Monthly Archives: April 2013

IN MEMORIAM

I have massive sympathy for the victims of the bomb blasts on Monday 15th April – in multiple locations with at least 42 people killed and over 257 wounded it is a story that deserves to have featured highly in news bulletins. Sadly yet another series of bombs targeting civilians in Iraq does not seem to have warranted much coverage by western media. In Boston, however, an equally shocking yet far less lethal attack at the finish line of the marathon did receive wall to wall coverage.
The media coverage continued, enabling the world to watch as two suspects were rapidly identified and tracked down; at times it seemed just like an episode of ’24’ or similar. The media did seem to treat both suspects as guilty despite no trial having been conducted; they certainly appeared to present plenty evidence to support this. I truly hope that the numerous law enforcement agencies continued to consider alternatives throughout the ensuing manhunt – I don’t know enough about the exact details to dispute the decision to pursue the brothers, but I can imagine that two innocent people subjected to such high profile media coverage might be panicked into flight rather than giving themselves up. I certainly hope that the correct suspects have been identified and that the motivation behind the attack may soon be revealed.
It has now been announced that the surviving brother has been formally charged with, among other things, use of weapons of mass destruction. Again, without meaning any disrespect for the victims, I find it rather ironic the the US are so outraged by the bombing of innocent civilians in Boston when for many years large numbers of Irish Americans seemed to be more than happy to offer moral and financial support to the IRA who were regularly causing death and carnage by bombing innocents in Northern Ireland and mainland UK. Throughout all this time it always seemed sufficient to refer to the devices as bombs and IEDs, rather than WMDs. It has always been my understanding that a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ is defined as a weapon that kills or injures civilian as well as military personnel, and is particularly referenced to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Given the number of fatalities and casualties in Boston, I feel sure that many of the legally held automatic weapons so treasured by the NRA must also now be re-classsified as WMDs.

In years gone by there were several organisations in Boston which raised funds for the Irish Republican movement, some of which was allegedly used to buy weapons for the IRA. Following the September 11th attacks, the US Government increased its pressure on the Irish Republican movement in the US. In October 2001 the IRA announced their intention to “decommission and put their weapons “beyond use”. The change of attitude was mirrored by an Irish-American taxi-driver in Boston; in a report following the announcement, he said “I never thought of the IRA as terrorists before 11 September,” and added “but now I see where the Brits are coming from.” A republican activist Kevin Fagan, who in his seven years in Boston had switched to drinking Budweiser instead of Guinness, believed that the US Government pressure was Tony Blair’s pay-back for Britain’s military support in Afghanistan. The situation regarding motivations is clearly complex and multi-layered.
The only way that the Boston attack and other similar ones are ever likely to succeed is if the general population stops doing things for fear of unspecified threats. I actually believe that those caught up in events in Boston are likely to be as resilient as members of the UK public were when faced with ongoing IRA threats. I have already read reports that people who have lost limbs are looking ahead to being able to dance again or to complete future Boston Marathons; the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. On the other hand, something else continues to amaze me; a chilling fact to consider alongside the reaction to events in Boston on 15th April – more than 85 people, including 8 children, are killed with guns on average day in US and more than twice that number are injured, and it’s also estimated that, to take one city as an example, in Chicago 20-30% of children have witnessed a school shooting. Given such statistics following on from ongoing mass shootings, I continue to find it extremely difficult to understand the resistance to introducing some form of gun controls – the only logical explanation surely has to be the desire to profit from gun sales.
I ‘treated’ myself to an entry in the Edinburgh Marathon for my 50th birthday – to date, my only marathon – with two years to go until my 60th birthday, I now feel that I have another incentive to aim for a second.


