GIG REVIEW: Shame @ Stereo, Glasgow

words fae Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Hot on the heels of their ferocious debut album, Songs Of Praise, Shame have embarked on a tour of some of the UK’s most intimate venues. Last night (12th April) Shame arrived in Glasgow and encountered a crowd that anticipated an electric live show that would match the energy of their debut album, and the London band delivered on these expectations and then some.

From the outset, frontman Charlie Steen made himself impossible to ignore. It’s impressive how at home he seems on the stage at such a young age and at this point in the band’s career. Immediately he strikes up a casual conversation with the crowd, dropping spontaneous jokes about how they are a “Christian band.” Beckoning the crowd to come closer to the stage, Steen leads the band into set and album opener Dust On Trial, the atmosphere becoming undeniably ecstatic.

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Shame and Stereo are a match made in heaven: Shame’s post-punk grit along with their massive hooks and melodies sound both raw and crisp in such a small venue. Stereo is renowned for being a great venue and one reason for this is the sound is always sublime and Shame go along with this environment perfectly. It’s almost sad that Shame are already booked to play the much bigger O2 ABC later in the year as the band’s presence suits the intimacy of Stereo perfectly.

The band themselves seemed to thrive off the energy of the night, Steen in particular growing more and more confident with each song not that he even needed the boost. Standing on the edge of the stage conducting the crowd with a wave of his arms, before long he had his audience entranced watching his every move in anticipation of what he would do next. Pouring beer over our faces, grabbing at fans’ outstretched hands, Steen lives for interaction with the audience and it amounts to making him one of the most exciting frontmen working today.

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On top of all the showboating, Shame have ounces of substance to back it up. Each song from their debut sounds even angrier and passionate in the live setting. From the dark, menacing manner of The Lick to massive anthem One Rizla, Shame adapt with ease turning each song into a reason for the crowd to lose themselves in the moment. Steen introduces each song with casual interludes, including a reassurance that he now believes other bands when they say Glasgow is always the best tour date. By midway through the set Steen is talking to his audience like they are old friends and it leads to a magic gig that was deserved due to the band giving their all.

Shame finish their set with a triumphant rendition of Gold Hole and as it comes to an end, Steen ascends the 10-foot tall amp and dives off into the crowd, which was strangely unsurprising considering the showmanship he had demonstrated throughout. Completely winning over Glasgow with their bravado and infectious sound, Shame put on one of the best live shows around: it’s no surprise this band is going places.

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An Ayr Rise Festival 2018 Review…

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It’s not often mentioned but the state of music festivals in Scotland is rather depressing. Sure, TRNSMT is doing awfully gid for something that just began last year but when you look at some of the countries heavy hitters, you’ll come to the startling realisation that the days of Rockness and Wickerman Festival are far behind us with most being sadly cancelled. Hell, even TRNSMT itself is the continuation of an annual festival that sadly dipped in quality before reaching its anti-climatic end.

That being said, we’re beginning to see a rise (no pun intended) in smaller festivals that relish in giving smaller acts a chance to show off and bring their sound to an audience that may have previously passed them by. It makes total sense considering that the likes of Tenement Trail use established venues in order to host the acts, meaning the razzle-dazzle of your usual festival is left to the wayside in order for the music to be the real selling point and with tons on offer, and plenty to drink, it’s an ideal situation.

Ayr Rise definitely seems keen on bringing this to an area that, while rife with talent, often doesn’t generate a blip on the musical radar due to its location. Taking place in local nightclub Furys, a venue which is often the go-to for local gigs, it was an event that was not only important for those involved but one that would ultimately serve as a determining factor for whether or not something of this magnitude could work.

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Things were off to a promising start with Molly Eliza taking to the stage. While she may have been filling in the slot left vacant by Atlas Run, it ultimately gave Ayr Rise some variety which benefited it greatly: she may reference the likes of Nina Nesbitt as an influence but you wouldn’t be mistaken for noticing hints of Sophie Allison or even a vocal resemblance to pop heavy hitter Lorde. Her music wasn’t only just pleasant to listen to but also offered some interesting insight lyrically, meaning she could end up joining the ranks of Young Fathers in politically aware Scottish music. Some songs may have been screaming for some backup, specifically some drums, but the minimal performance from Molly left a good taste in the mouth – keep this one on your radar.

