Violent Femmes are touring North America. This week the show winds through Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Rochester and Saratoga Springs.
While on tour the Femmes Brian Ritchie is checking into Noise11 with the Violent Femmes tour diary. Here is Part 3 from Brian:
We have a song called Life Is An Adventure in which Gordon veers between very uplifting sentiments like: Life is an adventure, made for an adventurer, made just for the boy who can, grow up strong and become a man…..to gibberish such as: I told you once, I told you twice, Japanese eat lots of rice.
This is a metaphor for our reasoning behind doing one of the first major tours coming out of Covid restrictions. If you’re in a band for 40+ years there are not a lot of musical mountains yet to climb, and if you did, few would notice. But longevity will bring you to new challenges, new markets, new paradigms that arise from the environment. You don’t have to do anything. Just fasten your seatbelt.
We made a decision to risk touring in a volatile situation, commercially, logistically and even medically. Life is an adventure. Why not?
Our last episode had Violent Femmes (and probably the audience) brushing away the Covid cobwebs and gingerly re-approaching rock for the current time. It has been stated many times Rock & Roll Will Never Die but this theory has been put to the test in recent years. Even before Covid, youth energy has been moving towards video game design, DJs, the graphic novel and other endeavours. This swing of the tour brings us to the blood and guts American cities where Rock and Roll truly never dies. Columbus, Detroit, Cleveland and Springsteen’s breeding ground Asbury Park are die-hards.
First a culinary note: Skyline Chili is a classic Cincinnati style chili, incorporating Greek and Middle Eastern spices, spaghetti, beans, cheese, and delicious crackers. They also put it on mini-dogs. This is our after show food in Columbus, on our parallel tour of regional specialties.
Skyline chili and chili dog. Photo: BR
We do an overnighter from Columbus to Detroit, which gets us into our hotel at 7AM. We decided not to go into many public places on this tour and take our tourism outdoors but the Detroit Institute of Art is inescapable. It is one of the best museums in the world. I say this as someone who is a curator at one of the other greats, Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania. That’s my day job. Varuni and I had the entire museum to ourselves from 9- 10:15AM. To attend you must book an appointment, due to Covid restrictions. It was a heavenly experience. I will show a few artworks which will be of interest to rock fans for purposes of this blog.
Bronze replication of the shirt John Lennon wore when he was murdered. Artist: Yoko Ono Photo: Dr. Varuni Kulasekera.
Sculpture made of remnants of Jimi Hendrix’s apartment. Artist: Cornelia Parker. Photo: Dr. Varuni Kulasekera
Detroit is, as they say, Rock City. We are playing a spectacular Masonic Temple that has been refurbished with the assistance of Jack White (of White Stripes). Jack casts a long shadow in this town. He also has Third Man Records, which sells vinyl and merchandise, has a small performance space, recording studio and pressing plant. I rode my bike over to check it out. Jack’s persistence in adding to the community is admirable, in addition to his musical excellence.
Jack White’s Third Man Records. Photo: BR
The Masonic is our first indoor show on the tour. One of the most frequently asked interview questions is: So, what kind of venue do you like the best, clubs, theatres, festival stages? Covid has changed the answer to: Outdoor. Out of necessity. But this theatre is spectacular and Detroit rock fans are some of the most fervent. We dedicate a song to our long-time and recently departed saxophonist Steve Mackay. Steve was a treasure of Michigan music, having been in The Stooges.
The Midwest is full of cities like VF’s hometown of Milwaukee and our next tour stop, Cleveland, where the tedium of living in the 70’s and 80’s gave aspiring musicians plenty of time to create. Where live music became a respite for the fans from the industrial grind of their jobs and the environment. Jacob’s Pavilion is in The Flats. On our earlier tours it was a seedy area, but now it’s gentrified with plenty of clubs, venues and restaurants.
Jacob’s Pavilion Cleveland: Photo: Dr. Varuni Kulasekera
Cleveland fans attending by kayak: Photo: Dr. Varuni Kulasekera
Another overnight drive takes us to Asbury Park and The Stone Pony. This club is legendary as the dive bar where Springsteen and the E Street Band honed their act. We’ve played inside where Bruce and Co. played but now, due to popular demand, we play the larger outdoor stage. By this point we have been joined on the tour by Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. This is an amusing cover band featuring moonlighting punk royalty from the Ramones, Damned, NOFX and Social Distortion. It’s a beautiful night on the beach and boardwalk for an outdoor show.
The Stone Pony Outdoor Stage. Photo: KSPRZK
©2021 Brian Ritchie
For Brian Ritchie’s previous tour diaries look no further than here:
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