KENELIS / KINGS & ROGUES / ANAAM / SILVERBOX / WHERE’S BILLY? / BORN MAD @ INDIGO2 – 16/03/2012

FEED ME MUSIC TAKE OVER AT NORTH GREENWICH

Five in the morning with a banana moon in the clear sky and I set off. Over thirteen hours later, and around three hundred and fifty miles south, I was in the venue, having just met somebody who had travelled even further – Anke’s journey from Germany made a trip from the Scottish border seem as if I had just gone next door! The venue was IndigO2 inside the Dome at North Greenwich and I was back for a second helping of live music courtesy of Feedme Music with six bands on the bill including the main reason for my journey, Kenelis.

First on were three piece Kings And Rogues. Nick Drew led on guitar and vocals, ably backed by a tight rhythm duo of Gary Summers on bass / backing vocals and Wayne Summers on drums. Kenelis aside, I had travelled down to the Dome on faith, having never heard any of the other five bands before. I had been impressed by the previous showcase and by all other acts that Alli Hodge of Feedme Music had brought to my attention in the interim. Kings And Rogues did not disappoint and, despite being the opening act, took to the stage with driving confidence. There were clearly a number of fans that had attended to give support and their loyalty was rewarded by an expertly delivered set of around thirty minutes. Sound systems don’t make gigs but poor ones certainly spoil them; with a system as good as the one here it would definitely be down to the band to spoil things and Kings And Rogues avoided doing that by a country mile and more. The guitar was confident and compelling, the vocals were clear as crystal, the bass tight and crisp, and the drumming like a steamhammer in overdrive. The set comprised an interesting selection of songs in a style clearly influenced by the likes of Dave Grohl and Billy Corgan. One down, five to go – if this was an indicator of things to come I knew I was in for a great night.

Next up was Anaam; Arup, Kan, Shaon and Ricky immediately took things to a much heavier place. Being unfettered by instruments, lead singer Arup left the audience in no doubt about his showmanship credentials as he made full use of the expansive stage. This was another band who have clearly worked hard to perfect their act, and enjoy being on stage; again I was unable to fault their performance. Anybody familiar with my ramblings will be aware that I don’t hold much store in genre classification, but I am willing to admit that I would be inclined to assign the term metal as one to use when describing Anaam. My problem with genres stems from those who claim that they will only listen to one genre and appear to like any artist to which the label seems to apply regardless of ability. I prefer to take things as I hear, and decide whether or not I like it – I most definitely liked this band. I could definitely get used to a Feedme Music diet!

When band number three came on stage and the lead singer began to speak, it felt a bit familiar; they may be billed as being from London, but I’m fairly positive that John Wyse had definite traces of a Scottish accent (west coast?) or maybe age is beginning to take its toll on me. As with Arup previously, John was very definitely a showman who was so clearly at home on stage. The rest of the band comprise Julian Martin-Samos and Ryan Hunt on guitars,Steven Hepburn on bass and Kerry Thompson on drums. Where the two previous bands clearly relished and deserved the opportunity to play in this venue, I couldn’t help visualising Silverbox in some much larger arena, their whole presence and confidence just seemed to demand that. I suppose that this comment simply serves to underscore the diverse nature of the term ‘rock band’; so far the first three had demonstrated their discreet and individual overall sound and stage presence, and I knew that Kenelis would bring a different slant come their turn. John’s confident delivery reached out and engulfed the audience, and the shirt coming off clearly went down well with many, I’m sure!

Half way through already when Darren Robinson and Milky both on vocals and guitar, Charlie Robinson on guitar, J2 on bass and Mike Daines on drums took to the stage but Billy was nowhere to be seen (just couldn’t resist that cheesy reference to the band’s name, Where’s Billy?) They helped to inject some more metal into the mix. Like all the bands on the bill, they seemed to have managed to get a good number of fans to attend and they were obviously thrilled by the high energy set. Their on-line profile describes them as not seeking to create a new genre (there’s that ‘g’ word again) nor are they particularly aiming to adhere to any existing one – I applaud this approach as it indicates a band seeking to make their own individual mark. I was particularly interested in hearing this band so that I could compare them to local band Where’s George? Interesting to hear, but apart from both apparently looking for somebody (I’m not prepared to make any gender assumptions), there is little chance that they are likely to be in direct competition – both excellent, but in completely different ways. Kenelis had yet to take to the stage and I was already in no doubt that my journey had been more than justified.

