Violent Femmes Live at Oppikoppi

2007-08-13 17:36
It’s a little odd having a band that’s 27-years-old playing at Oppikoppi. That’s supposed to be the upper age limit of the audience, not the band. But by 11 ‘o clock on Friday night, the time for such niceties is passed. It’s all about having a good time to great music, and the Femmes did pen one of the great party songs of the 80s, “Add it up”, with its irresistable refrain “Why can’t I get, just one kiss, why can’t I get, just one fuck.” .

Festival goers at Oppikoppi will know the answer to that question – because it’s way too cold to take even one of your three layers of clothes off. Although daytime is another story, obviously. The Femmes kicked off their set with “Blister in the Sun”, a song Gordon Gano wrote when he was a teenager, and a field full of shivering people suddenly turned into a heaving mass of jumping dassies.

It’s a little like seeing Mick Jagger singing “Jumping Jack Flash”. Songs written by youngsters, and now reworked by, not to put too fine a point on it, by oldsters. But the Femmes, like the Stones at their best, don’t play cover versions of their own songs. Everything is reworked, and when 24’s music editor interviewed Gordon Gano, the dreaded word ‘improvisation’ even came into the conversation.

And improvisation’s probably the key to what made the Femmes the best band on the night, because they looked as if they were thoroughly enjoying playing their own songs. And they carried the audience with them – on a song like “American Music,” for example, turning it into an anthemic singalong.

The highlight of the set – and this was attested to by manic audience response – was when Ampie Omo (ex-Boo!) and Lee Tomson (Closet Snare and Hogs), collectively known as the Horns of Dilemma, joined the Femmes on stage for a cracking version of “Black Girls”. Ampie even got a solo, although opinion is divided on whether he was given it or just took it. Either way, he ended up owning it.

And the Femmes owned the night, at least on the James Phillips stage at Oppikoppi, and despite some dodgy sound engineering. There’s a certain looseness that extreme competence brings, and the Femmes had that. Fokofpolisiekar, the band that followed them (in probably one of their last ever gigs, although who knows with those guys), were by contrast much tighter, but somehow… flat. The kind of danger they play with is personal, rather than musical.

Funny, that. An audience singing along fervently to the ever-glorious Femmes classic, “Country Death Song”, and then a little later to “Hemel in die Platteland.” It’s true – good songs are good forever, just the jeans get tighter.

- Chris Roper

Country punk in the bush: Violent Femmes put a blister in the ice of a cold Oppikoppi night.

Gordon speaks to 24:
Violent Femmes Interview
Femmes in our Day 1 video highlights
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