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.

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.

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’!

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.

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