So now was the time – a year previously I had been entranced by Kenelis, fronted by the charismatic Mel Sanson; now, a year on, Mel was the only constant as all previous band members had gone their own ways for a variety of reasons. Mel has now recruited a new line up with Kai Smith on guitar, Tristan Hall on bass and Ryan Holt on drums. Mel has also developed her own guitar skills and now plays more herself whilst on stage. Although slight in physical stature, Mel has a massive personality and so easily dominated the stage when she took to it – OK, I admit it, I might be biased! Kicking off with the impassioned call against unjustified hateful attitudes, ‘Sick’, I knew I was going to be bowled over. Having recently helped secure support for two charities, Diversity Role Models and Stonewall, as part of The L Project whose single ‘It Does Get Better’ made it to number eleven in the UK charts without any mainstream radio exposure, Mel is a woman who stands by her beliefs. Listening to her latest songs, that were played here, it is clear that she feels there is still a lot of injustice that still requires to be tackled head on. She is a compassionate and committed person, but quite obviously still angry about some things, and is being positive about seeking to use her music to help raise awareness. The power and passion of Mel’s stage presence as she moved around like a tornado was mesmerising; it didn’t, however, stop me from sparing some time to appreciate how well Kai, Tristan and Ryan had taken up the batten handed on by previous band members Andy 1, Andy 2, James and Oli, a hard act to follow. If I have any complaint about the night, it applies to all acts, but especially Kenelis – the sets were too short! Having said that, I know that pragmatically, Alli and Feedme Music had no real option when trying to ensure that all six bands each got a fair hearing. It was also so good to hear that a new recording is in the pipeline. I’m not even going to attempt to write about Kenelis’ music, as far as I’m concerned music is more about listening than reading so if you feel enthused by my endorsement all I will say is to get yourself on-line and listen / download, if you like excellent, hard-hitting and honest rock music, I challenge you to dislike Kenelis!

All too soon, there was only one act left; enter Born Mad, another three piece, Tommy Smith on guitar and vocals, Matt Johnson on bass and Moke Lliyd on drums. Yet another professional rock outfit that seemed so natural on the stage as they belted out a selection of songs that were on a par with all the other evening’s acts, interpreted with an appreciative hint of retro / blues about them. They helped me to recall classic guitar focussed power trios from my youth such as Taste and Cream.

As far as I’m concerned the venue was absolutely perfect for these bands. It gave them an opportunity to showcase their talents in inspirational surroundings whilst retaining the intimacy of close contact with the audience that accompanies smaller venues. It was also so good to be able to chat to various band members around the bar area. Mel was a particular star in this regard as she dedicated herself to a wonderful ‘meet and greet’ session following her performance. From those that I met and spoke with, it is so evident that her respect for her fans is absolutely reciprocated by the those who make the effort to follow her.


ART & MUSIC FOR COMIC RELIEF @ RESTON – 22/03/2013

After rush hour delays in Edinburgh, and howling winds and drifting snow on Greenlaw Moor, I was glad of a very warm welcome when I arrived in Reston, Berwickshire. I had visited Fiona and Mike’s house before when Lisbee Stainton included it in her ‘Living Room Tour’ in the winter of 2011; this time an exhibition of work by local artists was provided alongside another musical performance. To raise money for 2013 ‘Comic Relief’, the event had been arranged for the Friday following ‘Red Nose Day’ to ensure that key people were able to attend and perform.

