It is very rare when you can see a band that has been around for decades and still includes multiple founding members in any genre of music, but that is the case with Violent Femmes.
Milwaukee’s own Femmes saw the inside of plenty of coffee houses back in the day. From their humble beginnings, they proved they were anything but cheeseheads. With a catchy hooks and clever lyrics, the Femmes developed an incredibly-loyal following with their electro-freaky and bombastic sound.
As the music Fates would have it, the Femmes’ self-titled album struck a nerve with music fans around the world. It was a true quasi-Americana sound that we couldn’t quite put our fingers on immediately; we just knew it sounded absolutely fantastic! After that initial success, front-man Gordon Gano said that at 20, they weren’t thinking about how far they’d make it. He recalled that an initial plan would only keep them together for a very brief time.
Their sonic vision is a mix of acoustic rock, country, jazz, all mixed in with everything-goes style of punk rock. The end result gives this band a very unique and signature sound. That vision has developed era-defining monster hits “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up,” “Kiss Off,” “American Music,” and “Gone Daddy Gone.”
Before COVID hit us the way it initially did, the Femmes released “Hotel Last Resort.” It was their 10th studio album and it did very well among the critics and their fans. The new music proved once again the band marches to its own drumbeat, and no matter what you expect from them, they always seem to surprise you, and in a very good way.
The grandfathers of folk-punk have also had their music featured on both the big and little screens. “Resident Alien,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Chuck,” “Gross Pointe Blank,” “Mystery Men,” and “The Crow” are just a small sample of their TV and film credits.
Because they have become such musical legends, it should come as no surprise that their songs have been covered by some of the biggest names in music. Gnarles Barkley did a cover of “Gone Daddy Gone” that blew up. The Dandy Warhols took on “Kiss Off.” “American Music” got a do-over from The Hold Steady.
The fact of the matter is the Femmes are living history. The band features Gordon Gano on guitar and lead vocals, Brian Ritchie on bass, Blaise Garza percussion, and John Sparrow on the skins, and they electrify whenever they take the stage.
Gano won’t ever admit to this, but the Femmes’ music has inspired countless bands and positively impacted so many people. It’s that Midwest mentality that keeps him grounded, and reason #101 their fans are so devoted to them.
The Violent Femmes are 43 years in the making and we have been lucky enough to be taken along for this incredible ride.
You can catch the Femmes this weekend at Brookside at the Rose Bowl for the Cruel World Festival and after that, look for this bucket-list band throughout the country on their current tour.