(Secret) Gig Review: #UberLive featuring Bipolar Sunshine @ St John’s Church

Last night’s #UberLive gig was heralded as a glorious hookup between the taxi company and Sofar Sounds, a company which picks artists to perform in unusual spaces for small audiences – past gigs have included people’s flats, abandoned art galleries and disused factories.

The premise was simple: enter the code into your app and a taxi will mysteriously pick you and a friend up to take you to a secret venue where you will watch a range of secret acts.

Past gigs have included Hozier, Bastille and Will Young, so expectations were high.

For MM, it started off badly when the driver drove to a disused factory on the edge of Salford, all the while cheerfully telling us that he knew nothing about the secret gig.

A quick call to the London headquarters incurred further delays as a man valiantly tried to convince MM that the church was called ‘St John’s Old Trafford’ whilst being located in Salford.

After a short discussion about the nature of geographical boundaries, we were quickly back on track and dispatched at a church in Old Trafford.

The venue was beautiful – a red brick church stuffed full of proclamations urging goodness towards one another, and a enthrallingly large (about 6-foot?) paper mache head of Jesus.

The head was hidden at the side of the church, giving the slightly disturbing impression that he was an impassive tour manager, disdainfully eyeing up the talent on stage.

At this point, beer tokens had been dispensed to all patrons and there was a cheerful buzz about who might be appearing.

The first act was debuted enthusiastically and Family Ranks, the self-described soul, hip-hop, groove-fusion outfit, took to the stage.

Vocalist Ruby Ann Patterson’s cold brooding vocals were at its best when they performed Worth It – a simple demonstration of Ruby’s talent, slowly chipped away by bassist Ben Whitfield as he brought in the chorus.

At this point, the performance was slightly marred as an over enthusiastic keyboard player began to resemble a Sunday School member who had been given the xylophone to play as a special treat. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant but it clearly overpowered the rest of the band’s performance.

The lasting impression was of a talented band who are marred by the disjointed nature of their individual parts – an impression further confirmed when one of its members didn’t know what any of their songs were called.

A hastily scrounged set list confirmed that the 7-group band performed four songs: Hard to See Her Soul, Worth It, Speak Up and Waste.

At this point, the gig was in need of revival – the free beer had run out, the headless Jesus enigma was staring into my soul and churches are not traditionally terrifically fun places to hang around in – at one point, I was sat next to the book of terminally ill people asking for extra prayers from the congregation. This gig needed something impressive to get it back on track.

Luckily for the audience, Bipolar Sunshine was up next.

The artist, real name Adio Marchant, performed a set so achingly cool, so hip, that it made a cool drafty church feel like the hottest place to be on a Thursday night in Manchester.

The stripped back acoustic set showcased his powerful vocals, creating a hyped-up vibe that left the audience finally becoming the enthusiastic crowd that had been missing throughout the whole evening.

Bipolar, ably matched with a guitarist, swept through Rivers, Day Dreamer, Deckchairs On The Moon and Where Did The Love Go. Finally the church setting made sense as Bipolar’s crooning vocals were assisted by the church’s high roof, creating a reverence normally reserved for early Sunday morning’s in the pews.

At this point, the gig was back on track, although slightly marred by the over-enthusiastic volunteer photographers that repeatedly ran across the stage and in front of performers during the concert.  

At one point, they stood at the pulpit as if they were part of the show, ready to deliver a sermon on their Media Studies A-level.

It’s a housekeeping gripe, and not something typically brought up in reviews, but it was especially noticeable in the stripped back venue which Sofar prides itself on finding for gigs.

After Bipolar, Kidsmoke were ushered to the stage – a garage pop four-piece band from Wrexham, North Wales, and now based in Manchester.

The initial impression was of a band your brother forms in Year 8 and forces your mum to let them practice in the garage behind your house. Not totally unfavourable but only something you typically go see because you fancy your brothers friends.

This impression gave way as the band warmed up and at their best, their final song Cut Yourself Loose reminded you of the sweet loud esoteric boyband music Manchester is rightfully proud of producing.

It was loud, catchy and made you feel as if you should be in the side room of your local pub, having beer drench your head and stick to your clothes for the rest of the week,

Finally, the show was finished by Shauna Macklin, a fiery Dublin girl who belted out four songs and filled the church to capacity with her southern lilt.

Four songs performed in fast succession: Fade Away, I’m Altered, Lose Yourself (Eminem cover) and Waiting for You stopped the gig from ending on a bum note as Shauna and her band ensured they gave a well-performed show – full of increased tempo, confident trilling and the pure exuberance that accompanies a band that know they’re putting on a good show for you.

Image courtesy of Bipolar Sunshine via Youtube, with thanks.

Related Articles