While buying tickets for David Ford at Rockwood (Stage 2), I noticed that Jackie Venson would be playing at Stage 3 earlier the same night, so I bought a ticket for her show also and convinced Peter, mollyT, and rtb to join me since we were all going to see David. What I did not realize was that Venson was playing the early show at Stage 3 every Wednesday that month.
I had first discovered her when she played a holiday song for the Austin Statesman and I had checked out the webpage because the Old 97’s had also contributed a song. She impressed me enough that I subscribed to her site so that I would know when she was in NYC (she is a native Austinite). Her father is Andrew Venson, a bassist and singer with R&B, jazz, and soul bands Blue Mist and Seeds of Fulfillment (he is now retired). Venson played classical piano since she was 8 and went to Berklee College of Music. She was not having much fun and she saw a classmate having a ball playing guitar. After listening to some blues, Venson decided to become an electric blues guitarist. She taught herself in a very short period of time and was soon playing gigs.
I would pit her against any well-known guitarist – male or female. She makes the guitar sing along with her. Sometimes I find it difficult to make out her lyrics because Venson and the guitar are singing the same notes. She reminds me of Jimi Hendrix – not the style of playing but in intensity and talent.
The room was not full but Venson still had that big smile on her face. She has such positive energy that it is impossible to feel down around her. She said she got a parking spot right in front. Prayed to St. Murray, which always works as long as you thank him. She told a story about busking in Times Square and someone stealing a $150 mic. She shrugged and said, “New York City. She makes you pay.”
Because she was playing solo, she was looping drums and synths and the occasional guitar lick. She works all that in without it overwhelming her amazing guitar playing. I wish her original songs were better because then I would love her even more. Her blues songs are the best. There are also a couple with some reggae influence. I know one of the songs was called “Run.” Another was about cutting people out of your life – “get rid of the junk, I just want the funk.” And there was a song about a man she will never have – Robert Downey Jr.
Her surprise announcement is that she will be playing ACL this year. David was at the bar and I suggested to him that he should check Venson out because she is an amazing guitar player and he said he would try but he had to set up for his show.
By Carene Lydia Lopez