When bad-taste becomes great: Kirin J Callinan LIVE
The new-look main room of the Rosemount is a fresh, loud, and reverberative space. The exposed brick is both a gorgeous love letter to the history of the building and an almighty ‘fuck you’ to the transiency of good live music venues in Perth. With these renovations, it is only natural that the boisterously bad-taste Kirin J Callinan, a man who simultaneously mocks and celebrates convention, lends his hand to breaking in the room.
Before Callinan took to the stage in all his jock-strapped glory, we were treated to a couple of generous sets from supports Oosterbanger and Dream Rimmy. Local lass Ooosty-B filled the space between milling punters with bassy, feminine energy. Playing songs that were unrepentantly rhythmic, often involving sections of layered looping, her set felt like a slow dance of 90s grunge. If a little lacking in variety, Oosterbanger’s set was enjoyable and sewed the seed that allowed Dream Rimmy to play to a quickly germinating crowd. I have sung the praise of these shoegaze faves following their set at In The Pines. As supports, they played a tight-yet-loose, short and dense set of thick guitar riffs fleshed out by lofty vocals and synth moments.
The happy homage to synth was also embraced by the main act. But in Kirin J Callinan’s case, the tinkle of 80s synth driven pop was augmented with thumping drums and an often light guitar line – played with a Duesenberg with the trem bar unceremoniously snapped off. Callinan’s sophomore offering Bravado is filled with subversive party anthems. His songs feel cheeky, like club bangerz with a Scottish brogue clad in leather. Part tongue-in-cheek, part heart-on-sleeve, Kirin’s shows are a bizarre circus of comedic rock. Under such a dual light, every one of his features seem accentuated. From the contemporary drover look he seems to be going for, his dynamic nose and pencil-thin moustache poke forth from beneath a cream cowboy hat of behemoth proportions. And it’s hard to tell if it’s all an act.
With a fervent belief that true commitment to bad-taste transforms it into something fashionable, fun and infectious, Kirin is a lot to take in. Perhaps too much when it is past 11 on a Saturday night and the floor has become slick with sweat and beer. The audience felt just a little too-far-gone to fully engage with KJC’s eccentricisms, leading to a stark and sour singular heckle. In a still moment between songs, we were asked to reflect and to “love where we’re from,” to which an egotistical drop kick with low self-esteem quipped, “Shut up you Melbourne pc shit." What ensued was a drawn out dissection of why this particular oxygen thief bothered to voice his barely hidden xenophobia at that moment. It dragged on to the point that you could feel the audience slowly unplug from the show. So much so that the ritualistic, Freddy Mercury-esque call and response performance of ‘The Toddler’ took a little more coaxing than usual to get the crowd going.
Kirin J Callinan’s performances are ambitious and far reaching. On this particular occasion, perhaps he didn’t quite grasp what the audience was looking for, or perhaps we didn’t fully grasp what he had to offer. Maybe it went over my head, but I had an immensely fun time. The fearless energy of a showman who has a smattering of backyard tattoos is something I would recommend seeing in the flesh.