Penelope Isles, Volleyball, Lula And Gene and Russell And The French Boys – St James Concert Hall – 22/01/22

Penelope Isles

After a few weeks off from live music for a couple of reasons it was great to head back to St James on Saturday 22nd January 2022 to kick off my year of shows with the long awaited visit to Guernsey of indie band Penelope Isles along with Volleyball, Lula & Gene and Russell & The French Boys.

With a decent sized crowd already in the hall and heading to the front Russell & The French Boys started off the night with their unique brand of upbeat, innuendo laden, indie pop rock.

While at first it was hard to tell if this was pure pastiche or not I soon found myself swept along with the fun atmosphere they generated with George Russell leading the band with a nice balance of confidence and cheekiness, along with some fine dancing.

Russell And The French Boys
Russell And The French Boys

Daisy And Dan provided the highlight of the set for me before they closed with a great cover (the only one in the set) of Talking Heads Psycho Killer which warmed the audience up nicely.

Lula & Gene carried on their run of great shows with another fine set mixing covers with originals all delivered on bass and drums and, in some cases, showing off a new side of some old favourites while also introducing us to others.

Rather like the previous band they have a knowingness to some of their songs but with slightly more intense and grunge-y edge which made for a nice contrast.

Lula And Gene
Lula And Gene

Highlights came in the form of a scrappy but energetic take on Wet Leg’s Wet Dream, Pwrbttm’s I Want A Boi, and new original Shadow Business and, while it took a few songs for them to hit their stride, once they did they were again better than ever.

As Volleyball got themselves set up on stage there was much discussion about one member of the band being from Guernsey but many not really realising it, that being guitarist and vocalist Rudi Falla.

Volleyball
Volleyball

While this was a homecoming show of sorts then for him the band were still very much a visiting act in most regards and new to many, but despite that they had the crowd captivated with their mellow mix of psychedelic indie from the off.

The first thing that struck me on seeing them live at last, after listening to their string of singles from the last twelve months, was the harmonies delivering by Falla along with bassist Tom Greenwood and drummer Thom Durrant which for me drew to mind aspects of the 60s Laurel Canyon sounds but run through a modern indie filter.

As the set went on with perfectly poised guitar solos, shared lead vocals giving different songs different feels, and the odd garage-y interlude the music took on the feel of a kind of psychedelic time travel as it washed over the thoroughly absorbed crowd.

Volleyball
Volleyball

The combination of guitar, bass, drums and synths (from Hugh Fothergill) made for a huge sound which suited the venue to a tee and as great as it was seeing the band play just hearing the sings like this was a real treat and I hope we get to see them back on the island again some time.

Having originally been due to visit the island during one of the previous lockdowns it felt like Penelope Isles visit might get postponed again as they announced just this week that their current tour was suffering that fate, however it was quickly confirmed by both the band and venue that they would be making the trip over to the island.

Penelope Isles
Penelope Isles

As things started the five piece felt a little awkward and aloof as they worked their way through their first couple of songs, which regardless sounded terrific, but once they settled down it became clear they were as warm and fun a bunch between songs as you could want, quickly connecting with the, I think, sold out crowd.

As the set went on their music ranged from the intentionally noisy to uplifting and sublime, taking the audience on a real journey that was variously transcendent and transporting at its best moments.

Led by brother and sister duo Jack and Lily Wolter the band’s on stage dynamic was as captivating as their music as they seemed to take an occasional free form approach to things and I got the feeling we were watching a kind of live musical architecture but this brought a terrific spontaneous energy to the show despite how tight the band clearly were.

Penelope Isles
Penelope Isles

With a few notable exceptions the audience again stood largely captivated if somewhat unmoving but this didn’t stop them calling the band back for an encore that took everything they’d done over the preceding hour and upping it even further leaving many still wanting more and rushing to the merch stand as curfew arrived.

While somewhat delayed previously this outing from Penelope Isles made the wait all the more worth it and with the addition of Volleyball, Lula & Gene and Russell & The French Boys began what looks set (we all hope at least) to be a more complete year of live music on with what could easily be a highlight of the whole twelve months.

You can see more photos from the show on my Facebook page by clicking here

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