Saturday night is the third of a trio of back to back gigs for The Humble Reviewer, with the wonderful Slap Rash at HENRYKK (round the back of The White Hotel, as I discovered) on Thursday, Sean Grant and The Wolfgang last night at The Castle (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and tonight sees a chance to see the mighty Spin Klass bring their unique brand of electronic shenanigans to 33 Oldham Street. Tonight, I am also accompanied by the incredible Editor Girl, anxious to get her hands on my equipment (!) and get some photography in after a whole week away from her new calling. We pound furiously up the stairs, just in time to catch the start of Evan Kirwan’s set, the camera is snatched from my hands and I stand, pondering the very nature of my existence, but at least with a chance to listen for a while.
Hailing from sunny Winsford (“Ain’t no heaven like CW7”, I am reliably informed, and who am I to argue?), Owen has been playing live for six years or so, but it’s only over the past twelve months or so that he’s been able to spread his wings and play a little further afield. He’s brought a sizeable posse of mates with him too, all of whom quickly rush up to the front to dance, as against hanging about coyly, ten feet away, like most audiences tend to do (at least until things have warmed up). I’ve been asked many things whilst lugging my camera around gigs, but NEVER if I happen to have any anti-perspirant on me (“Cos I’m fcuking boiling, mate”) from a nice chap from Evan’s posse with a bucket hat and the widest flares I’ve ever seen this side of Madchester, so I have a sneaking suspicion as to the type of thing I’m going to hear.
Evan is a thoroughly likeable chap with a cheeky grin to which you instantly warm. You can hear traces of Alex Turner and Richard Ashcroft in his vocal style, which is powerful, yet controlled. As Goin’ draws to a close, he sends his thanks to “The Party People”, as he refers to the good folk up front who whoop appreciatively. “Winsford, Nantwich and Crewe – we represent!” Somebody cries, “…and Alsager”, to which he quickly retorts, “Fcuk Alsager”, much to the delight of his troops. “Losing My Head” is available on Spotify, should you care to seek it out and there are traces of Oasis crying to get out here too.
“They” is dedicated to those in power, in whatever form that might take, but the sentiments are far from complimentary as Evan segues effortlessly into Cypress Hill’s “Hits from The Bong”, which really shouldn’t work as an acoustic track, but somehow does perfectly. In “Where Music Lies” you can hear many influences, although Evan stamps his own distinctive style onto his lyrics, having engaged in some friendly inter-song banter beforehand. Although all coming from his own pen, his songs tweak at your subconscious, making you think, “Where the HELL have I heard that?”, when in fact you haven’t heard it at all. “And then we’ll do it again!” rings out the chorus, and everyone does (whatever IT is). “We love you Evan” comes the cry, and it’s absolutely genuine. The set continues with the jaunty “Focus on You” which drifts seamlessly into a brief cover of Modjo’s “Lady”. Who knew?
Evan shares that he’s “Sweatin’ like a lizard up here”, before telling us that whilst “Focus on You” was all about positives, the next song, “All is Well” is the other side of the coin, and indeed it is, a brief foray into melancholy – he does sad as well as happy with equal confidence. As things start draw to a close, he thanks us for coming out, and dedicates the set closer, “Control” to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship where they felt like they’re controlled and where they can’t be their true self, along with a few words of wisdom to anyone who does the controlling. We’re invited to sing along with “I ask you something, oh is it true, or is it nothing, is it nothing to you?” It sure makes you think while you’re enjoying yourself.
You can catch Evan next at Widnes Rugby Stadium on the 9th of September – he also informs me that he’s off to Robbie Williams’s LMA in Liverpool in September to start studying Music Performance and Industry, so he’s clearly taking his music very seriously indeed, and so should you, dear reader. We wish him well and next time, I’m going to remember to stick a can of Lynx alongside the camera.
Evan Kirwan played: Over It, Goin’, Losing My Head, They, Where Music Lies, Focus on You, Lost the Focus and Control.
Although possibly best known for his work with Cold Water Swimmers, Chris Bridgett also played guitar with Dub Sex for a number of years and also formed The G.O.D. with whom he supported The Stone Roses at Wembley in 2017. Add the pop noir/punk noise of Rude Club into his musical CV and you can see that Chris isn’t fazed by audiences whatever their size. Tonight sees him operating outside Cold Water Swimmers, so perhaps it’s appropriate to take this step amongst friends within the cozy confines of 33 Oldham Street, prior to his first solo release in September. He tells me that he’s not nervous, more just concerned about being slightly less than “Match fit”, but within the first few minutes of him taking to the stage, you’d never guess. He tells me that going solo is something new for him, but it’s something that he has to do because, well, “It’s time”, and that’s as good a reason as any. Let’s see what this reimagined version of Mr Bridgett has to offer.
