Stage Mastery and Tight Sets Rule the Night
Any time the third band of a four act bill hits stage they run the risk of playing before an audience whose wind has largely left their sails, their enthusiasm spent from cheering the opening bands’ solid sets and the déjà vu found in the between-set drum kit disassembling and reassembling. If this were ever a concern for the Venus Flytraps, dynamic frontman, Raven Blair, he never blinked.
Playing to less-than-capacity Grog Shop this past Saturday night, the Venus Flytraps could have been playing to ten people, one hundred, one hundred thousand. The result would have been the same. Larger than the stage they played upon, theirs was a magnetic performance. Largely culled from their latest release, Clamp Down, the Venus Flytraps possessed a kettle whistle adrenaline, to which it was impossible not the dance. Even their rendition of the usually stale “Louie Louie” was given a new, full-blooded lease on life.
Self-described as “Voodoo Beat” and a “cornucopia of sex and horror”, the Venus Flytraps are decidedly their own beautiful monster. Even still, it is not hard to draw a through-line in the band’s pedigree; as an undercurrent of Roxy Music and the Cramps inform Blair’s performance and guitarist, Kelly Venus’s, deft licks. No shrinking violet in her own right, bassist, Aubrey O’blivian, provided much of the pulsing muscle that drove the set along.
Quality Records label mates, Wesley Who, closed the show. Last featured in issue 10, Wesley Who has since added another who’s who to the Who. In the form of an added bassist (whose name I didn’t catch. I apologize and hope someone can get me hip in the comments to his name). The tight-knit garage pop act has now become a three-piece. While the band handled their own material admirably as a duo, suffering nothing for their lean numbers, the addition of a bass guitar allows for a fuller realization of frontman, Wesley Holbrook’s compositions.
With two full lengths behind them and an upcoming release that is slated for later this year, Wesley Who’s set list is a lean discourse on bubblegum garage punk that never bothers coming up for air. Think the Ramones but swap out the ripped jeans and black tees for paisley prints and a little more sunshine.
Offering a cover of their own, Wesley Who’s wildly entertaining version of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” saw Holbrook leaning into the throat shredding holler of the Purple One’s refrain, “I want you!” Referenced in our issue ten interview as a major influence for drummer, Steve Wask, the band delivers their affection with the same sincere aplomb that they afforded their own material.
The band closed the night to a small but wholly converted crowd. Much like the Venus Flytraps that preceded them, Wesley Who’s tommy-gun delivery held nothing back and offered the crowd everything to cheer. Bands like these break apart the Cleveland winter doldrums on a cold Saturday night and make being a local something worth celebrating.
These bands are going places. Catch up while you can.