Music was provided by Where’s George?, members Amelia Stokes, Penny Osborne and Chris Robinson, accompanied by Alexandra Prentice. Whilst a wonderful selection of artworks were available for both viewing and purchase. The art was provided thanks to the following, all local except for John Heywood, who lives in Edinburgh and exhibits widely ( RSA, Morningside Gallery, Barcelona etc.):

John Heywood – prints – http://www.johnheywood.com
Lita Murray – Reston
Vicki Hardie – Grantshouse
David Lochhead – Cranshaws
Catriona Anderson – Cranshaws
Sharon Simpson – glass (and bespoke gemstone) – Oldhamstocks
Colleen Henderson Heywood – HeartArt, colleen@80eight.co.uk

With a very healthy attendance and so much to view, a decision was taken to leave the artworks on display over the weekend to allow people to return at their leisure. After an initial opportunity to meet and chat, the focus moved to the ‘music room’ where we were treated to an enchanting acoustic performance. My previous experience of the band has been when they have been playing electric instruments with Amelia mainly on drums. It was very interesting to experience another aspect of their musical expertise, as Amelia and Penny shared vocals and guitars. Chris alternated between guitar and cajon – I had only recently come across the Peruvian box drum (cajon) when interviewing London duo Jules Phoenix & Remy F, and was fascinated to see and hear one in ‘person’. Alexandra’s atmospheric violin playing added extra depth to the masterful yet relaxed performance. Following my interview with Jules & Remy I sourced plans for the construction of a cajon and am now even more determined to make one.

Sadly the drifting snow in the hills had spooked me and as a result I opted to play safe and leave early. Perhaps if I hadn’t got stuck in snowdrifts for the first time earlier in the week I might have been more prepared to take a chance on staying! As a result I didn’t take up the opportunity to sample to extremely appetising catering that had been provided, and also missed the second half of the performance.

In addition to general donations via the ‘standard’ ‘Comic Relief’ bucket, all artists gave a 20% commission to Comic Relief, and as I write this, it is so good to report that £448.32 has so far been raised for the charity with over £1000 worth of art having been sold. As somebody who only called in and spent a relatively brief time there, everything seemed to go so smoothly in a very relaxed atmosphere. My previous experiences suggest that such an event didn’t simply happen – it is extremely encouraging that some people were prepared to expend a tremendous effort to ensure such a well organised smoothly run evening.

In particular huge thanks must be extended to Fiona and Mike for providing the venue and supper, and to Lita Murray, Lynn Harris and Janet Anderson for their help, for both setting out the exhibition in advance, and being on hand during the night. Thanks also to the aforementioned artists, both graphic and musical who helped to provide the focus of the event. Finally, thanks to Mel Watkinson, Brockholes Farm, Grantshouse, who kindly lent the handmade cajon for the evening. Mel makes musical instruments and furniture from recycled material – dreampipe@live.co.uk


SCOSHA / GABBY / JOSEPH MILLER @ KING TUT’s, GLASGOW – 16/03/2013

At the same time as many were heading to Austin, Texas for SXSW, it was more a case of WXNW for me as I travelled across Scotland to Glasgow to see one determined young lady who has her heart set on taking her distinctive brand of music across The Atlantic. It was also to be my first chance for a face to face meeting with Scosha, somebody whom I have previously been privileged to interview by phone/Skype on a number of occasions.

The opening act was yet another young lady who I met briefly in the bar before hand as she was circulating to meet and greet. Gabby, East London born but now established in Glasgow, played a great solo set accompanied by her guitar. Whilst there was a slight bias towards slower songs with intelligent and thoughtful lyrics, she did play a couple of more upbeat ones too. For somebody so youthful, she impressed with her strong characterful voice and confident delivery. Perhaps it is just something that comes with solo singer/songwriters, but her songs definitely had a rather timeless appeal to them and I can easily imagine listening to her during any era of my life. Gabby’s performance and demeanour is yet further confirmation for me of the wealth of emerging talent driven by a growing number of determined young female artists.

