Sure, the Barenaked Ladies are headlining, and it’ll be awesome to sing along to “chickity china, the Chinese chicken” — but has any rock band ever captured adolescent angst quite like the Violent Femmes? Songs like “Blister in the Sun” and “Add It Up” have helped at least two generations of lonely youth survive.
“Every night we sign autographs, we get someone who says the Violent Femmes got them through their teenaged years,” says bassist Brian Ritchie.
Before they were lifesavers, the Violent Femmes got their start in Milwaukee in 1980. Ritchie and original drummer Victor DeLorenzo, who were huge Velvet Underground fans, heard a local singer named Gordon Gano.
“Someone introduced him to me as a pint-sized Lou Reed imitator,” Ritchie says. “He was very young — we all were — but I recognized his raw talent right away.”
The band’s 1983 self-titled debut album was so simple and self-assured that it became a rite of passage for every kid looking for “just one kiss.” Three decades and seven albums later, those early songs are still what the Violent Femmes are best-known-for. The four tracks on the recent Happy New Year EP should win over casual Violent Femmes listeners. Ritchie says that Happy New Year can be seen as more than the title of the EP; it is also a happy foreshadowing of a new full-length due out next January, which he says should be, appropriately, more palatable to their fans than to the greater industry.
“When we started out, we didn’t want to fit into the music scene, and we still don’t,” he says. “We see ourselves as storytellers.”
It hasn’t been all happy in the Violent Femmes camp in recent years. In 2007, Ritchie sued Gano for half of the songwriting rights after Gano allowed “Blister in the Sun” to be used in a Wendy’s commercial. Fortunately, they were able to make peace.
“We’ve had many falling outs over the years,” Ritchie says. But happily, “we decided there was something unique between us and with our audience that we thought was worth setting aside our differences.”
Violent Femmes and Colin Hay open for Barenaked Ladies at 7 p.m. Friday, July 10, at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, 12551 Glades Road, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $40. Call 561-488-7414, or visit pbcgov.com.