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Keeping the momentum going were Ayr-based rock outfit Anna Conda and right off the bat, we were hit with remnants of what could easily be mistaken as demos from the fictional Scott Pilgrim band Sex Bob Omb (a high bit of praise fae us). As the act continued on, the band’s influences became increasingly obvious (someone or all involved in the act definitely has a soft spot for The White Stripes as shown by their Fell In Love With A Girl cover) but it by no means detracted from the enjoyment Anna Conda provided: infectious harmonies rolling over some octane performing culminated in what was easily a hugely entertaining set from the boys who we’re sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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A band still very much in their infancy, only emerging at the tail end of 2017, Honours. were up next. In terms of stage presence, it was a little lacking (which may be totally down to either nerves or the sheer variety of chords that they’ve bolstered in promotion) but there was definite moments that showed they’ve got the foundations laid to make some really interesting alt-rock.

27545489_381304295674464_7592854196806952831_n.jpgThere would be no prizes for guessing what acts have paved the way for the sound ZANG are going for but oh lordy, did they put on a show. Frontman Bunny Wood channelled that rock and roll frontman attitude both in his vocals, that were reminiscent of another funky, bluesy rock and roller Robert Plant, and the mannerisms he showed off on stage. The argument could be made that the band weren’t quite as varied as we would have liked them to be but for what they’re going for, and for how they managed to keep our attention, ZANG did exactly what they needed to do and then some.

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Positioning themselves as an alt-rock riff machine, Zola didn’t disappoint with a rip-roaring good rock time. While the audience at Rise were rather timid (myself included), this didn’t stop the band from interacting with the crowd and trying to get everyone right into the gigging spirit. There were a fair few moments where I found myself reminded of Queens of the Stone Age, a comparison I may throw around a bit frequently but the layered performances and the synergy between and the vocals means I feel justified in that bit of acclaim. Showing off their latest single to finish things off, Zola are certainly going places and we’re looking forward to seeing how they evolve.

21949833_822681854604537_7924578189341822206_o.jpgOur last act of the night (family ting), The Mawb are an act we’ve discussed a fair bit over the past year and a bit but for good reasons. Front-man Ewan McCulloch was the head honcho of tonight’s operation so the fact he had the energy to balance both organisation and performing all on the same day has to be commended. On the related note of said performance, The Mawb were the best they have been yet and hit me with that familiar feeling of pride, not only for the fact they’re an Ayrshire based act doing it proud but for constantly shifting their sound.

Everyone in the act was on phenomenal form, Callum McIlwaine being the devilish chap on guitar we’re all used to and incorporated a wireless device so he could prance about the club while playing, picking up a pint in the process. The aforementioned Ewan continues to impress with those pipes of his and bassist Harry Mawb still radiates that effortlessly cool as a cucumber attitude about him without breaking a sweat. Drummer Paul Nally seems to have totally come out of his shell at this point and it definitely added it all, his commentary during the break between each track adding a certain charm to it and by the closing track, he was clobbering away at his set with the energy of a man who had just went through a botched exorcism. To put it simply, it was a bloody great end to our night.

So Ayr Rise was an overall success, showing that a local festival can definitely work when the right management and acts are brought in. If there’s any feedback we could give, it would be that next year’s event (which we hope is on the cards) tries to shake up the genres on offer: every festival has their strong point but we’d love to see some more bands that don’t fit into the alt-rock mould. From an optimistic perspective, money permitting, it would be exciting to see Ayr Rise branch out amongst some other venues in the town: West of the Moon may no longer be with us but places such as Soundmagic would serve as a nice alternative stage and Big Sparra Vinyl potentially acting as an acoustic one for some stripped back sessions. Of course, this is pure speculation but Ayr Rise, much like the acts playing it, is brimming with potential and we’re crossing our fingers that we get to see it return in 2019 and beyond.

Gig Review: Bon Iver @ Eventim Apolo, London

by will sexton (@willshesleeps)

It’s not often you’ll find a gig review that starts off with the writer in question stressing how nervous he is yet here we are: I was nervous about tonight’s gig. Each to their own but I enjoy looking up setlists before I see bands in order to get super hyped, in addition to stopping myself getting disappointed when one of the deeper cuts I adore no doubt gets left out, inadvertently tainting the night.

So seeing Bon Iver was even more of a Russian roulette: the long-awaited first night they played in London this year (their first English gig since 2012) Bon Iver played their whole new album start to finish in one set, had an interval and then some big hits. The second night was their self-titled second album, an interval and, again, a handful of big hits. Yet nothing was the same order or guaranteed to be played, the only pattern was them going through their discography backwards, (hell they didn’t even play Skinny Love on the first night). So my favourite band of all time could actually not play some of my favourite songs and I could go home heartbroken.

Turns out I had no reason to be worried.

