Despite a rough, minimal approach, the Violent Femmes, a new wave trio from Milwaukee, proved quite compelling at the 9:30 club Saturday night. With the contagious enthusiasm of the early Modern Lovers, the Violent Femmes invested every vocal and instrumental phrase with an intensity that worked dramatically even when it didn't work musically. The band's original songs had a driving momentum and a jingly tunefulness that carried the listener past the mistakes and into the vivid expressions of adolescent frustration.
Brian Ritchie generated most of the music with agile melodic lines on his acoustic and electric basses. Stand-up drummer Victor De Lorenzo underscored the beat as guitarist Gordon Gano delivered the descriptive lyrics with his limited but persuasive voice. On "Gimme the Car" the trio combined good humor, jangling textures and convincing anger to capture the quest for teen-age independence.
In the opening set, Bryan Greggory of the Cramps showcased his new quintet Beast. Dressed up like Alice Cooper, the band members performed their songs about Satanism complete with candles on the amps and a live snake curling around a mike stand. The band combined the sloppy tunelessness of the worst punk with the crude overkill of the worst heavy metal.