I do not remember the first time I heard it; there was no life altering revelation – it just always was. There are a few things in my life that seem to have just grown up with me: the Bible, Hymns, and the Violent Femmes. As a kid, my dad would play the opening chords of “Blister in the Sun” mixed in with church music and tuning and goofing off. But there was always something about the playful notes that drew me in. As I got older and fell more in love with the Lord and hymns, I grew to have a deep affection for the Violent Femmes.
I know why all these things are tied together in my mind. My dad. He did not allow us to watch the Smurfs, but listening to the Violent Femmes was OK. The odd dichotomy of this only strengthens my belief that discernment is taught. The Violent Femmes were OK, because my dad could control which songs we heard, and there was such energy in their music, we would run around dancing. The Smurfs were not allowed because Gargamel was a sorcerer and that was not OK, fun or something to be toyed with, ever.
As I have become an adult, the Violent Femmes have always been there as a part of the soundtrack of my life. I have one of their cassette tapes in my car (because that’s how I roll). I love playing it when the air is warm and the windows are down. I relive the memories of dancing in the living room and singing a swear word loudly for the first time in my teen years when I discovered their entire, uncensored catalogue.
I to went see them over the weekend and the whole crowd felt the same joy with each acoustic bass thump, with lyrics we all know by heart, and each count that has been repeated I take one, one, one ’cause you left me/ And two, two, two for my family. With hands lifted high, we danced and sang – we went to church – and as I realized this as they began “Jesus Walking on Water.” “This story and this song will outlive us all,” Gordan Gano introduced. Gano grew up in the church, his dad was a preacher, and his music draws people together the way the church should. I stood singing along and worshipping Jesus, while some may have been hearing the Gospel for the first time, I was hearing the Violent Femmes proclaim truth. I know they do this song on Hallowed Ground, but hearing live was a completely new experience.
They are a very simple and yet complex outfit. They talked of training up their saxophone player since he was 14. They are a family, and I am a part of that family. They helped raise me, they were peppered in among the Bible and hymns, and my dad was right: good music will point you to truth.