The Venus Illuminato @ The Tangier 9/10/2008
I told you that I’d chat you up about The Venus Illuminato later, didn’t I?
When last we saw your humble correspondent, she (that’s me, folks) was basking in the afterglow (get your mind out of the gutter) of having unexpectedly experienced the sonic charm of The Atma at The Silverlake Lounge. What a magical musical eve it was….except for the fact that the band that I actually went there to see, The Venus Illuminato, had the show from hell wrought with technical difficulties.
But like a true champion, the beauty is in the ability to pick oneself up and out of the fetal position that you assumed on the stage floor and soldier on. Perhaps what happens at The Silverlake Lounge, stays at The Silverlake Lounge.
I count myself lucky in many aspects of life, particularly so when it comes to how fortunate I am to be surrounded by music in abundance. Sure, Southern California is flawed and known as the land of the fruits and nuts but it is surely worth its weight in avocados when it comes to the music that thrives here.
Balladeers. Troubadours. Minstrels. Slaves to periodic romance. Sons born from the womb of the Goddess of mirth and psychedelica. Men may very well be from Mars but these gentlemen covet the name of The Venus Illuminato.
First let me say that The Venus Illuminato’s music may very well defy description and/or categorization as well as being pigeonholed into a specific genre, but it’s safe to say that it and they would not be terribly out of place busking on a corner outside of a coffee house. They are…it is, at its simplest, classic chamber music on mushrooms. I know that sounds silly, particularly in today’s musical atmosphere, but you have to go with me on this. Cue the seductive “Mt. Olympus” and see if it doesn’t practically surgically extract the urge in you to grab the nearest guy or girl, execute a curtsy or bow, launch into a Baroque and listen to the pretty colors.
Rob Franco (vox, guitar, harmonica) and Brandon Kennedy (lead guitar) are mere babes as a band (around 2 years old) but they bring to the table a rich palette of sound that’s unique on the ears. Rob’s voice, an expressive tenor, just happens to be well suited to romantic songcraft and visualization, yet could easily front something harder. I’m thinking that perhaps I should let their own words speak for them so, with the vibrant dialogue of Rob and Brandon, follow where this leads you:
“Picture yourself being knifed by a gypsy on board a high-jacked merchant ship off the coast of Morocco while an 1860’s civil war band drops some acid and does their best interpretation of 70’s English psychedelia.”
To catch them in the live is to trip a bit as, when this band plays, they have a very distinct following of friends/supporters equal to a troupe of loving, hip/hippie groupies who clap, stomp, tambourine shake, twirl and make merry almost on cue, bruising the floor with their enthusiasm. No finer example than during the song “The Waltz”; a restrained sultry piece that ebbs and flows with the gentle violin play of Chris Swanson and Brandon’s lively acoustic guitar; only to culminate with brashness from the cymbals. The music is a bold blending of folk rock and ethereal romance; rich and gorgeous, heady and fun. With a band behind the duo (soon to be joined by an upright bass), the music expands and fleshes out what could ordinarily be limitations when you think that one could only do so much with this type of sound, but make no mistake, this weirdness is the embodiment of “indie rock”. Brandon Kennedy’s elegant guitar work (acoustic and electric) is a star, as nothing can replace such warmth and when Chris Swanson steps up for violin duties, you can almost hear the proverbial pin drop.
Brandon has a feather in his cap and can rock a pink shirt like nobody’s business. Rob performs barefoot (and if you’re lucky, shirtless) and has the right to wear low slung pants. Burning incense at the front of the stage cleanses, prepares and sets the scene for the loveliness to come. This night at the Tangier, all went according to plan and The Venus Illuminato can consider themselves completely redeemed from the Silverlake Lounge debacle. At the end of that show, Rob was reluctant to even tell the crowd their name. At the end of this show he could speak it with pride.
Set list: Company With Kings; Weary Brother; Farmer’s Daughter; The Waltz; Mt. Olympus; Shake The Sun
So onward ye vagabonds and bohemian lovers, alike; remember that good music is timeless and that the rock can gracefully roll when creative liberties are taken. Find enlightenment and The Venus Illuminato at http://www.myspace.com/venusilluminato and befriend them posthaste.
That’s as far as my Olde English is going to go. For now.
You can also grab a copy of their “Company With Kings” CD to enjoy at your leisure and your leisure is what it will inspire.