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Lula and Gene, Volleyball and Penelope Isles

Lula and Gene, Volleyball and Penelope Isles

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Lula and Gene, Volleyball and Penelope Isles

Tuesday 22 February 2022


In his latest live music review, local music enthusiast and drummer Baz Brehaut returned to St. James to review Lula and Gene, Volleyball and Penelope Isles, and nearly Russell and The French Boys.

A somewhat belated review as I dig out my notes to refresh my memory. With such a vibrant music scene, there really is so much to see, and some performances have had to lie waiting to be rediscovered. My hastily scribbled observations made on crumpled paper now looking more like the dead sea scrolls than a record of a good night out.

I suppose I need to apologise to Russell and The French Boys. A family commitment meant I made it to St. James to catch only the very end of their set.

I can only imagine David Byrne and the Talking Heads never would have thought for one moment that Psycho Killer would become such a firm family favourite that the menacing tune from 1977 would be pleasing the crowds on remote islands for decades to come. But that’s the track that I entered St James to and Russell and The French Boys did the song justice. The crowd was certainly appreciative. I’ll make sure I catch a full set by the band at some point.

Lula and Gene were next up. The duo really do pack a punch. Brett Stewart on drums and Maisie Bisson on bass, but with this two-piece think more Royal Blood or The White Stripes than The Carpenters.

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Pictured: Brett Stewart and Maisie Bisson.

Brett's drumming is as reliable as an atomic clock. He always commits. He also has the ability to look like a disgruntled customer in a hardware store hastily returning a consignment of unwanted ironmongery. I watch on, usually enviously, as he plays with all the light and shade necessary to knock out the big tunes and the more subtle percussive elements.

Maisie’s bass playing is on the mark too. She is confident, yet not overly so. With Brett being lost in the moment, delivering requires a certain focus and discipline. If you’re waiting for anyone to shout 'you ready to rock', that’s not going to happen. The band are far too earnest to be troubled by such distractions. 

Their set comprised both covers and originals. One cover being Wet Leg's (them of the viral Chaise Longue) Wet Dream. Maisie jested that she didn’t imagine her folks would be sat in the audience to hear it. Brave indeed. A BAFTA or even MBE beckons surely.

After Lula and Gene left the stage, a certain contingent in the room became quite animated. As Volleyball were setting up and trying to fix a gremlin in their keyboard, I learnt the frontman was Rudi Falla. The local boy's homecoming was clearly going to be well received. 

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Pictured: Volleyball.

With the keyboard fixed, the band, looking like members of Crazy Horse, slowly built a soft wall of sound in pastel shades: at times ambient, early Floyd psychedelic, music of its time, of the now, but at the same time from another place.

If you’re looking for a genre to pigeonhole the band, then you’ll have to go with the band's own description: "We are Volleyball - we’re a band and we make wavy psych music and design things”. Or my personal favourite from them: “Our music slips between bold, booming and catchy to submerging people in dreamy soundscapes." If you want to hear music written by a pod of dolphins, produced by pixies, and performed by angels, this is the band for you. And I’m with you btw.

Anticipation grew as the headliners Penelope Isles took to the stage. Their sound slowly emerged and grew, like a rising river, or a tidal wave you’d want to walk towards.

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Pictured: Penelope Isles.

It’s difficult to pin down the band's unique sound: at times sketchy, sounding like out-takes from a studio session. You weren’t just hearing it - you were watching it being constructed. There were moments when it just held together. It’s fragile, yet it carries you; it's immersive.

I would make the same observation with both Penelope Isles and Volleyball: the music lacks a conventional hook, a bass line, a chord progression, a chorus you’d walk away humming. Instead, they have that subconscious, unfathomable formula. It gets to you as an abstract piece of art might. Had I seen Penelope Isles the band or a musical installation? The overall sound transcends the medium.

The band played to a large, receptive audience at St. James. The covid drought just might be over and the crowd was lapping it up.

I'm looking  forward to my next review. Hopefully I’ll get there in time.

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