Tuesday, June 10, 2008


When I first came to Illinois State there was a place in Bloomington called the Pool Party House. I was a lonely freshman, excited to find a place where I could see bands play, meet people, and get wasted.

Then it got torn down. And became a parking lot (see: "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell). And there’s a giant Ron Paul poster on a nearby fence to remind me that the world is a fucked up place.

But my friend continued the tradition of the Pool Party House by opening up his kitchen as a new place for shows. He called it The Kitchen. He was clever. And all was great. I met more people, continued to get wasted, and saw Mans about five times Spring semester (more on Mans to come).

As open as The Kitchen has always been to everyone, it was not the place I would have expected to first come across Venna. Coming into what most people considered to be a party, husband and wife Marky and Heather Hladish and Dustin Henry set up three chairs, the boys plugged their acoustic guitars into the PA and began to play to those who were interested. For all the metal, hardcore, grind, thrash, d-beat, you-name-it-core, that has graced The Kitchen, I’ve never seen anyone hold a group of people in their hands the way Venna did that night.

Marky and Dustin are both members of the post-hardcore band The Felix Culpa. Such is evident in their intricate guitar arrangements (though Marky does most of the guitar work on the recording). And combined with Heather’s gorgeous vocals, this group is really something special. They have an excellent six song EP released through Common Cloud Records. These two tracks were my favorite both on the recording and performance.

Meet Me In The Hammock (Bring Cigarettes) tells the story of a one way love from the perspective of the heartbreaker. Aside from tearing the life from a lover, Heather also brought me to tears with this song. “This is where my heart divides: I like your hands; you love my eyes. All is fair in love and sin and I don’t see you coming through this in one piece.” As she describes a feeling of a disintegrating relationship she holds a solemn empathy both for her and for her lover. It’s a feeling, a state of being, that I, like most, have been a part of and Heather describes all too perfectly; delivering with a heartbreaking compassion in her voice.

Papers is the final song on the EP and my personal favorite. Marky’s guitar is a beautiful folk arrangement that feels entirely organic. It’s warm, comforting, familiar—fitting as Heather on this song likens herself to “a river that runs deep and runs slow.” It is also her best performance as she brings forth both her soft comfort along with a display of her astounding range as a vocalist. The two flow together so cohesively throughout the song, so naturally. Their emotional connection as husband and wife seems to simply flow into their songwriting as their separate elements mesh together to create these wonderful songs. And as the two move toward the end of the song, Heather’s last line “He wears your shoes, your coat, your looks” is met by layers of acoustic guitars, mandolin, and a wide array of percussion along with a chorus singing the last line. It’s the type of song that every folk singer dreams of but so few could ever achieve.

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