All I can think of when I try to brainstorm a post about the letter E is the Violent Femmes. I first heard them in 8th grade, 1987, on the pep band trip to the Minnesota State Basketball Championship. Normally 8th graders didn’t get to travel with the pep band, but our band needed another tenor saxophone, so there I was, the only 8th grader on the high school bus. Mostly I rode on an amp in the aisle: the bus was crowded, and I liked how it would roll when the bus slowed or stopped. Though I remember feeling waaaay out of my league (you know that movie Hoosiers? It was like that. But I was 13. And a pep band member, not an athlete), and kind of homesick, I was mostly excited.
One of my roommates, Tanya, had brought a tape player with, among other selections, The Violent Femmes. I had never heard anything like them. Just the year before I had purchased my first pop music cassettes: Cindi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual and the Footloose soundtrack. Until then I mostly listened to my dad’s record collection, which consisted primarily of Tragic Country Death Songs. I was not exactly unprepared for the Violent Femmes, but I wasn’t exactly prepared, either.
The Panthers won the state Class A tournament that year, the smallest Minnesota school to do so at that time, and there was exhilaration and joy beyond anything I’d ever seen before. I remember screaming with joy alongside my band mates, and an exhausted ride home (again on the amp). I still get the song “Kiss Off” stuck in my head, and it always brings me back to 1987.