Last Sunday Your Smith, and Violent Femmes passed through New York City and played a show to a packed house at Brooklyn Steel.
Now as a massive fan of the Violent Femmes since the 90ʼs, the show could of took place on an barge in the Gowanus canal surrounded by an oil slick fire and I would of figured out a way to get in there. So with sketch book in hand, I came down to see what the night had in store.
First up,Your Smith. Far from the new kid on the block, the new project from Caroline Smith who has been in the business over a decade performing since the age of 16. And once upon a time,even opened up for B.B King. Now with a beginning in the industry like that, she’s definitely a voice worth listening to. Since 2006 she along with her band the Good Night Sleeps ran in the folk indie scene, but after 4 albums with the band she decided to start something fresh, and her new project Your Smith was born.
Smith’s newest album has influences of 90ʼs neo-soul acts such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scot, DʼAngelo with a tiny sprinkle of Sheryl Crow. Iʼd be stretching to say that I could see myself rocking out to her music on the regular. However, the woman has a soulful stage presence, and lyrics that pierce the soul.
Although her opening solo acoustic set was short, Smith had no problem commanding the stage. She came out in her signature White-T, black slacks, and sunburst acoustic guitar and let her soul take care of the rest. She played some of her new singles like Bad Habit,and The Spot in the most raspy dream voice possible.
Your Smith closed down her set, leaving the stage with pink lights in her face, and wild cheers to her back. It was no secret she was meant to be on stage, giving a piece of herself to all who will listen and will be in this industry for many years to come. I couldnʼt help but wonder where sheʼll be in 30 years? What bands sheʼll be introducing into the lives of her multigenerational fan base.
As I watched her walk off stage, anxiety began to set in. I stood sweaty palmed preparing to see one of my favorite party rockers from the 80ʼs and 90ʼs. Was it gonna be the same? Its never the same. Images of aids rolling the band onto stage as Hospice looked on,flickered in my minds eye. The tension inside myself,was almost to much to take.
For those of you who have never seen one of your childhood heros live on stage, after 30 years of being in the business. It can be a scary thing. Not all artists can stay fresh, or hold onto that element of passion that goes into performing the same hits over and over again for decades.
I compare it to watching a lion on a nature documentary, then later seeing a former King of the Jungle cooped up at the zoo. The whole experience can be heart crushing. Sure,its a lion. Its has sharp teeth, an epic mane and the potential to let out a massive roar at any moment. That is, if it ever feels like getting of that sun bleached boulder. Just donʼt be surprised, when that lion hops of that fiberglass rock and forgets how to roar.
Needless to say, I was nervous about the Violent Femmes. I mean, I did the research before coming to the show, and found recent clips of live performances. From what I saw,the band seemed to still have it together. The songs sounded tight but they still were keeping it loose, improvising here and there to keep it fun and spontaneous. Yet still, the pessimist inside me persisted. In the editing room anything can be spliced and tweaked to look good…right?
However as soon the Violent Femmes Hit the stage,my worries were quickly washed away. These Lions, definitely had not forgotten their roar. Vocals of youth revolting pierced my eardrums, while that funky twangy guitar brought a massive grin to my face. The stripped down approach of their live performance on this tour was hands down one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The percussionist was rocking out with a small drum kit equipped with a Webber grill..yes for grilling. A six foot gong, and a saxophone so large it must have been previously owned by André the Giant.
The amount of energy that was in the crowd that evening is hard to measure. But I do feel like I was able to awaken some part of my adolescence. I was instantly taken back to my days spent at my tiny high school radio station playing Blister in The Sun and Gone Baby Gone, plotting how to smuggle booze into prom.
Halfway through the set a couple of girls came stumbling through the crowd bumping into me while I was busy sketching away. One girl, was weaving and wavering far more than the other. And at that moment, I was certain girl #2 was either going to piss or puke right there, until a perfectly rolled joint appeared in her hand which illuminated in the blue stage lights. After which girl #1 let out a giggle, then asking if I had a light?
With help from my trusty yellow bic, all became well in the world. Iʼm watching one of my favorite party bands of all time, jamming out to one of the best performances Iʼve ever seen. Smoking pot with strangers, as lights twirl and bounce off the walls, and the percussionist taps away on his Weber grill as the band plays American Music.
The Violent Femmes played so many hits that evening it would be hard for me to remember them all. What I do know, is that there is no mistake these guys have had such a huge impact on the music of today. After decades in the game, these men still love what they do, and are far from being tired of touring and giving their souls to the masses. If they werenʼt discovered they probably would be still be Busking someplace on the street, just happy to be doing what they love,playing great American music.
The Violent Femmes and Your Smith finished their tour on November 4th, be sure to check both bands next time they roll through your town.
Illustration of Your Smith by Von Ecker. You can follow him on Instagram @voneckerwho.
Illustration of The Violent Femmes by Von Ecker. You can follow him on Instagram @voneckerwho.