After Gabby’s gentle opening set, the band gathered on the stage prior to Scosha’s understated arrival on the stage with no real hint of what was about to happen. Perhaps it was the increase in audience numbers, perhaps some heating had been switched on – whatever the cause, things rapidly warmed up as she began her set. Being familiar with her music it was so good to be able to experience these songs live. Her studio recordings are well produced and clearly showcase her talents and potential both as a singer and a writer, why she isn’t receiving more airplay and recognition really does seem odd. The added edge provided by the live performance proved that her songs are just as much at home in a live environment as in recordings. The band were very tight as they provided the powerfully driving instrumental groundwork for her impassioned and compelling vocals. She may have won the ‘Pop Recording Of The Year’ category at last year’s Scottish New Music Awards but don’t be fooled, the electrifying performance presented here was so much more than simple, routine, bland pop. This was good honest high energy rock at its best, with an exciting and engaging stage presence. There was the foot on the monitor pose struck by guitarist Blair Hatton, the close interaction between Scosha and bass player Steven Adamson, the cool concentration of Robbie Noble on keyboards, and I could easily imagine bandana clad ‘Shoogal’ MacDougall drumming in some roadhouse during an episode of ‘Sons Of Anarchy’! All told, it was an absolutely belting performance presented with real class; and one that sadly ended far too quickly as is always the case when acts are restricted by venue timings.

Included along with familiar songs was an airing, first time with full band, of new song ‘Sh*t U Talk’. This was prefaced by an animated introduction where Scosha explained the origins of the song, and when it was finished she declared it to have been a particularly therapeutic preformance. Since coming across her last September I have been extremely impressed by her determination to pursue her musical dream. She invests so much in her lyrics, they are refreshingly honest and real when compared to much of the inane fare that gets so much radio play by syndicated commercial stations. A glance at some of her song titles appears to offer a fairly accurate summary of her attitude. It’s ‘Not Enough’ but ‘I’m OK’ as “I” ‘Pray For Time’ to ‘Let Go’ and “I’m doing my” utmost ‘Breakin’ Out’; to quote ‘Let Go’ she’s got her “armour” and her “sword”, and she’s taking no prisoners. The incorporation of parts of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ into the set hints at some of her musical influences that includes the likes of Kelly Clarkson and P!nk. I firmly believe she could stand shoulder to shoulder with such acts given the right support from within the music industry.

Once the set ended she seemed so naturally at home meeting and chatting to members of the audience; the willingness of artists to acknowledge fans and mix with those who have come to enjoy their performances is simply another reason why I so much prefer smaller venues. I would, however, absolutely jump at the chance to attend a much bigger venue such as the SECC or O2 Arena if I was able to see Scosha performing where she belongs. Until that day arrives I will continue to savour her growing repertoire of songs and wish her all the best in her quest for greater recognition whilst encouraging others to give her a listen.

As she finished circulating amongst the crowd, the final act of the evening started his set – another London connection – this time a native Glaswegian who had recently returned from a stint living and working in the south. Joseph Miller with his keyboard offered an opportunity to wind down after Scosha’s high energy performance. Sadly I didn’t get to hear much of his set but what I did hear certainly didn’t put me off checking him out further; a friend who accompanied me to the venue told me later that he had appreciated Joseph’s set and found it to be both engaging and accomplished. It was clear that Joseph was truly relishing his opportunity to play at the legendary Glasgow venue.


THE STAGGER RATS / GAPTOOTH @ THE DUBLIN CASTLE, CAMDEN – 08/12/2012

Serendipity would be an ideal word to apply to my weekend – things had worked out to allow me to travel the three hundred and fifty odd miles south to be in London when Kenelis were launching their new EP ‘Move’ – and as if that wasn’t good enough, shortly before I left home I discovered that Scottish band The Stagger Rats would be in London that same weekend. Their first appearance at ‘The Islington’ coincided with my date with Kenelis, then they were due for a stripped acoustic set at ‘The Hospital Club’, but I would be able to stay to attend the Saturday night show at ‘The Dublin Castle’ in Camden.

