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Another Bite of Venison

local rock heroes of yore stage special reunion show

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by Mike Perry

90s rockers Venison, shown here savoring life on the road.
90s rockers Venison, shown here savoring life on the road.

“It was an overwhelming yes.” There are a lot of reasons to get the band back together, most of them more ill-advised than Spandex on a middle-aged insurance salesman. But when the friends and family of Jeff Johnson asked the men of Venison to re-take the stage to honor the memory of their recently deceased dear friend, front man Rick Fuller answered in the aforementioned affirmative. “We jumped at the chance to pay tribute to Jeff,” says Fuller. “Venison started up in late 1990, and at that time Jeff’s band Another Carnival was very, very successful – touring nationally and showing up on MTV. He also ran Side by Side Audio, a successful music store in Eau Claire, and young bands like ours would always go to Jeff for equipment needs, rental, and knowledge. When I got a band together Jeff was already Eau Claire’s rock star, and someone all the bands looked up to.” Fuller owes another debt to Johnson: As a young videographer, Fuller and his partner Phil Harder shot videos for Another Carnival that wound up on MTV, a break that led Fuller into a long career of shooting music videos for a boatload of artists including Prince, Low, Incubus, Liz Phair, and Foo Fighters. (With Harder, Fuller also used to produce the local cable access punk music program Anarchy in Eau Claire.) But on May 19, Venison (with the classic lineup of Rick Fuller, Chris “Chicken” Weise, Jon Olstadt, Matt Caflisch, and Justin Solberg) will honor Jeff Johnson with their music, a loud, grungy, driving onslaught that blasts straight to the gritty heart of the working class life in a post-industrial mill town where honest, hard-working, pissed-off people put their shoulder to the wheel by day and their fist to the sky by night and in response to all life can dish them, let out that most primal Wisconsin scream: “FORRRRWARD!”

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