Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed Taylor – Digital Flow
To borrow my opening line from a song, there’s something happening here. And what it is still baffles the hell out of me. Bipolar Sunshine, the solo endeavour of Adio Marchant, has been around for a couple of years now – producing a handful of EPs and singles that, whilst genuinely fresh, often argue with each other. I’m still a little unsure.
In preparation for tonight’s gig I’ve spent the past week going over Bipolar Sunshine’s back catalogue and I am left with three solid holds: 1) the man can probably write a pop melody standing on his head, 2) I’m not comfortable calling his music ‘pop’, and 3) if the ex-Kid British front man ever wanted a season to showcase his solo album, this summer would be the one.
Outside of those somewhat weak conclusions, I am standing in an even thinner crowd at the Institute – having been moved from the Library (around 600cap) to the Temple (around 200cap) – to watch Adio Marchant’s new machine at work.
Team Sunshine have been on tour since 26th March, visiting all the right places on what is certainly a showcase trail, and tonight it’s Birmingham’s turn. I’m keen to see Bipolar Sunshine play live; to help me sink my teeth into what has been an honestly tough chew all week. Not unpleasant by any stretch, just something…
The Temple is disappointingly sparse tonight; from the hit rate the preview generated I was expecting more people between me Bipolar Sunshine’s ‘biggest headline tour’ to date. But alas, we are small in numbers. Plus the changed stage is now so absurdly packed I fear for the life and limbs of a hard working tour manager – trapped in a dangerous game of cable hopscotch, just to keep bottled water on stage.
I rest at the back of the room (bar) to watch Shatter Effect climb a rung up the bill for the main support set – Cape Cub, the ongoing tour support, have seemingly come down with one excuse or another. I love watching this band do what they do, and they do it better each time, but it’s an odd marriage of acts – although I may have been the only audience member to notice. I even see dancing. Shatter Effect; keep them in mind.
Stage left, Bipolar Sunshine – as a collective term – are warming up, with the joviality and nervous excitement you’d expect in the wings of an arena. During the change over, producer and guitarist, Jazz Purple, is making the kind of noises that make me question if he’s preparing to perform or smash the place up. But perhaps I’ve been to too many raves in this venue during the mid 90’s; an impromptu hug and hi five tells me we’re probably all safe.
And despite a possibly disheartening turn out, Bipolar Sunshine (again as a collective term) are not letting us subdue – coming on stage with an immediate energy that drags the fragmented crowd to the front. As I watch the obviously eager audience, this starts to make more sense.
Adio Marchant bounces through ‘Drowning in Butterflies’, wearing an incongruous overcoat and shorts combo, as those in attendance dutifully sing along. One tall, awkward couple in front of me almost battle it out for some oddly personal trophy, as the rest of the crowd face forward and make all the right noises in all the right places.
Marchant is superbly professional, somehow managing to navigate the maze of cable and mic stands with an expressive frontman gait. His vocals are much stronger on stage too, dispelling any concerns raised by the sometimes distant voice on his first two EPs, whilst the three piece band around him fluctuate from Soul to Hip Hop to Breaks in an equally confident delivery.
But then Becher’s Brook arrives, with a cry for audience participation (despite being slightly drowned out by the band) coming from Marchant as he introduces ‘Deckchairs on the Moon’. I couldn’t hear which part of what chorus he was asking us to mirror, but seemingly I missed the meeting which told everyone else and the room responds to the extended microphone with eager aplomb. Lip sync turns to singing, and the oddly competitive couple in front of me stare at each other with the earnest commitment of a disgraced preacher.
I confess, I’m still not personally sold on Bipolar Sunshine; my week of preparation, preview and now review leaving me still somewhat unsure. But, as I slide out of the Temple room once our ‘first three songs, no flash’ time has come up, I see a crowd comfortably, happily, pressed to the front and singing along.
And with seven tour dates, a festival season, and an album still to come this year, what ain’t exactly clear about Bipolar Sunshine will get enough chances to speak up. For what it’s worth.
Bipolar Sunshine comes to the Birmingham Institute on 8th April, with support from Cape Cub & Shatter Effect. For more gig info & tickets, visit http://theinstitutebirmingham.com/listings/upcoming-events/16598/bipolar-sunshine-2/
For more on Bipolar Sunshine, visit http://bipolarsunshine.com/
For more from Shatter Effect, visit http://www.shattereffect.com/
For more from the Institute, visit http://theinstitutebirmingham.com/
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit http://birminghampromoters.com/