The Violent Femmes have confounded critics and fans alike since the band came along in the early 80s with a sound and style completely their own. Their music has been called punk, folk, and “classic alternative rock,” but for band founder, Gordon Gano, striving to avoid any category or label works best. At the same time, songwriter and guitarist Gano and bassist and co-founder, Brian Ritchie have steadily cultivated a fan following that would make today's YouTube flashes in the pan feel envious. Years after the Violent Femmes had their breakout hit, “Blister in the Sun,” Brian Ritchie marvels that their self-titled debut album went platinum with over a million copies sold, and entered Billboard as both platinum and a “New Entry” designation.

The Wisconsin band brought songs of the past and their newest album project, “Two Mics and the Truth,” to “CBS This Morning” for Saturday Sessions on July 15. They also brought a whole new use for a backyard grill

Happy in the music and in the middle

The Violent Femmes came on the music scene when synthesizers and echo sound was contending with the raw scream of guitars and the youthful angst of punk. Songwriters Gano and Ritchie had plenty of raw edge to their topics, but they incorporated a kind of folksy sound that never fit with those times.

Maturity has mellowed the storms of temper between the creative partners, who seem quite content now to be somewhere “in between” the extremes of punk and rock, and admits that the band has had a comfortable niche and enduring respect in that place.

Torturous splits have happened with the Violent Femmes through the years. Even their fortuitous discovery by Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders provoked ire. The unknown musicians playing on the street outside the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee impressed the headlining band so much that they were invited to be an opener for the gig.

When fans found out that they couldn’t see the band playing anywhere else the next night, “they got angry” recalls Gano. The most painful parting came in 2007 when Gano sold “Blister in the Sun” to Wendy’s, and Ritchie filed a lawsuit against his collaborator.

“You have to forgive,” Ritchie explains to Anthony Mason.

Gano continues, “We disagree on a lot of things, but we come together in the music. The music is what does it.”

Bring on the songs and the barbecue

The Violent Femmes opened their morning set with the celebratory “American Music.” Nothing could be more American than a classic backyard barbecue grill, and percussionist, John Sparrow, put the summer food favorite to an all new use, calling its musical tones with brushes and stick to accompany Gano’s resonant range in the playful tribute to his art. Few groups of any genre could elicit such joyful harmony from banjo, acoustic bass, saxophone, and grill as these artists did.

It wouldn't be a Violent Femmes concert without a visit to that debut album, and the infamous and much-loved anthem, “Kiss Off” came next.

There is something unspeakably invigorating about hearing these men sing this ode to rebellion now. Ritchie’s gritty backing vocals set off Gano’s warning of “This will go on your permanent record” to a tee. Ritchie’s bass hasn’t lost any of its blister in the song’s iconic countdown, either.

The closing selection was “I'm Nothing.” The song redefines its title not as a negative, but as an affirmative choice. The song espouses that it is better to be nothing than to be dragged into the mire of political sides, wars on sexuality, or battles of love and hate.

In a recent interview, Gordon Gano quipped that “we're some kind of rock band,” of the Violent Femmes. He couldn't be more right on that one.

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