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Kendall Elise - Gig Review: This Way North @ The Wine Cellar, Auckland 07/06/2018

08 Jun 2018 // A review by butch181

Due to a reviewer unfortunately having to pull out of attending this show, I was asked to attend Some Feminist Club Nights #6. As opposed to the original reviewer that was lined up for the show, I have mixed heritage, but am still what would largely be referred to as a white cis male. When I see the word “Feminist” used, I am often filled with apprehension due to the often-extreme individuals that I’ve seen in the media, and this did lead to some slight concern that I would be walking into a very vocal anti-male environment.

Let it be known that this was not the case.

What I walked into was a pro-non-male environment. Rather than the man-hating that I thought I might come across, what I found was a group of people looking to empower and support non-male artists and musicians, as well as any other under-represented groups. But more on this later.

The night started with Auckland pop-artist Henika. The epitome of a solo songwriter, Henika took to the stage, with no backing tracks or backing musicians. Picking a spot at the front of the stage, with nothing more than an electric guitar and microphone, Henika performed an intimate show for the patrons at the Wine Cellar. Starting the set with First track is Earthbound, she stunned the audience into silence with some simple clear guitar work and brilliant clarity in her vocals. Moving into her second track, Extraordinary, she took a jazzy turn in style, almost lounge-esque, showcasing some smooth, velvety vocals. 

With a good pace, and some concise timing and synchronicity between the vocals and instrumentation, her set was very pleasant to listen to. The third track, Torn in Two, was coincidentally also the third track of the Henika EP, and she used the opportunity to remind the audience that she had copies of her EP for sale, with half of the sale going towards Woman’s Refuge New Zealand (note, not half the profit, half the sale price). Henika is very confident in her voice and capitalizes on the many different facets of her vocal abilities, from soft & breathy, to natural trills, and contrasting high & low melodies in her vocal range.

Between the opening acts, Leisha Jungalwalla and Cat Leahy (a.k.a. Melbourne duo, This Way North) took to the stage for a guest speaking opportunity. They spoke of their experiences as independent musicians, and why they created Sass the Patriarchy. An organisation that aims to empower women and non-binary individuals, to promote gender diversity and equality across all facets in the music industry. Whether it be encouraging fans to buy music to support the non-male bands, contacting promoters and organisers of music events to bring awareness to the demand of non-male artists, as well as providing advice to be more confident and not give up. 

Discussions were opened up with the audience around specific methods and techniques to encourage diversity, with simultaneous “bottom-up” and top-down” approaches. Emphasis was placed on the need to not give up, as the male artists are often given their way because of the “squeaky wheel getting the oil” where they persist in the face of rejection. An area they should certainly look at is lobbying the government and local politicians to pressure the commercial radio industry to adopt a voluntary quota, much like they have done in the past to increase the exposure of New Zealand music.

The second support act for the evening comes in the form of Auckland-based country/folk singer Kendall Elise, supported by drummer/partner Chris Kemp. A much slower set compared to the stylings of the previous performance from Henika, Kendall Elise’s style involves a simple muted drum/snare combo coupled with smooth, deep vocals, and country strumming on the guitar. While the lyrics to her music are very basic and repetitive, I absolutely love the aggressive vocals; every time she steps away from the microphone you know she is about to project some great rough melodies, or even an almost yodelling-style undulations from the vocal chords. The acts for the night have certainly had good variety in their singing voices. 

While her pitch and tone were very much on point, I would have loved to her more projection of her voice; a little more strength and confidence. Performing most tracks from her I Didn’t Stand A Chance EP, she worked her way through Wade In The Water, and the slower Rose Red, before performing some more personal songs about the area they were brought up in, with Valentine Street and Rosehill. Despite some technical issues when switching between guitars due to some loose cords, it was a solid performance, with some fun little fills from Kemp, despite performing at such a low volume. Kendall Elise finished off her set with a rendition of Jewel’s Morning Song from the 1995 album Pieces of You, before finishing with her very own Heart Full Of Dirt; a great choice that injected some pace and energy into the set, ending on a high.

With an incredibly short changeover time between sets, This Way North took to the stage. There was an instant increase in volume, and the audience could automatically sense that the bar had been lifted. With multiple people shifting closer to take photos and videos with their phones, Cat and Leisha were on a level of their own projecting an immense level of confidence and an organic level of comfort on stage. Initially, their style seemed to incorporate elements of dub and stoner rock, combining extensive pedal boards, with looping effects and long instrumentals and guitar solos, but the liveliness started to create an indie/pop feel. 

Their passion and enthusiasm were infectious, and you could tell that Cat was being honest when describing drumming as “the best thing in the world”. The level of pace, creativity, and technical variability, while also on double duties with the microphone shows an incredible amount of talent, and the drumming was pure bliss to listen to. Leisha exhibited some beautiful soulful singing that has a similar timbre to that of R&B singer Rihanna (though Leisha has greater softness in her melodies). 

There is nothing as exhilarating as watching people who love performing, do so; they aren’t there for your adoration, they are just there to play, and while they certainly had no issues providing banter with the crowd, they were in their element when they played. It’s not often that you come across a duo that has a dominant drummer, but in this case, it truly added another instrument to the mix, rather than acting as a metronome to keep time to. Performing a number of tracks from their latest EP Vol. 2, the crowd cheered along to the likes of Nothing To Say, and Make It Work, before the night came to an end.

A great night, promoting a worthy cause. A night that I thoroughly enjoyed. With seven more shows on their tour, This Way North is something I would highly recommend getting out to see.

Review written by Alex Moulton
Photos provided by Alex Moulton


About Kendall Elise

Kendall Elise is an intriguing story teller with a hint of yesteryear. With trademark quirky touches and flawless vocal delivery she has been turning heads since the release of her EP in 2017 I Didn’t Stand A Chance . Fresh from touring with Kiwi born, LA based Gin Wigmore and supporting Larkin Poe at their sold out Auckland show.
Her Debut single Heart Full of Dirt was a finalist for the APRA Best Country Music Song 2017.

Kendall Elise has just released her debut album, of which singles The Clock Tower and Valentine Street feature. The album debuted at number 12 on the NZ Music Album Charts.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Kendall Elise


Red Earth
Year: 2019
Type: Album
I Didn't Stand A Chance
Year: 2017
Type: EP

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