New Bands Tent, Glastonbury Festival, Saturday 26 June 1999


"Are there any festival virgins here today?" she drawls at one point during today's lunchtime set. "I'm a festival virgin." She, of course, is Debbie Lime, frontperson of Venini and possibly one of the most astonishing sights to be seen at a characteristically late-1990s (read drab, dressed-down, khaki 'n' combats) Glastonbury. Dressed from head to toe in leather and caked in ridiculously glamourous panstick makeup (think Vogue circa 1965), Louise Wener she's not. She can't move without striking a pose - guitarist Russell Senior said in an interview recently that before long, the rest of of the band will be reduced to the status of "Veniniblokes", and he's got a point. Venini have so far released one single and played a handful of low-key gigs, but she is already a consummate star. Add to this Russell, doing his usual entrancingly bizarre thing that made him the second-most famous person in Pulp (for this occasion, he appears to be wearing a dazzling white tunic ensemble) and bassist Nick Eastwood, dressed in 1977 Clash black and leaping about like Nicky Wire, and we have something that actually LOOKS like a real band - incredibly refreshing in a climate where the most you can usually expect is five anonymous Delgados or Travises hiding behind their guitars and mike stands hoping no one will notice they're there. Venini. They've even got their name on the bass drum. Superb.

Venini's music is no less thrilling. Opening with the irresistible skewed glam stomp of Mon Camion, they take us through a set that recalls, at various points, Stereolab, Kenickie and T-Rex, but without ever losing sight of their own colourful, simultaneously sophisticated and brash identity. Longtime Russell-watchers will be able to tell with their eyes closed who's playing guitar - that stiff, jerky trademark sound is still there, alternating between insistent, tinny, spidery one-string riffs and crunchy, wah-wah enhanced washes. Less expected was the sudden appearance of an acoustic guitar for several songs, but there it was - hell, there was even a ballad.

Venini are calculated (yet unforced) oddness, deadpan perversity, transcontinental lyrics, glam-rock. They are also 1999's finest, and possibly (in as much as these things are important at all) most important, rock 'n' roll band.

Mark Sturdy


Back