Violent Femmes kicks off their tour at the Marquee Theater on Tuesday, May 10

On Tuesday, May 10, it’s tour kick-off time when the Violent Femmes take the stage at the Marquee Theater in Tempe. Gordon Gano, lead vocalist for the seminal folk-punk act, promises “a very lively show.”

Don’t take that guarantee lightly. The Milwaukee-born band has gone strong, minus a couple of breaks, since the 1970s took its last breath. And they always deliver.

His mix of styles, from front porch acoustic rock to country and jazz, combined with an anything-goes punk rock attitude, has resulted in too many addictive singles to count: “American Music,” “Blister in the Sun.” “, and “Gone Daddy Gone” are just a few drops in his bucket of 40 years of career.

Gano says that at 20, they weren’t thinking about how far they would go. He remembers that an initial plan would only keep them together for a very short time.

“We were playing and calling ourselves the Violent Femmes in the summer of 1981. The ultimate plan was to do it until the fall of 1981. We were going to split up after a couple of months because (the original lineup) Brian Ritchie (bass) and Victor DeLorenzo (drums) he was going to move to Minneapolis to start a band with friends there. That plan didn’t work, so we moved on.”

“We had times where we broke up and I thought maybe it was all over, but something would happen and we would play again and it would sound great to us. There is something special about the way we play together, and that has always brought us back together,” Gano adds.

While the band’s iconic self-titled first record was packed with so much nuance and so many undeniably catchy songs that it created a devoted fan base, their momentum didn’t stop with that initial adoration.

The Femmes have followed that up with several full-length albums that show their interest in a wild mix of instrumentation. His melodies are punctuated with the sounds of clarinets, kazoos, xylophones, trumpets and flutes. The group continues to add new followers on this long journey; is reflected in those attending the live shows.

“We’ve had the observation,” says Gano, “that as we started to get older, our audience kept getting younger. It really is a mix. We see people who would have been there when we did the first tour, even younger people and children if the venue allows it.”

Humbly, Gano isn’t looking for credit when we mention the band’s influence on so many bands that came after them. As if to change the praise, Gano mentions that many legendary acts inspired the Femmes, but with a bit of prodding, he again acknowledged the effect they have had on many musicians.

“It’s an honor to hear that. It’s something that feels good, whether someone tells us directly or passes on a quote where someone mentions our influence. There is a Portuguese band called Ornatos Violeta, which I heard decided to form a band because the band they all had in common and could agree on was Violent Femmes. I even ended up singing in Portuguese on one of their albums. It really is amazing to make those kinds of connections, it’s wonderful.”

Sometimes he notes the sound of the band in the work of these groups that cite the Femmes as important, but his conclusion does not focus on the sound aspect. “It’s a very specific sound, of course, but what I hear is maybe an influence or inspiration from us, but above all that they are doing it their way, doing their thing.”

Doing your own thing is what the band has exemplified since the jump. It’s a massive part of what defined them. They didn’t sound like other early ’80s punk bands. “We certainly had a different orientation,” says Gano. New Times. “Acoustic instruments in the worlds of rock or punk: there were a lot of people who were initially opposed to it.” Yet they did, making them punk like anyone else out of an unwavering devotion to doing what they wanted.

Before COVID, Violent Femmes released Last Resort Hotel, their tenth studio album, which received critical acclaim. Its depth of sound and astute lyrics prove that the band not only stands the test of time, but continues to build on its foundation in new and unpredictable ways. Tom Verlaine of NYC rock legends Television appears on this latest release.

The band went on tour when the record came out, so this current tour won’t be focused on that release, but some of their songs will surely be in the mix. “We’ll take from the entire catalogue, whatever we feel like playing,” Gano tells us.

They can take some fun risks and twists. “Sometimes I have something on my mind that no one has heard before and I think we should play it, and we will. Over the years we’ve had a few melodies that we work on like this, playing them live while learning the tune. Brian is an amazing musician; he just makes it sound good the first time he hears something. I don’t want to play it safe, have a good time and make sure everyone has fun. We can not wait”.

violent women. With Bhi Bhiman. 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 8. Marquee Theater, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe. Tickets are $18.

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