After set openers, “So Young” and “Breaking Hearts”, Chris tells us about his investigations into what constitutes being a narcissist and that having Googled the definition, it turns out it’s him, although I don’t believe that for a minute. However, he decided to write his next song, “Were You Even There” about that very subject. “I took your love and I threw it away, deep down every day”. The chatter (such as it was) has died away to nothing as we strain to catch the lyrics, and Chris almost has to abandon the song due to technical issues, manifested in a really annoying buzz (and no, it’s not me talking). “Even The Pixies couldn’t change like that, could they?” he asks us as he valiantly alters his playing style to enable him to get to the end of the song, which although cut short, shows a more melancholy side to Chris’s repertoire. We applaud his efforts – nothing’s worse than trying to recover from an on-stage malfunction, but I make a mental note to hunt this one down and listen to it in its entirety.
“Golden Hour” is “Brand fcukin’ new” and Chris confides in us that he has, ”No idea how it’s going to go”, but it goes remarkably well, for all his worries. “You look more dead than alive, you’ve lost your sense of adventure”, he tells us, sadly. “Come see me in the golden hour, in a field, in a forest, in a meteor shower”. These are thoughtful and incisive lyrics, delivered by a master of his trade. “Everything We’ve Ever Had, We’ve Had to Fight For” is delivered over a riff slightly reminiscent of “Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” and the subject matter is equally dark: “This is a message from the Ministry of Austerity – don’t get old, don’t get sick, don’t be black, don’t fight back” . By this point, we’re hanging on every word, realizing that maybe, just maybe, we’re witnessing something very special tonight. Not being familiar with Chris’s previous body of work, it’s nice to be able to listen to tonight’s set without making comparisons with his earlier incarnations, but rather just take it at face value, and I like what I hear very much.
“Tonight” is, apparently about “Getting off your face – it might be your vibe, it might not”, but regardless of our feelings on the subject, it’s delivered with power and we know that it’ll be featured on Chris’s upcoming album. Tonight’s set closes with “Summer Breeze” from Cold Water Swimmers “Holiday at the Secret Lake” album, and which generates a ripple of acknowledgement from those in the know. And with that, he’s done it. Set complete, guitar packed away and he melts into the anonymity of the room after a few shakes of the hand and slaps of the back. Ladies and Gentlemen, Chris Bridgett is back in the building.
Chris Bridgett played: So Young, Breaking Hearts, Were You Even There, Golden Hour, Everything We’ve Ever Had, We’ve Had to Fight For, Tonight and Summer Breeze
SPIN KLASS describe themselves as, “A 3-piece alternative synth pop band from Manchester, England, formed in 2021 from acollection of John McClane fanatics, budgie enthusiasts and sub-station controllers who couldn’t get enough Devo, XTC and Talking Heads”. I like the cut of these fellows’ collective jib already, and I haven’t heard a thing yet! Comprising Chris Maddon (vocals, guitar), Kieran McIntyre (synths and drum machine) and Josh Stewart (bass). Once upon a time, Chris and Keiran used to front The Minx, a 5-piece Manchester-based punk band who did good things about six years ago. They then went on to form Heavy on the Magic with Josh and a couple of others. They have a long and distinguished heritage, starting with the heady days of being 16-year-olds in a band called The Hems who supported Inspiral Carpets at Academy 1, then supported them on tour as The Minx after that. Based on this, nobody can say that they haven’t put a shift in.
After delivering unto us their debut compendium, the wonderfully-named “Sod It” back in October 2021, they followed up with the “Ferral Bop” EP a year later, followed by current single “The Other Room” this May. Editor Girl I find ourselves a good togging spot at the front and await tonight’s proceedings with anticipation as the lights dim and we’re treated to an electro rock introduction that Giorgio Moroder wouldn’t turn his nose up at. As Chris, Kieran and Josh to take to the stage, this melts into “Rich, Old & Sober”. It’s a very hybrid mix of rock ad electro, delivered in a very tongue in cheek style. Chris takes stage left, whilst Kieran takes stage left in the space that would traditional be occupied by the drummer (which, of course he also is, with the aid of a laptop and some nifty technology) and the trio is completed over on the right by Josh and his bass. “I Just Want You to Love Me” is a plaintive plea, underpinned by what sounds by the organ theme from The Stranglers’ “Heroes” (though that may just be me).
