Violent Femmes: performing the debut album cover to cover
Levitt Pavilion Denver
1380 W Florida Ave, Denver, CO 80223, USA
Presented by 97.3 KBCO
Sunday, May 21st, 2023All Ages | Rain or Shine Doors Open: 5:00 PM | Show Start: 6:00 PM
Box office open 3-8pm
The world may look different, but every generation goes through high school—or something like it.
Back in 1983, Violent Femmes documented the boredom, the anxiety, the elation, the depression, and the wonder of the high school experience, while living it on their seminal self-titled full-length debut, Violent Femmes. Akin to other totems to growing up a la Catcher In The Rye, this album has only proven more relevant as it’s lived through the fall of the Berlin Wall, the advent of the internet, an uneventful Y2K, a very eventful turn-of-the-century, seven presidents, and one pandemic to celebrate its 40th birthday.
So, how did these tracks make it this long?
For starters, they’re real. Frontman, singer, songwriter, and guitarist Gordon Gano chronicled life as a high schooler in Milwaukee as it was happening to him (he didn’t do so years retrospectively as a twenty-something). So, his lyrics reeked of glorious awkwardness, whether it be the head-scratching confession of “I stain my sheets” on opener “Blister In The Sun” or the prick principal’s warning, “I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record,” during “Kiss Off.” This was the ultimate report from the frontlines of the teenage experience before we got so used to such a thing in wantonly self-indulgent social media posts (back then the drinking age was 18!).
As the story goes, Gordon and bandmates drummer Victor DeLorenzo and bassist Brian Ritiche recorded in at Castle Recording Studios in Lake Geneva, WI over the course of one weekend. For as open-hearted as the lyrics may be, the single takes allowed for the cracks and grooves of Brian’s sole snare drum to rattle your brain and Brian’s acoustic bass to throb intently and wildly like a bucking bronco on crystal meth. Also, who could forget Gordon’s masterfully plucky riffs?
The record also harbors a quirky history befitting of its whacky legacy. Of note, their fans practically destroyed Carnegie Hall when they played in ’86, leading to a ban for the group and every other rock band for twenty years!
It was also the album that enshrined Violent Femmes folk punk progenitors. It led to sales of 3 million-plus, placements on “greatest albums of the eighties” lists by the likes of Pitchfork, a slot on the first Lollapalooza in 1991, coheadlining Big Day Out Festival with Nirvana in 1992, prevalence in Grosse Pointe Blank in 1997, and a cover of “Gone Daddy Gone” by Gnarls Barkley [Danger Mouse x Cee Lo] on their platinum St. Elsewhere in 2006.
Some of their contemporaries may have shifted tens of millions of units, received constant rotation on MTV, picked up GRAMMY Awards, and sold more shirts at Hot Topic, but few (if any) made an album as prescient, potent, and powerful from top-to-bottom as Violent Femmes. The master recordings may have been lost for over three decades, but the band will play it once again in its entirety on tour in 2023.
If you haven’t seen them since high school or college, bring your kids and their friends, because they are just as daring, dangerous, and dynamic as ever. You know high school still sucks, but Violent Femmes f—ing rule.
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