Venison to Rock Again at Decadent Cabaret 2016
The words of poet Donald Justice, in his poem “On an Anniversary” come to mind: “(Twenty five) years go by / In the blinking of an eye / And you are still the same / As when first you took (that) name,” that name, that divine, delicious name: Venison.
And for a generation of kids, like me, coming of age in Eau Claire in the early to mid-90s, there was no better moniker (no better band) to epitomize full-bodied, red-blooded rock and roll. They were a home-grown dynamo whose reverberations can be felt to this day in our local scene.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their very first release – the 7” vinyl record 1/15/91 / Shedded Skin (Todd Gaulke) – Venison’s original lineup (Rick Fuller, Todd Gitzlaff, Chris Jackson, Jon Olstadt, and Chicken Weise) have reunited to perform a special set at this year’s Decadent Cabaret (a mix of original tunes and covers they used to play in 1991). I reached out to the band for comment on silver anniversaries, silvering hair, and the silver-est of linings.
“What Venison started in the ’90s is still going strong.Venison’s roots and influence are still felt via members playing in the local scene today.” – Venison’s Jon Olstadt, now playing guitar with the Drunk Drivers
On the significance of an appearance a quarter century after their first recording, bassist Todd Gitzlaff writes, “We thought it would be fun to slam through the tunes again” – a sentiment shared by guitarist Jon Olstadt: “It’s a great excuse to get back together, have fun playing music, and turn the current scene on to our tunes.”
“In its heyday, in the ’90s,” Olstadt reminisces, “Eau Claire had a group of local bands – Venison, Touch Is Automatic, Three Litre Hit, Voodoo Love Mint – that would pack bars wherever they went. It was a great time for music in Eau Claire. Draws of 200-300 people, all the time, were common; there was a great community scene going on.”
But it was Venison that took the first big risk in putting themselves out there. “Venison was the first to get a label (Big Money Inc. out of Minneapolis) and hit the road touring around the country. They inspired a lot of local bands to get involved,” Olstadt says.
However, by the end of the ’90s, it was an all-too-familiar song. “For me,” Olstadt continues, “members had grown apart, in terms of musical interests, and it was time for a change. I was ready to put time into trying something different.”
Core members of the band went on to be involved in other acts in Eau Claire and the Twin Cities. Gitzlaff cites The Kingsnakes as a notable achievement. Olstadt and (eventually) Weise moved on to the Drunk Drivers (another band that recently celebrated two decades together) proving, in some respects, Venison never truly went away.
“What Venison started in the ’90s is still going strong,” Olstadt says. “Venison’s roots and influence are still felt via members playing in the local scene today.”
What better time, then, to welcome Venison back to our stage. And, as the years between gigs seem to be shrinking (they last reformed in 2012 to pay tribute to dear departed friend and musician Jeff Johnson), I wonder what, if anything, can we expect from Venison in the future. Olstadt is blunt: “There is no telling what the future holds, and I’m not going to think too much about it. I want to enjoy the now.”
Whereas Gitzlaff is more obscure: “You’ll have to wait and see…”
Check out Venison’s set at the House of Rock on Friday March 4 at 10:30pm. Decadent Cabaret runs all weekend from March 3-5 and features tons of local bands doing tribute sets of rock legends. For more information, find Decadent Cabaret on Facebook.