Violent Femmes back on tour after 25-year hiatus

Gabe Gott

Pre-cursors for the White Stripes, the Violent Femmes brings its 25th Anniversary Tour to Cleveland. PHOTO COURTESY OF VIOLENT FEMMES

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Over the past 25 years, the landscape of the music industry has changed again and again. However, the Violent Femmes have remained largely unaffected.

“We just kind of went our own way,” drummer Victor De Lorenzo said. “A lot of the bands that we were coming up with don’t exist anymore – maybe we’re doing something right by doing something wrong.”

De Lorenzo, singer/guitarist/songwriter Gordon Gano and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Brian Ritchie formed the Violent Femmes in Wisconsin in 1981.

“I would have certainly hoped that we would still be together (25 years later),” De Lorenzo said, “and I guess, God willing, we still are.”

The Violent Femmes – one of the first alternative bands – helped to break the norm of traditional band instrumentation.

“I hope people will look back at us and say that we had the balls to try something different,” De Lorenzo said.

Gano plays acoustic guitar and Ritchie plays acoustic bass. De Lorenzo plays (with brush sticks) a drum set consisting of a snare drum, a cymbal and a tranceaphone – which is a metal bushel basket on top of a tom.

“We helped to break that norm and make it possible for others to come in our footsteps,” De Lorenzo said. “In some ways, the White Stripes exist because of the Violent Femmes.”

The sound and live improvisation of the band caught the attention of the Pretenders, who asked the Violent Femmes to open for them.

Shortly after the Violent Femmes signed to Slash Records and released its self-titled first album in 1982 – which is the only album in the history of Billboard magazine to achieve platinum status without ever appearing in the top 200 of the charts.

The Violent Femmes has released a total of 16 albums, the last of which – a deluxe edition of the first album – was released in 2002.

Violent Femmes 25th Anniversary Tour

Where? House of Blues Cleveland

When? Today, 7 p.m.

How much? All ages (balcony seating) $22.50-$35 (general admission) $22.50

The band has no plans to release another album anytime soon, De Lorenzo said, but hopefully there will be one during the course of the next year.

“I would like to see it as much as the fans would,” he added.

There are multiple generations of Violent Femmes fans. Some have followed the band since it started, while others are new to the band.

“I think it’s because people can relate to the emotions that are dealt with in the songs,” De Lorenzo said.

The Violent Femmes fans have always packed the venues that the band plays in to catch its improvisations and performances of new and old songs.

Performing the older songs is like performing a classic play, De Lorenzo said – you can’t change the dialog, but you can change the way the play is presented.

“They’re classic songs,” he added. “You have to make them come alive for you and the audience with every performance.”

Contact ALL reporter Gabe Gott at [email protected].