A bus, a train, and another bus later, I squeezed my way into the Hug and Pint’s basement just in time for Tony Morris’s set. Morris describes his music as “pop meets avant-garde, meets Freud, meets Sartre, meets God, meets the Glasgow electronic music scene.” I hadn’t heard of him or his music until a few weeks before the gig, but boy, was I in for a treat. Morris’s stripped-back electronic beats seeped into the crowd. His mix of buzzes, hums, and beeps paired with his gravelly and almost You Want It Darker-era Leonard Cohen voice was magnetic. You couldn’t help but dance along. 

In the wake of Tony Morris, Oliver Marson delivered an ’80s-infused set with influences ranging from Talk Talk to Wang Chung. His performance felt like something teens in a John Hughes movie would sneak out to see on a Friday night. Marson describes his music as “ludicrous music for ludicrous times.” Though playfully nostalgic, I was left wanting a little more ludicrousness. 

Around half 9, Kirin J Callinan stepped onto the stage. Clad in a skin-tight bright red top, cropped leather jacket, camo-coloured wide-brim sun hat with matching face covering, and sunglasses; the man of the hour had clearly arrived. 

As he played the first few notes of ‘…In Absolutes’ a calming wave washed over the crowd. I first listened to Callinan’s music when I stumbled upon ‘Living Each Day’ off of Bravado while scouring for music during the pandemic. Since then, I’ve associated his music with almost always being playful, upbeat, and a little perverse. However, compared to most on his latest album, If I Could Sing, ‘…In Absolutes’ feels surprisingly sincere. As Callinan repeatedly howled, “You broke my heart!” at the crowd, you could hear the heartache in his voice swell. The room suddenly felt ten times smaller.

But that feeling was short-lived. After some introductory stage bants, Callinan switched gears. Next up were ‘Chop Chop’, ‘It’s The Truth’, ‘Eternally Hateful’ and ‘Young Drunk Driver’, all from his newest release. Each track, in quintessential Callinan style, was as cacophonous as it was captivating. Early on, Callinan gently asked us not to sing along. But as we got deeper and deeper into his discography, the tunes got groovier, the basement got sweatier, and suppressing the urge to sing along didn’t get any easier.

Yet, as soon as the first few notes of ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ played, we all knew not singing along was no longer an option. The room roared. Callinan’s triumphant take on The Waterboys’ classic enraptured us all. Then, with a quick smile and wave, he beckoned us to join in. As the time crept on, I realized I might miss my train, but I didn’t want to leave! Callinan had just started playing ‘Bravado’ and more was on the way. While boogying my way to the exit, I tried to take in as much of the synthy soundscape as I could. 

On the way home, I remembered something Callinan shared earlier that night. As someone with Scottish heritage, he had hoped to experience a sort of “spiritual return” upon visiting Scotland for the first time. He then paused. Moments later, he looked back at the crowd and said, “I hope you’re remaining present.”

Mr. Callinan, how could we not?