Who is the partially naked man dangling from the rafters at Hotxon Square Bar and Kitchen? That my friends is Kirin J Callinan. Relatively unknown to the wider music press besides reviews from The Guardian, The Fader and Needle drop. The Sydney based eccentric singer/songwriter’s latest album ‘Bravado’ feels tediously overlooked. It’s fusion of cheesy dad rock and euro dance performed with just a hint of irony resulted in one of the most unique records of the year.
I bumped into Kirin being shot by two photographers in the ladies’ bathroom before the show. He’s sporting a velvet sleeveless jacket, a long white pleated skirt and a cowboy hat. My only interaction with Kirin came in the form of a hug before the show, he seems eager to meet his niche fans but, anxious to get backstage before the sound check.
The minimal electronic pieces performed by Bea 1991, in support, were in stark contrast to Kirin’s erotic bombastisim. Bea’s ‘Fever Ray’ style vocal modulation made for an intriguing yet short set building up to the main event.
In all his finery Kirin J Callinan finally arrives on stage, beginning with a spoken word intro verging on five minutes. His husky vocals and dramatic body movements entrance the audience as he moves into ‘Bravado’s opening track ‘My Moment’. For 3 minutes Callinan brought Ibiza to Shoreditch with an unbelievably tacky synth drop.
After a few older tracks, Callinan engages in some ultra-smooth crowd interaction, his voice sounding like an even raspier version of the vocals on Yello’s ‘Oh Yeah’. 40 minutes in, Callinan finally plays ‘the hits’ ‘S.A.D’ and ‘Bravado’, the sophomore albums singles, are the campest, most fun moments of the entire show and an opportunity for the audience to sing along to lyrics like “Wrapped up in plastic thrown down the stairs feeling fantastic”.
Callinan constantly references the intimate encore before the initial show has even ended, parodying the fake feeling of surprise that’s supposed to be built by every gig. Kirin’s band, consisting of his two head shaven brothers, leave the stage allowing Calinan a solo moment. He sings the hilarious song ‘The Toddler’ – minimal guitar strumming in-between the audience repeating ‘I’m the toddler!’. After the song, he proceeds to build a football-style chant of his band the “KJ3” until they finally return, with significantly less clothing than before. Callinan follows suit and loses his cowboy hat and jacket with assistance from an audience member.
The funk fuelled ‘Down to Hang’ reignited the audience and was one of the most danceable moments in the entire show. Callinan finally breaks into the final song ‘Big Enough’ – the crowd becomes one of the friendliest mosh pits I’ve ever taken part in as Kirin climbs onto a speaker and slips into the crowd. His return isn’t graceful but certainly endearing as he climbs onto the rafters above the enthralled crowd, his manhood in full view above our heads.
The show was over too soon. It’s no surprise that he’s attracted collaborators like Conan Moccasin, Weyes blood and Mac Demarco. One of the most exciting performers I’ve witnessed in a long time. A true showman.
Words & Images: Aimee Armstrong