For the past several years, the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD has held an annual summer music series, holding a few concerts over the course of the summer with some well-known bands headlining the bill and, of course, lots of beer. With an outdoor stage setup on their lawn that would make many full-time music venues envious, and the sound to go with it (and did we mention, the beer?), the concerts are well worth the short road trip up into the wilds of Maryland. On a clear, warm summer evening last Saturday, the brewery presented their first concert for this year, a sold out performance by the reinvigorated Violent Femmes.
The Femmes saturated the local market last week – on Tuesday, they played another sold out show at the Lincoln Theatre, and on the Sunday after their Flying Dog appearance, they played at Merriweather Post Pavilion as part of local radio station DC101’s “Kerfuffle.” Yet this hardly dampened the enthusiasm of the audience who had come to see them. And if any of the animosity that existed for years between founding members Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie is still present, they kept it off of the stage. Joined by drummer John Sparrow (who recently joined the band as a full member after being part of their backing band for a decade, replacing departing drummer Brian Viglione) and saxophonist Blaise Garza, Gano and Ritchie led the band through a full set of their hits, some deep album tracks, and songs from their new album, We Can Do Anything.
The band opened the show with two songs from their 1983 self-titled debut, “Blister in the Sun” and “Kiss Off.” Gano’s voice has changed a bit over the three decades since that album came out – it’s less nasal and more resonant, and he seemed to make more of an effort to sing rather than speak his vocals as he did in earlier years (admittedly, a mixed bag at times – Gano's notably older voice sounded somewhat off on some of the band's more juvenile songs). Musically, the band is on par with the best they’ve ever played, their deceptively simple “folk-punk” songs masking some fairly complex structures. The band played all of the expected hits, of course – “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Country Death Song,” “I Held Her In My Arms,” “American Music,” and, of course, “Add It Up” (which closed the night). But they also reached deeper into the catalog, playing songs like “”Good Feeling,” “Jesus Walking On the Water,” and “Color Me Once.” While the band did play tracks from the new album, they didn’t overload the audience with them, mixing several songs like “Big Car,” “I Could Be Anything,” and “Issues” individually throughout the set.
Frederick local singer-songwriter Luna opened the show. The next show in the Flying Dog Summer Sessions is on Saturday, July 30th with jazz/funk jam band Galactic headlining.