, who I presume was seated directly next to me, did not leave his seat as he danced and sang enthusiastically to every song.


That all would change when the Femmes rejoined the stage to begin the part 2 and play their debut album from front to back. The band would take a brief pause before the iconic guitar notes to “Blister In The Sun” rang out. At this moment every single audience member would shoot up to their feet and sing in unison to the Femmes biggest jam.

Their debut album is in fact filled with their most popular songs, and the audience came alive singing along to songs like “Kiss Off”, “Add It Up”, “Gone Daddy Gone.” Band members were constantly on the move in this second set as Gordon Gano would switch from electric guitar, to acoustic, to violin and bass player Brian Ritchie would alternate between electric and acoustic bass guitars. The acoustic model seemingly inspired by guitar legend Prince as it featured a long upper handle that extended across the entirety of the bass’s neck up to the headstock. Lastly, the other iconic part of any Femmes set is the minimalistic drum set up featuring one snare, one tom, a single cymbal and a grill. That’s correct, a grill.


One member of the band who would receive multiple cheers and rounds of applause as the night went on was Blaise Garza who handled percussion duties and played multiple different variations of the Saxophone, including a mammoth sized contrabass sax that double the height of even the tallest audience member.

2023 Darker Waves Festival

Source: Scott Dudelson / Getty

The final song of the night was “Good Feeling” a slow song that pleads for feelings of happiness to stay. The song’s lyrics include a line that perfectly details how the crowd felt in that moment, “It always seems like you’re leaving, when I need you here just a little longer.” Gano’s violin playing in this song feels like it is crying at times.

The great news is that when the final song of the album was over the band would still come out and treat the crowd to an encore performance of two songs. The saxophone heavy and jazzy “I Held Her in My Arms” and the pop inspired “American Music” would send Hoosier fans home happy and satisfied. The Violent Femmes performance on Thursday added their signature sound to practically every genre of music under the sun. By the end of the night I was dancing with the same energy and fervor as the man seated next to me and much of the audience felt that exact same way.