The Five Deadly Venoms is having quite a summer vacation.
The Brooklyn-based bluegrass quintet (yes, Brooklyn, N.Y.) is spending the summer in the West, playing shows in California, Arizona, Utah and Colorado between band competitions in Telluride at the Bluegrass Festival and in Lyons at Rockygrass.
The band also will play the Summit for a second time Wednesday night after breaking the ice two weeks ago.
The Venoms clocked in as a finalist in Telluride (the winner was a band from Missouri) and is aiming big for Rockygrass in two weeks. The shows played between are for gas money and, more importantly, a warm-up for the competitions.
The band's Durango debut was a poorly attended affair, not surprising on a Wednesday night for a band with little name recognition here. Despite the light turnout, the Venoms delivered, playing three sets of originals, a bunch of Bill Monroe and Hot Rize covers, and everything from the bluegrass instrumental to the Irish jig.
The band features standout musicians with two distinctive front men. Mandolin player Elio Schiavo serves as the band leader, but guitar player Rick Snell (standing 6 feet 8 inches with dreads down his back) was really comfortable when it came to singing the bluegrass classics. Rounding out the group are Rob Hecht on fiddle, James Kerr on dobro and Jared Engel on bass.
The Venoms formed two years ago when band members began playing at random jam sessions around New York City. These jams led to regular picking parties, which eventually led to the formation of the band.
Since then, it's played regularly around all the boroughs of New York. All five band members have studied jazz, classical or music composition in college and play out regularly doing nonbluegrass things, as well, such as playing in rock, Celtic or jazz bands and composing music for theatre. It is touring behind its first, self-titled CD, recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning engineer Dave Sinko.
After Wednesday's show at the Summit, the band will head to the Front Range, and its summer tour will wrap up after its appearance in the band competition at Rockygrass in two weeks. Locals Wild Mountain and The Badly Bent will compete in that competition, as well.
Liggett_b@fortlewis.eduBryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.