I arrived in Camden and soon caught up with the band, managing to record an interview with them in their tour bus, cleverly disguised as a white van. Then I was inside the venue and appreciating the end of a set by Gaptooth, a young lady doing her bit with assorted electronics to provide her support ‘band’. I enjoyed what I heard and noted some echoes of ‘Gary Numan’ in the music that accompanied her clear and thoughtful lyrics. This brief experience was yet another wonderfully unexpected element to add to the weekend’s mix. Her single ‘Ladykillers’ was released on the Monday following the gig and I will certainly look out for more from her in the future.

Then The Stagger Rats had completed their set up and were into full flow with ‘I’m In Love’. Callum Easter’s Hammond organ provided a considerable contrast to Gaptooth’s Korg, Apple Mac etc. The very sharply dressed Daniel Paylor must surely have surprised any audience members who hadn’t heard him before with an unexpectedly deep voice priojecting from his small frame as he played guitar and sang centre stage. Craig Mcmullen provided a further guitar layer along with his hat, whilst Terry McDermott and Kai Wallace kept everything tight on bass and drums respectively. A few minor tech issues didn’t really interfere, even a need to swap bass guitars was quickly dealt with and allowed the set to continue, ensuring the audience were treated to a great selection of songs sampling the new album ‘Scorpio Leisure’ along with a couple of others. The second song ‘Maybe When I Get A Bit Older’ kept things upbeat with their distinctive and tight instrumentation – crisp guitars, bound together with the full organ sound on a foundation solidly laid by bass and drums. Next the single, ‘Sleeping Off Ecstasy’, slowed things down a few notches and allowed the band’s versatility to be further showcased. ‘My Marie’, almost like a spirtitual, and ‘Hubba Bubba’ quickly followed leading towards another pair from the album; the slightly frantic ‘Red Hands’ being a further demonstration of their ability to play tight, well arranged rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and then the absolutely delightful ‘Fuzzy Fuzzy’ with its retro feel and extremely memorable chorus that always makes me feel so good. One of the attractions of The Stagger Rats is that they appear to be very comfortable to develop their own style with scant regard to the latest passing trends – good, honest, idiosyncratic and well executed are all definitely terms that I would happily apply to their performance. I can imagine that anybody with an open mind and a love of unpretentious rock music would be very happy to find a copy of ‘Scorpio Leisure’ in their Christmas stocking when the 25th arrives.

With Christmas lights and decorations throughout the city, the closing selection was a further nod towards the festive mood, but not necessarily the most traditional of Christmas songs. The selection of a song from The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘Framed’ album was truly inspired. As Callum introduced it I overheard somebody behind me, state in a strong London accent, that he couldn’t understand a word that had been said – I had to turn and note that it had made perfect sense to me, but then again I’m just very familiar with the Edinburgh / Scottish East Coast accent! ‘There’s No Lights On The Christmas Tree Mother, They’re Burning Big Louie Tonight’, was a wonderful fun a way to end the set. Certainly I would have loved them to have played more, but with a further two bands due on stage I had to content myself with having been lucky enough to have been there for the excellent performance. Sadly, with weekend engineering works due to close my overland route back to South East London, and a drive back north the following morning, I was unable to stay around to see Belter and Joy Revision.


KENELIS / JOANOVARC / WORDS FROM WILLIS @ THE 100 CLUB, LONDON – 07/12/2012

KENELIS ‘MOVE’ EP LAUNCH, THE 100 CLUB, 7th December 2012

I woke up fairly certain that the anthemic hook from ‘Don’t You Kill My Rock’ had been reverberating around my head throughout the night, it was certainly still very prominent as I began to get ready for the day after the night before. That night had started with a delightful selection of Lebanese dishes before arriving at the legendary 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street. I was there to see the awesome Kenelis live for a third time, this time for the launch of the latest recording – ‘MOVE’ a four track offering that showcases the best of Mel Sanson’s latest work.

