Jan 27, 2010

By Rob Nagy

GordonGano-WorldCafeLive-1-14-10-2There is no arguing that the Violent Femmes lead singer Gordon Gano has one of the most unique and recognizable voices to emerge out of the latter part of the early eighties’ punk rock movement. As a member of one of the most intense and emotionally charged bands of their time, Gano and the Violent Femmes have never been short on addressing social, political and life issues in a brash, sarcastic and intelligent manner accompanied by hard driving and catchy music that, at times, crossed over into the main stream record buying public. Even after their peak, the Violent Femmes managed to remain intact celebrating a longevity that a distinct few managed to achieve. Now with the apparent abrupt disbanding of the band, Gano is taking his message into a new musical direction as an integral member of “Gordon Gano and the Ryans”

Based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Violent Femmes, consisting of Gordon Gano (vocals & guitar), Brian Ritchie (bass & vocals) and Victor DeLorenzo (vocals & percussion) first came to National prominence in the early eighties when the late James Honeyman Scott, original Pretenders’ guitarist, discovered the band while they were performing in front of the theatre at which the Pretenders were doing a concert. The Violent Femmes soon developed a cult following earning them a record deal with Slash Records. Their 1982 self-titled debut, which included their signature song “Blister in the Sun”, set the tone for an impressive track record that saw the release of sixteen studio and compilation albums over the next two decades. Often attacked by the fickle entertainment press, the Violent Femmes, who were often compared to the “The Velvet Underground”, didn’t let these narrow minded opinions stop them. Rolling Stone magazine went so far as to not include the band’s multiplatinum debut as one of the most important records of the eighties. In August of 2007 the Violent Femmes had just completed a successful tour abroad when Gano was slapped with a lawsuit by the band’s bassist Brian Ritchie alleging that he did not receive songwriting credit and royalties that he was entitled to. “This is what ended the group”, says Gano. “It is still unresolved and I just have to defend myself against his accusations. I believe there is an end point and someday there will be. I have no doubt that the courts will rule in my favor. With the future of the Violent Femmes very much in doubt, Gano continued to write and produce a handful of up and coming artists, which he believes will garner public attention in the near future. During this time Gano befriended a brother songwriting team in Brendan and Billy Ryan. “Through mutual friends I got to know the Ryans”, says Gano. “They told me they were doing scoring for movies and some other kind of TV thing and somehow it came up about getting me some instrumentals and seeing if I had any ideas for lyrics. I got very inspired and started writing all sorts of things and slowly, over a period of time, we had all sorts of things going.” The result of their painstaking efforts is the release of twelve original songs that capture the songwriting and vocal abilities of a three-some that seemed destined to cross paths. “With the Ryans there was a challenge”, says Gano. “Here I have all these pieces and all these kinds of instrumentals and what do I feel and what impulse do I feel like putting together thematically. I’m starting with a certain framework and that can inspire me just as much, if not more, than just writing a song all on my own. I am also pleased that my vocal range keeps expanding in terms of hitting higher and lower notes”, added Gano. Going under the moniker “Gordon Gano & The Ryans, the band has taken its act out on the road playing a series of highly successful shows through-out the U.S. “I don’t think of it as being a tour because it’s not,” says Gano. “It’s getting out and hitting the road doing shows here and there. Basically if anyone is interested in having us we are there. The shows have been going very well. I am really very happy with them.”

On January 14, 2010 Gordon Gano and the Ryans made their debut at Philly’s World Café Live. Fronting a sextet, which included horns, guitars, drums and the accordion, Gano brought a charismatic style that the audience immediately connected with. The concert featured songs off of their new album. Standouts included the hypnotic beat of “Man in the Sand”, the haunting “Wave and Water”, the sing-along “Hired Gun” and the reminiscent ballad “Home”. Throughout the band’s seventy-five minute set the audience was surprisingly tame with Gano himself commenting on how quiet and reserved they were. Based on tonight’s performance Gordon Gano and the Ryans made an impressive showing that will hopefully garner much deserved attention.

For more info on Gordon Gano and the Ryans go to To stay on top of who is coming to World Café Live go to

Photo by Rob Nagy

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