If anyone should be under the impression that Venini‘s following would include a sizeable portion of Pulp fans, all excited about seeing ex-Pulp guitarist and fiddler Russell Senior then they’d be…. right. While this band may indeed hail from Sheffield and feature one female and four males it is not Pulp mk. II, as hinted at in certain sections of the music press. Venini are a mixed bag of tricks and at The Falcon in Camden Town there was much to comment on.
Senior’s fret talent has clearly only improved with time and he is still one of the best all-round guitarists on the indie circuit just now, his quasi-psychotic stare and mod suit being hangovers from his Pulp days. The rest of the band were as far removed as could be from the heady summer of ’95, Common People and all that. The man who grabbed the limelight was unquestionably Venini’s bassist, a chap called Nick Eastwood (later of Dolly TV), who, complete with mascara, looked far too much like Boy George not to be related. Clearly enjoying every minute of being on stage in this glorified rehearsal room, Nick looked every bit the pop star – dancing, leading the band; a bassist, Jim, but not as we’ve known them.
The drummer (Robert Barton) and synth player (Danny Hunt, later of Ladytron) were stuck in the most minute corners imaginable but somehow made their presences felt, while vocalist Debbie Lime strutted her stuff at the front, occassionally strumming a guitar. Dressed in a leather mini-skirt and matching jacket, make-up completing the effect of a genetic cross between Debbie Harry and Siouxie Sioux, sacheting her hips and staring at things beyond our ken, Debbie Lime was a vision. It was unfortunate that the speakers seemed only to play guitar and bass to where I was swaying; perhaps on the other side of the room people could hear only vocals, synth and drums. Whatever, the band seemed ill-at-ease and finished their set before they were scheduled so to do, and despite persistent efforts from audience members they did not return. Why?
Finding Nick/Boy George perched on a step outside I asked him. “We were hot, everyone was hot, so we finished early,” said the bassist. It was a pity – the music was a very interesting brand of indie indeed, Lime showing off her French language skills and, in Mon Camion, surely Gary Glitter was watching over proceedings.
Amongst the chattering classes in attendance on this fine evening in Camden was one Jarvis Cocker. What did he make of it? I found him chatting to Danny the synth player, telling him that he had no stage presence and (is this possible??) laughing in a Yorkshire accent. “It was odd being a spectator,” said Pulp’s front man, but he didn’t fancy being pinned down to specifics about Venini, despite my best efforts. The two singles, Mon Camion (in case you were wondering, it means My Lorry…) and Carnival Star, were both highlights, but with such a short set, an audience who looked about as involved as a bus queue and the appalling sound (un)balance – poor Debbie’s blazing red guitar was utterly lost in the hubbub – it was difficult, for me at least, to know if Venini had shown their full hand on this night in Camden.