http://dstrachan.tumblr.com/post/36880565091/kenelis-move-arriving-in-todays-post-it

After a brief browse of the crammed photo gallery of previous acts to play in the venue, and recording interviews with Mel and JOANovARC it wasn’t long before the first act were getting started. Words From Willis are an energetic four-piece, from High Wycombe, offered an interesting showcase for Steph Willis’ intelligent writing. Leading with vocals and acoustic guitar, Steph was very ably backed up by Nij on guitar, Mike on bass and Tim on drums. The venue’s crystal clear sound system ensured that Steph’s lyrics were readily appreciated as they were delivered via a strong voice toned with echoes of P!nk. After the first couple of songs I worried that each had too similar feel and rhythm to them; however, that concern was unfounded as the set progressed. Although I hinted at some similarities to P!nk’s voice, that does not in any way suggest that the music was in any way any attempt to replicate as some clone act. The instrumentation was tight, honest and unpretentious rock music with Steph’s clearly enunciated lyrics as the icing on top. All too soon, I had enjoyed a selection of eight songs, including those from their EP ‘Superhero’. ‘In Dreaming’ stood out as perhaps the strongest, but I always hesitate to be too specific after only one hearing. I will now be seeking to listen again to the EP and any other tracks that I can locate on-line as I do believe the band has great potential.

http://www.wordsfromwillis.com

Second to grace the stage were the four-piece female rock powerhouse known as JOANovARC, the first all-female band to feature on the X-Box 360’s ‘Rockband’. From London, the band features sisters Sam and Shelley, Sam providing vocals whilst alternating between guitar and bass, with Shelley leading on guitar and providing backing vocals. The other half of the band comprises Laura who also shares vocal, guitar and bass duties, and Debbie on drums. I had previously come across them via Cuillin FM’s ‘Highland Uproar Challenge’ around a year ago with a song called ‘Peace Of Mind’ which led me to appreciate their excellent video produced and edited by Rachel Price of BBC Bristol. I was also familiar with ‘Say Sayonara’, one of the songs featured in the X-Box package. Good as both these songs are, they were blown into touch by the entrancing live presence. The played so well together and kept the audience entertained as they powered their way through a varied repertoire of eight songs. This was another impressive set by a band clearly extremely comfortable on the stage as they demonstrated their skills. There were shades of Motorhead and many other classic rock acts, yet they still managed to stamp their own individuality on their performance. Another observation that I must make relates to drummer Debbie, her face was such an absolute joy to see; here was somebody so clearly happy to be behind the drum kit providing a rhythmically perfect backdrop to the others. If it were possible to bottle her infectious enthusiasm and sheer joy I’m sure it could be sold for a fortune. Maybe that would be worth a pitch on ‘Dragons’ Den’!

http://www.joanovarc.co.uk/

Another excellent observation would be the slick changeovers between acts which meant only minimal waits, ensuring that the mood was maintained. After a second brief set-up break, Mel and her band were getting started. In addition to Mel’s vocals and guitar, Jack provided guitar, Tristan bass and Matt was in charge of the drums. I have to admit a certain bias here when I report that Mel absolutely owned the stage; with her ‘big’ hair, colourful eye make-up and distinctive boots to add to the stunning music, she is a true star performer. First off was the song that had remained in my head through the night, ‘Don’t You Kill My Rock’. A selection of older favourites followed – ‘Sick’, ‘Jealous’, ‘Paperskin’ and ‘We Could Die Any Minute’ – despite them being very familiar to me it was so good to appreciate them as impassioned and urgent live deliveries. Jack’s guitar was flawless, whilst Tristan’s bass (another five string bass as with JOANovARC) seamlessly melded with Matt’s mesmerising, at times tribal, drum work, to provide a rock-solid foundation for Mel’s insistent and captivating presence.

