Blues music can be used for any season, if listeners know how to listen to it right. Luckily, the effort is minimal when talented musicians somehow find a way to bridge the gap for all to enjoy in one sitting. This past weekend, Austin blues sensation, Jackie Venson, blew people away with her stellar performance at Pianos. This woman was perfect for music fans to relish and keep that weekend energy alive well into the week following.
It was an unusually calm night way downtown on Ludlow Street as listeners made their way into the small venue. All while bearing through the chilly and windy weather, folks were eager to rush inside. Despite the low-key vibe on the street, inside Pianos was a different story. Bar hoppers and friends were already crowding up the space and happily bringing the decibel level through the roof with copious conversation. After patiently sliding in between patrons of the night, music fans were able to make their way to the tiny main stage in the back. Upon entering, people were greeted to a loud mix of funky hip-hop music that was amplified thanks to the disco ball that swung with defiant focus. Unfortunately, the opener that night kept having technical difficulties with their guitar, which prolonged their set with various delays. That hardly affected the audience who were all sipping away and chatting onwards. For an ideal set up in that hot room, listeners snagged the red bar stools against the wall and turned to face the stage all ready for Jackie to steal the show.
Finally, the lady of the hour made her way on stage and began to set up. Jackie was sporting a lovely white polka dotted black dress as her wild frizzy hair swayed as she made each adjustment to her guitar. She was intensely focussed and was determined to start off as soon as possible. Beautiful Jackie was also wearing a brace on her left knee of which she dislocated a few weeks ago. To add to her professionalism, it did not stop her from rocking away and touring. She was on a musical mission. A solid crowd clambered in and many remained from the previous set to check out this woman in action. Some friends greeted her as she put the final touches to her instruments and that amazing wide grin was revealed for all to admire. It would never leave that evening.
Even as her drummer, Rodney Hyder, was still setting up, Jackie took things off right away. That sudden jump into the music did not throw off her band mates as they fell in line with ease. To start, a solid southern rock bit was played as her voice took a whimsical inception. Her signature grinding guitar wails soon broke through and prompted grins from fans who were all too familiar with her work. That was what they wanted to hear right off the bat. She was slowly easing listeners into it. Her set would follow an interesting blend of genres that usually remained in a southern rock trance infused with blues and soul. Her music was rhythmic but had that greater appeal to an audience that was not particularly partial to traditional blues. Fans could dance to the tunes and keep that flow going. Her infectious and passionate smile became a regular appearance from start to finish with every song. With it, eac song had an added boost of flair.
For viewers and listeners alike, the thing to be astonished about this musician is a piece of cake. Just watch Jackie’s fingers on her guitar and marvel at the speed and sound that she turns into musical magic. Her fingers were blurs of quick licks that were amazing. Jackie’s guitar solos were ideal blues with funk thrown in there for good measure. Each wail and pluck of the strings was ear candy for all. Truth be told, she could go on forever with her solos and that would have been just fine for many a fan at Pianos. Her solos were addictive and her scatting along with each wail were equally pleasurable to hear. Every bit of it was interesting and blended in well together. On top of that, Jackie was a powerful force of crowd encouragement. She constantly checked in on the audience and had them pumped up for more.
Some form of psychedelic rock and roll began as bassist, Alan Uribe’s, sounds became an overbearing mayhem of music. However, that did not discourage or distract viewers who were simply enjoying the emotion on Jackie’s face as she stared up towards the ceiling with each bit of soul. The colors from the stage lights began to match the feelings and sounds that belched out of that guitar. Cheers and hollers followed every solo and it was obvious that the effort Jackie put into her instrument was second nature. Whether it was the pleasant sounds or the speed, listeners could not stop watching her. Eventually, her tunes took a dramatic shift to some thumping rock that was the stuff listeners could get down and dirty to.
Jackie made sure to announce that her merchandise would be making the rounds through the crowd. Of course, fans flocked to the opportunity. Jackie’s most talented moments were when she went back to contemporary and classic blues with her quavering vocals with deep soul within. Avid listeners could tell that was her specialty as the genre was played with grace. When the woman wanted to cut loose, she wasted no time and was on fire. Her vibrant hair swung side to side as she bounced with the beat. Taking the mood down was rare, but the dimming of the lights gave way to a groovy madness. Rodney was leisurely rocking away and loving it. He never missed a beat and was on top of her improvisational shifts. Alan’s style was smooth and he was one who unleashed sweet bass riffs that flowed in well with Jackie’s shrieking guitar.
Jackie was sublime that night and built up blues music to a modern day crowd. Her musicianship was equally matched with her showmanship throughout her performance. The music was so catchy that conversation and dancing were significantly reduced so fans could better appreciate the musical adventure at hand. It was hard not to absorb that vibe. Listeners will be sure to dance to Jackie’s tune well into 2017 and beyond.
Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana