THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Angular punk pop that would be impressive for an outfit twice their age.
If you happened into the Middle East for the Fleshtones show two weekends ago, you might have wondered what those kids were doing there. Working the crowd were four guys who looked about 10 years short of the legal drinking age. In fact, they were Who Shot Hollywood, the night’s opening band, and they are indeed underage. The shock of the young only increased when these 11-to-13-year-olds got on stage; their angular punk pop would’ve been impressive for an outfit twice their age. As JJ Rassler of Downbeat 5, the next band up that night, joked, “That last band should retire. They’re too old!”
Also in that crowd was Newport-born Greg “Skeggy” Kendall, a well-liked veteran of the local music scene who’s best known as the songwriter and singer in Tacklebox and, before that, Lifeboat. Kendall is not only Who Shot Hollywood’s biggest fan, he’s also the father of bassist/singer Lucas Kendall and drummer/singer Dana Kendall. (Their mom and his wife is Connie White, the former Brattle Theatre co-owner.)
Who Shot Hollywood aren’t the only second-generation band to make a name in town. Dennis Brennan’s son Jake become one of the better local roots rockers, and singer-songwriter Casey Desmond’s dad fronts the Bentmen and runs the Sound Museum rehearsal spaces. But WSH started even younger: when the Kendalls first performed (originally with Skeggy in the Praying Mantises, then as Bullseye), some of the members weren’t even in double digits. Lucas Kendall and keyboardist Eamon Wick are now 13; Dana Kendall and guitarist Lucas Graham are 11. The polished songs on their Who Shot Hollywood EP (on Kendall’s Grist Mill) don’t sound like the work of such a young band, at least not until you notice that the singers’ voices haven’t fully changed.
The two Kendall kids are hardly strangers to clubland. “We practically grew up in the Middle East,” notes Lucas by phone from the Cape. “So our experience with music and nightclubs is probably different from other kids’.” It didn’t hurt that the Kendall house was full of guitars and recording equipment (the family moved from Boston to Amherst three years ago), or that dad was always playing his Velvet Underground LPs. “We go to a pretty arty school, and since sixth grade I’ve been known as the music kid,” Lucas points out. “That’s a pretty cool thing to be known as.”
According to Skeggy, the family jams started early. He’d strum a guitar, Lucas would improvise lyrics, and Dana would man a conga. “I started doing rock school with them every Sunday. I’d give ’em something simple to learn, basic stuff like ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ At first, I’d give them some simple exercise, and they’d build songs out of them. But I think it really became a band when Dana had his 10th-birthday party in July of last year. They had a sleepover, and that night Lucas came up to me and said, ‘Dad, everybody’s playing these rocking instruments. I need a rocking instrument.’ That’s how he got started on bass.”