“Cancelled” is next and my, “What’s that?”-ometer is going into meltdown as I detect the guitar progression from Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” lurking in there somewhere. Spin Klass are just great fun, combining the best elements from (as previous mentioned) Devo and XTC, but with a smattering of They Might be Giants and the chutzpah of The Pistols thrown in for good measure. “Thank you – bit of a whirlwind start, wasn’t it?” asks Chris, “Let’s take a breath for a minute and say hello” before telling us that had he known that there was a party on upstairs, he might have been there instead, so it’s a good job for us that he didn’t. “This is Love” is a slower number, strategically placed to allow Spin Klass to have a rest! I’m getting undertones of Orange Juice’s “Rip It Up” along with notes of New Order’s “Thieves Like Us” here and I’m now enjoying my internal game immensely, and whilst the audience may be unaware of MY game, I bet they’re playing their own! “That’s as sloppy as you’re going to get us tonight”, announces Chris. “Have you got any merch?”, comes a cry from the rear – this may or be not be pre-arranged, who knows, but it’s a fine marketing ploy, nonetheless. “Dodgy Dave” is manning the merch stand and four songs in, I’m already sure that I’ll be visiting him later. It’s at least a week since I’ve bought a tee and the withdrawal symptoms are already setting in.
“Slowloris” is next, delivered in Chris’s laconic style which is growing on me by the minute. “Greenfields” has a psychedelic air about it, as though you’re trapped in a funfair in a horror movie (I have NO idea where that came from) At any rate, it takes us somewhere we can also find Mozart, David Bowie, Tupac and Terry Hall, amongst others. I REALLY need to see the lyrics to this one. “Fanfare For the Common Sense” prompts a change of guitar for Chris and we’re prompted to talk amongst ourselves, to which somebody (very possibly Dodgy Dave) shouts out “Anyway, who are this Spin Klass – what’re they all about?” I don’t think anyone truly has the answer to that one, but it doesn’t really matter – we’re having fun and that’s all that matters (even if we CAN’T leave the venue unless we’ve bought at least a patch from #davethemerch). We’re now invited to dance as the 70s sci-fi intro turns full-on Madchester and dance, we do, as we’re implored to “Sit yourself down and have a word with yourself” over and over again – brilliant. I decide to have several words with myself, just to be on the safe side.
“Fridge in a Sauna” is described as a, “Golden Oldie” which again has a Mondays feel about it, and has the audience swaying appreciatively as Chris’s guitar channels Bernard Sumner’s very nicely indeed (my ears take me off on the strangest journeys sometimes, but they’re MY ears, so there). Chris tells us that they’re writing loads of songs and enjoying themselves and that they’re going to be back in the studio for three days soon before they treat us to an, “Absolutely mental tune” and I know just what he means as “Blue Blazer” erupts into our earholes with an incredible dance beat accompanied by Chris’s sampled voice emanating from somewhere deep within Kieran’s laptop. You absolutely can NOT stand still to this one and I’m pretty sure that I’ve been Touched by The Hand of God somewhere in the course of the evening.
Final song and current single “The Other Room” pounds away mournfully yet triumphantly, bringing a joyous forty-eight minutes to a close. Fortunately, the pleas for the by now mandatory “One more song” are successful and we’re treated to “This Road”, after which Chris announces that although they’re not really sure why they agreed to do it, they’ll be DJing at Night and Day Café into the wee small hours immediately after their set – sadly MUCHtoo late for the likes of me, even on a Saturday! In the meantime, I head off for a date with destiny (or at least with Dodgy Dave and his merch stand) and a tee is duly purchased! To my horror, I discover it’s cash only and I don’t have any, but fortunately gig buddy Les Spiers leaps to the rescue, producing the necessary tenner to allow me to pay Dodgy Dave after a frantic search for an XL, as he promises to have a card reader next time. Muchos gracias, Les.
I love going to gigs where I know little or nothing about the acts, even though reviewing them might be just that little more challenging. Tonight, I’ve witnessed someone at the beginning of their journey, a veteran who, paradoxically is also at the start of a journey and a band who have triggered enough synaptic responses between my ears in forty-odd minutes to last me a lifetime, as well as being fun and making me dance. You really can’t ask for more than that from a night out – absolute Klass.
Spin Klass played: Rich, Old & Sober, I Just Want You to Love Me, Cancelled, This is Love. Slowloris, Greenfields, Fanfare for the Common sense, Fridge in a Sauna, Blue Blazer, The Other Room and This Road
For more information on all things Spin Klass click HERE.