Live Review: Kirin J Callinan – The Tote (28.06.12)

Image from Black Bear Lodge.

I’ve been enamoured with the work of Kirin J Callinan since I first encountered him playing with Mercy Arms at the Northcote Social Club back in 2007. His solo compositions are of course vastly different from their sound and I’m still not entirely sure what the fuck it was I witnessed at the W II W single launch.

This was my first time seeing Kirin J Callinan live and his presence was palpable from the moment he walked onstage. The man is a gifted entertainer and he plays his role remarkably well. It was less live music and more of a theatrical work of art that was soundtracked by violent, pulsating noise – moments of which with the full band in tow were mind-numbingly amazing.

Callinan’s performance was a tongue in cheek affair with his grand sense of humour making the disturbing imagery conjured by his lyrics seem less abrasive. His songs of masturbation, sex, death and even God floating in the water were too much for the Tote’s electrics, with the power cutting three times early on in the set and the remainder of his show having to be played in the dark in order to keep the instrumentation flowing. His vocals were on fire and instilled a sense of calm amidst the erratic nature of his performance. The band almost obliterated the punters with a strobe that flashed for the duration of W II W – mimicking the motions of the film clip and leaving me having to actively work against expelling my stomach contents all over the bandroom floor.

Kirin J Callinan is a curious experience and one that I’ll never forget. What I really loved about this concert was the transient majesty – knowing that the soundscapes conjured by the band and the fragile beauty in Callinan’s quieter moments would never be repeated in the same way. He seems to understand that those moments are fleeting and makes every second on stage count. Live he is confronting, intense and completely enthralling. As the man said himself “I like to make you all feel a bit uncomfortable and to make myself a bit uncomfortable” and his show at the Tote definitely achieved this.