This weekend at The Gov, a group of passionate musicians and local identities are getting together to honour the life and contributions of Howie Kehl in song. 

In conjunction with the Songwriters Composers and Lyricists Association (SCALA), these musicians have created an annual development award as part of the SCALA Festival of Original Music Song Competition while paying tribute to Adelaide songwriter, drummer and music mentor Howard Kehl.

The lineup for Sunday 11 September’s gig consists of Adelaide musicians Vince Contarino (Zep Boys), Dino Jag (Portrait/Stolen Waters), Catherine Blanch (Third Drawer/Cats Don’t Dance), Grant ‘Kanga’ Thiele (Titan, Teaze, Aust Sweet Show, Poundcake), Kevan Keeler (No Time Wasters, Capacity Max, Hollywood Gun Club, Poundcake) and Luis Saez-Sanchez (Almost Human, BB Steel, Secret Men’s Business).

Howard Kehl - Image by Catherine Blanch - Howie's Kick Off
ARIA award winner Howard Kehl

ARIA award winner Howard Kehl, who has received a number of SCALA FOOM song writing awards himself, is best known for his work with a large number of musical outfits including Portrait [with Dino Jag and Vince Contarino], Poundcake, Almost Human, Glory Boys, Amberlist and most recently FastMotor.

Catherine Blanch, who has been instrumental in putting the gig together with newly formed production company, Shiny Heads, and is honoured to be helping to celebrate and commemorate the life of a man who gave so much to the music industry.

“Howard Kehl was not only one of my best friends, but he was also a talented musician, songwriter, drummer, music consultant and mentor. The support that he has shown both established and up-and-coming artists over his 30 years in the music industry has really helped to shape the Adelaide music scene as it is today,” she says.

“When Howard died suddenly in May last year, so many people were left devastated. I doubt he knew the hole that he would leave behind with his ‘unrehearsed’ departure (Howard was a stickler for rehearsing). Shiny Heads Productions was formed by me, Vince Contarino, Dino Jag, Kevan Keeler, Grant Thiele and Luis Saez-Sanchez. We wanted to honour his memory, his talent and his legacy as a mentor and, after much discussion we came up with the idea of working with SCALA to create the Howard Kehl Rock Music Development Award to continue with the mentor role that was so much of who he was.”

While Howie meant so much to many people, Catherine says she was from a different side of his life than most in the music scene, and she misses him terribly.

“Howard was one of my best friends. Unlike my fellow Shiny Heads members who came from Howard’s rock music world, I was part of another side of Howard’s life. I met Howard at a Barmera Country Music Festival seminar at The Jolly Miller Hotel. We just connected and remained friends for nearly twenty years,” she says.

“We were friends who talked on the phone a lot, sent silly text messages (as he did with many of his close friends). He would often come to the Fringe and Adelaide Cabaret Festival with me as my plus one. In return he would take me to Cold Chisel concerts as his plus one. I miss him dearly; his silliness, his knowledge, his quick-witted retorts… just him, really!”

With a stellar line up of local talent, Catherine Blanch, who, as well as being a musician also runs awesome Adelaide publication The Clothesline, is looking forward to sharing the stage at The Gov with the cast of Howie’s Kick Off. 

“Since having children, I’ve not performed as much as I used to. I’ve not performed with any of the boys before, so that’s going to be a lot of fun. But, it will also be great to see the songs that Howard helped create come to life. There will be so much talent on stage and the music will be great,” she says.

Keeping in the spirit of SCALA’s FOOM, Catherine will be sharing her original music with us on Sunday, accompanied by Grant Thiele and Dino Jag.

“Unlike the other performers at Howie’s Kick Off, I’ve not performed or written with Howard before. But he used to come and watch me perform at SCALA all the time, so I will be performing some of my songs that Howard loved most. I’m more folk/pop than rock, although my song ‘Lay Down and Dance’ is quite rock. Howard wanted to record it, saying it was ‘so Deep Purple’ but I couldn’t really see it myself,” she laughs.

“But Howard knew more about music than I’ll probably ever know. Sadly, he died before we go to record it, so on the day that song, and all the songs I perform, will be Howie's Kick Off Poster Orange Finalfor him. I’m the only woman performing on the day, which is kind of cool. Grant ‘Kanga’ Thiele will be playing bass with me, and Dino Jag will play guitar on my final number. I’m looking forward to performing with them for our first time. Then once I take my guitar off, I’ll be stepping into my MC shoes for the rest of the event. Multi-skilled!”

SCALA celebrates original music, and Catherine says the Festival of Original Music is an excellent way to encourage artists to put themselves out there and perform.

“It’s because of SCALA’s existence that I first started writing and performing my own songs. It was a safe place where people could show what they had to give. Their work in promoting new an original music has spanned across three decades and has been a launching pad for many touring artists as well as a platform to showcase so much of the original music talent that Adelaide has,” she says.

“Most of Australia’s best indie and touring artists started out in small venues and at places that supported original music of all styles. Without that kind of support available, many would just not take off or even try. We need SCALA and more original artists to be out there and sharing their talents; what you may see on the SCALA stage today, you may get to hear on national radio or stages tomorrow.”

Howie’s Kick Off performs at The Gov from 1pm on Sun 11 September and tickets are $16 + $4 booking fee online, or $25 at the door.

By Libby Parker
Photos supplied