Seventeen years after their debut album, The Violent Femmes continue to work out their angst through song.
Violent Femmes with the Pat McGee Band University of Richmond's Robins Center Arena 8 p.m. Friday, April 16 $19 262-8100 Back in the summer of 1981, three friends got together and vented their teen angst musically on the streets of Milwaukee. Singer/guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo eventually became known as the Violent Femmes and their folky alternative rock spawned classic American teen anthems like "Blister in the Sun," "Kiss Off" and "Add It Up." "Rather than sitting around in a basement getting moldy, we decided to take it out on the street," Ritchie explains from a hotel in Eugene, Ore. "We thought it was fun and it's a good way to develop our technique, playing acoustic instruments, not relying on amplifiers and all that crap." Lucky for the Femmes, after only playing together a couple of months, the right person just happened to walk by their street act. The Pretenders' James Honeyman-Scott listened to them and asked if they'd open up for his band that night. "It helped us get in front of a lot of people and play but after that one night it was like a Cinderella story," Ritchie says. "They just disappeared and we never heard from them again for 10 or 15 years. But that gave us a lot of motivation and made us realize we should stick with it." Eighteen years and seven albums later, the Violent Femmes are still touring and recording music. On Friday, April 16, The Violent Femmes will play the Robins Center Arena at the University of Richmond with the Pat McGee Band. In 1982, the Violent Femmes released their debut, and still best-known, album. The self-titled release blended hyperactive new wave beats, off-center, acoustic folk-rock and the wild anger of punk. Despite its enduring popularity, it actually took close to a decade before the album went platinum. The Femmes came well before grunge made teen angst commonplace. Ritchie points out that although the band members didn't have difficult childhoods, they were all teenagers when they began and in general teenagers have a lot to be angry about. "I think it's a matter of having a realistic viewpoint," he says. "I mean the world is a dangerous and bad place and if you really want to be honest you've got to sing about that sometime. I think that music is a good way for some people to get rid of their aggressions, otherwise why would drums be such a popular instrument, they don't sound good." Gano, who writes most Femmes songs, actually comes from a pleasant background and his father was a minister, according to Ritchie. "He didn't really have any hard times except, of course, it was well documented that he had problems getting laid, but I think all guys have trouble with that when they're teenagers," he says. "So I think some of the anger must be more internally developed because he certainly wasn't oppressed by external factors." Ritchie says The Femmes have recorded both a live and studio album due out the end of this year. "We're hoping to get back on track releasing records on a more regular basis than we have been in the last five or so years," he says. "We enjoy it, it's a fun job. We're just going to continue to bring the music to the people as long as they want to hear
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