Since I keep seeing these Hewlett Packard commercials featuring a mash-up of “Blister in the Sun”, I have to wonder if Violent Femmes’ founder Gordon Gano is having a bit of a rough go of it. I also can’t help but remember back on October 4, 1998 when the band played Beeghly Center. Kings of the “folk punk” or whatever you want to call it in the ’80s and early ’90s, the Femmes were in the beginning stages of a decade long dissolution process in 1998. Dropped from Interscope Records earlier in the year, the band was out on the road doing some fine tuning for a series of live recording dates in Wisconsin from October 25-31. Those recordings would become the Viva Wisconsin! album. Freak Magnet, the album the band recorded for Interscope before being dropped, would not see the light of day for another two years even though they were playing songs from that album on this tour. So miffed by the commercial failure of Freak Magnet, the band never wrote or recorded any original music again.
The then 34-year-old Gordon Gano who greeted patrons at the Beeghly Center was surly, dismissive and at times agitated. It’s not to say the performance wasn’t good. Bass player Brian Ritchie and drummer Guy Hoffman did their best to keep the energy positive. It’s likely that was something that became a pattern for those two as the band played sporadic gigs for the next decade before calling it a day in 2009. As for the cause of the break-up, it had a lot to do with the rampant licensing of songs for commercial use by Gano.
WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: I recorded some of it on a cheap tape recorder. Here is a link to an interesting exchange between Gano and the audience regarding the death of Gene Autry which happened a few days earlier. Of course, if you want a good sounding recording representative of what was played that night, pick up the Viva Wisconsin! album.