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Thursday, June 24, 2010 07:02 am

Venice comes to town

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Venice performs at 8 p.m. on Sat., June 26, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

The path to success in the music business is covered in an array of obstinate obstacles and littered with the remains of those who tried and failed. Even being born with a music family pedigree is no guarantee of success and sometimes it’s a hindrance. Venice, a band from the Venice, Calif., area formed in 1977 by first cousins Kipp and Michael Lennon, keep driving down that music road every day, and have ever since they can remember.

“Our fathers were professional singers and we grew up around the industry,” said Michael. “That helped us find out what to look for and to pick some right roads when we started.”

The Lennon Sisters, huge stars in the 1950s and 60s from appearances on “The Lawrence Welk Show,” are actually older sisters to members of Venice, creating another big link to the music business. The large Lennon family of entertainers continues to keep the connections close and that intimacy spills over into fan appreciation and band performances.

“We’re nothing without our fans,” Lennon happily admits. “We’ve maintained over the years because we love what we do. It’s really about family and loyalty with the band for us.”

This is the third Springfield performance for the quartet and accompanying band, with all the shows originating as benefits. Steve Wells, a local business owner and avid music fan, befriended the group and approached them about a benefit concert. This version, presented by the WFC Foundation, supports Sparc, Southwind Park and the Hoogland Center for the Arts. The group plays many charitable concerts, including a recent show in Santa Monica, with Colin Hay of Men at Work, Curt Smith from Tears for Fears and Fee Waybill of the Tubes, for the Artists for the Arts Foundation.

“We are a big supporter of benefits,” said Lennon. “We love it. This one is a great cause for people to be involved in and we’re doing it through a friendship.”

After years of working hard to make ends meet while resolutely playing original music in Los Angeles, Venice recently got a huge break. In April, after months of anticipation, the band announced three fourths of Venice (Kipp, Mark and Michael) goes on the road in the fall with Roger Waters to sing harmony during the 30th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s The Wall world tour.

“It’s like someone looked down and said, ‘You’ve put in your 30 years of playing so here’s a little break.’ It’s just amazing,” said Lennon. “Roger Waters was in my living room drinking Coronas while we watched a DVD of the first Wall tour.”

Always focused on the original music of Venice, the band sees the Waters tour as an incredible chance with encouraging prospects for the future. Then again just singing on stage with Roger Waters and going to all the places the superstar concert goes makes for a spectacular journey and one to be experienced at many levels.

“I’ve always been the hands-on guy in the band, there from set up to tear down. All the levels interest me,” said Lennon. “I’m looking forward to seeing the intricacies of a tour of this magnitude. Then to know we’ll be rubbing elbows with some of the biggest names in the business, plus the fact that they called us is great too.”

They’ve already done a good share of rubbing elbows through the years, working with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Cher, Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson, Warren Zevon, Sting and Ozzy Osbourne, plus being featured on TV shows “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood,” and “The Jerry Lewis Telethon.”

But even with all that stardom hanging around, Venice stays focused on the show, proudly performing from the heart and for the audience.

“We are all musicians communicating with our art and music,” said Lennon. “We’re happy to be up there sharing, making sense of it all with our live show. Hanging in there staying true to what we do is the most important thing to us.”

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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