The set came to a close with the remaining three songs from the EP – ‘GFY’, ‘Open Your Eyes’ and finally ‘Moving To Brighton’. The last based on Mel’s move to live in Brighton which has clearly been a highly inspirational event leading to the recording of this EP. The soaring and melodic guitar work at points in this song simply have to be heard to be fully appreciated. Punk – included, garage – included, rock – included; at the end of day, however, I’m not too worried about trying to classify Kenelis as to me, they are quite simply KENELIS, a wonderfully unique band that I am so glad to have stumbled across! Mel is such a wonderfully warm and pleasant person in person yet her songs enable her to express a different side to her with regard to how she views some of the situations that life has presented for her. Following an energetic cover as encore, which I’m afraid my ageing brain allowed me to recognise but not recall what it was but luckily my daughter was on hand to confirm Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings; all too soon the night was over. Thankfully a great many excellent memories have been imprinted inside my head and I will remember my first visit to The 100 Club for a long time to come whilst looking forward to the next opportunity to catch Kenelis live again.

http://www.kenelis.com


SANDI THOM / CARRIE MAC @ KING TUT’s, GLASGOW – 10/11/2012

It was a joy to witness the spectacular Milky Way in the crystal clear night sky as I stood at the side of a busy A1 with traffic speeding by. It was also a pleasant change not to have to drive myself across Scotland, and on schedule a ‘flying pixie’ pulled over to let me in. After an event free journey we arrived at the legendary ‘King Tut’s’ in Glasgow. Just over a year previously I had been present when Sandi Thom picked up her awards at the inaugural ‘Scottish New Music Awards’; now I was with a colleague meeting her ahead of her gig. Once the interview was concluded we witnessed the bulk of support act Carrie Mac’s set. At times solo, at others accompanied by a keyboard player, Carrie delivered an impressive and confident performance. She was clearly enjoying herself on stage as she entranced the audience with her soulful and emotive voice. With only limited previous experience of hearing her I was very impressed by her mature and engaging performance. Her mesmerising chilled version of ‘A Little Respect’, a single release from earlier this year, was a true joy to experience.

I found myself chatting to a Canadian couple, currently living in Aberdeen, who were eagerly awaiting the performance; they told me that they last live act they saw had been Lady GaGa, so quite a change for them to be in such an intimate venue. As the audience rearranged itself during the break we managed to get to the front as we waited for Sandi and her band to begin – catching up with another couple who had also travelled from the south east of Scotland. Even from my very small ‘straw poll’ it was clear that the the evening had attracted people to travel from afar for their entertainment.

Then the lights went down and AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ started to boom out – signalling that something was about to happen! First the band, guitar, bass, drum, keyboard and backing singer took to the stage, then Sandi and the show was under way. ‘Stormy Weather’ might have been the title of the song but this was one ‘storm’ I’m certain that everybody was thoroughly enjoying. Back in the mid ‘noughties’ she may have wished that she was a punk rocker with flowers in her hair, but her current output, as evidenced in Glasgow, is quite blues orientated, but very much delivered with her own personal stamp – no generic re-cycling here.

The packed audience listened intently and showed their enthusiastic approval during breaks, some even engaging her in a dialogue which she obviously appreciated. The general atmosphere was wonderfully supportive and friendly. The band provided a richly textured backing to Sandi’s lead, and they too were clearly relishing their time on stage. It’s so good to be so close up to be able to see artists maintaining intent eye contact with each other in order to ensure a tight delivery. With the tour following the recent release of her latest album, much of the set comprised songs from it, and previous release ‘Merchants And Thieves’, but she did incorporate a few others including her seminal ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)’, a song with local guest hip-hop duo Shy & DRS, and a truly heartfelt version of ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’ delivered from the floor right in front of the audience, before closing with the title track from ‘Flesh And Blood’ followed by ‘Runaway Train’ as an encore.

All too soon we were navigating our way back onto the M8, and after managing to avoid being side-swiped by a rogue taxi we were ‘winging’ our way back to the east coast.