Vieux Farka Touré and Jackie Venson Help Christen the 04 Center

Malian blues meets Austin blues via world-class shredders

Blues guitarists Boureima “Vieux” Farka Touré and Jackie Venson electrified the 04 Center on Friday night. South Lamar’s Faith United Methodist Church until January 2018, the Austin New Church is now booked by Dallas promotors Kessler Presents – partners in the Old Settler’s Music Festival – after dark.

Vieux Farka Touré (r) and Marshall Henry at the 04 Center on 5.31.19 (Photo by John Anderson)

Playing to a three-quarter-full house in the 04 Room, whose capacity might be estimated between 200-300, Venson called attention to the P.A.’s pleasing 1,900 watts. The celebrated Austin native thus made full use of her resources in performing material from this spring’s studio debut, Joy. Now a one-woman show, the self-proclaimed DJ flaunted her ability to tune in real-time as she controlled a sampler in bouncing her modern take on blues around the room.

“Keep On” garnered perhaps the best applause after the guitarist announced the song has been picked by a Spotify playlist and consequently continues to gain a steaming audience. Her opening act also marked the last hometown summer show before she leaves for Europe and other parts of the U.S. on tour.

Vieux Farka Touré appeared not long afterward after having arrived locally from Mali the day before and admitted to still operating on the five-hour difference between Austin’s Central Time and Mali’s Greenwich Mean Time. As such, his transport of culture flowed all the more impressive. Flanked only by NYC bassist Marshall Henry, a staple of his shows, the Malian guitarist effortlessly plucked, sung, and lectured for 80 minutes.

The 38-year-old son of Grammy-winning roots and blues musician Ali Farka Touré (1939-2006) beamed with joy from the get-go, often looking over at his onstage comrade with glee. A large brown cross hangs from the ceiling of the 04 Room, but that’s not why the usage of call and response felt spiritual. The headliner captivated the room with infectious energy and mesmerizing speed on the guitar.

The receptive crowd butchered a couple foreign language phrases offered by Touré, but when a reggae-style tune emerged, they knew just what to do – clap to replace the absent drum beat. The highlight of the set occurred at the end when Touré brought out Venson to perform alongside he and Henry.

“I think I’m going to bring her to Mali with me, because they think women can’t play,” Touré snorted.

The now-resident New Yorker and Austinite faced off in a daring, yet encouraging manner analogous to that of basketball trick shot game H-O-R-S-E. The trio played off each other’s notes by simply watching one another’s hand movements. Exquisite solos and tandems followed, a colorful collision of culture.

The masterclass carried on until all three artists bowed out to the sound of gracious applause, the audience won over by world-class talent seasoned in uplifting musicality.

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Vieux Farka Touré, Jackie Venson, 04 Center, Kessler Presents, Old Settler’s Music Festival, Ali Farka Touré, Marshall Henry

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