Bon Iver’s gig last night was, to put it simply, an utterly perfect piece of live music that I’ve ever seen. Everyone in the band was on point from start to finish but the gorgeous drumming and brass section definitely deserves to be commended for how impressive they were. Opening with Flume from their debut For Emma, Forever Ago, there was a sudden complete silence to let Justin Vernon fully unfold on stage to the sold-out Apollo theatre. The sound mixing was perfect, his voice soaring above and through the rafters, especially the chorus which went completely through me and I stood in awe and tears. 

Yet, somehow, the gig got even better: Bon Iver decided to play tracks from all their albums and, more importantly, Blood Bank EP, further cementing the point about the alt-rock outfit cycling back through their catalogue. The moment Beach Baby started was when I really transcended, ultimately coming down to the importance the song holds for me and has done for years so seeing that performed as beautifully as it was made it all the better. A speech about love followed it up making it all the more hard-hitting.

Unsuspecting gems came in the forms of the songs __45___, with the most gorgeous saxophone solo, Woods where Vernon really showed off his electronic technical ability with his vocoder and looping and Wolves (Act I and II) with the most epic, goosebumps ending of the whole show. Strobe lights, massive drums hits and raw emotion.

After waiting for 7 years to see my favourite band, I can finally say I’ve seen Bon Iver. The best musical experience. As the gig wound to an end, the band played 22 (OVER SOON), and through my last set of tears, I really felt that yes, the gig was over way too soon.

Gig Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard @ Olympia Theatre, Dublin

written by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw), photos by Laura Rai (@AuralAir)

Following their previous year of madness, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have hit the road: with five-full-length studio albums dropped in 2017, the band have plenty of new material to play, as well as larger crowds to play to after their rise in popularity following the mammoth year of releases. They are currently doing a lap of the UK and Ireland before making their way through Europe and then on to North America. After sold out shows at London’s Brixton Academy and the Manchester Academy, King Gizzard powered on to Dublin, to play yet another sold out show.  

Prior to the gig, a packed house of excited Gizz fans, reaching up to the two balconies of the Olympia Theatre, waited patiently for support band Mild High Club. The two bands collaborated on Sketches of Brunswick East which saw a more jazz-focused sound emerge that had also been heard on 2015’s acoustic album; Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. This, merged with Mild High Club’s dreamy chilled out sound, made a very laid back, yet well carried out and produced album which no doubt lead to a symbiotic relationship that resulted in fans of one becoming fans of the other – in other words, they were the ideal act to set the stage for tonight’s proceedings. 

When the American alt outfit came on and plaid their dreamy brand of jazz-infused indie rock, they did not disappoint. The performance made for some laid back, easy listening, with some of their better, more well know tracks such as Homage, Kokopelli and Tessellation really sounding great live. The only issue with the performance was some questionable mixing which, while not an issue for most of the set, did cause an abrasive synth sound on Windowpane, a real shame considering it’s one of their best tracks. Thankfully it didn’t put a dampener on what was an overall positive experience, kicked off by a smashing opener in the form of Skiptracing which got the reaction it truly deserved from a crowd who was now more than ready for the rest of the night.

The post Mild High Club break saw excitement rise, as well as the noise level inside the venue, as fans grew anxious in anticipation of King Gizzard. This excitement was released gradually as members of the band came on stage to do soundcheck themselves, which took away some of the drama, but did create some nice moments of interaction between the fans.

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Then it was time; the audience was pumped up and raring to go as the seven members of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard made their way on to the stage, with some abstract digital imagery behind them providing an intense visual experience. The intensity was broken with frontman Stu’s back and forth with the crowd, before starting the opener, Digital Black. Whilst sceptical at first about the choice of song, any doubts were quickly eradicated by the heavy vocals and screeching guitar plunging the audience back into chaos, with the crowd reacting as hoped – by going absolutely wild. The heaviness of the opener was carried on, as the band played two more tracks from their most metal-inspired album, Murder Of The Universe. Whilst some of the spoken word sections from the album broke this up, Lord of Lightning quickly mustered up another fluster.

After performing Greenhouse Heat Death, the band stopped momentarily to switch to their microtonal instruments which pointed to only one set being played, instead of splitting the show in two like they had done in London and Manchester. This was meant that there may not be as many songs played, which was obviously not ideal for the Irish fans. This was not seen as a downer though, as King Gizzard powered on, playing some of their hits such as Nuclear Fusion and Sleep Drifter which continued to ramp up the crowd. The band then slowed things down with Stu swapping for Ambrose and hopping on the keys and Alex from Mild High Club reappearing to grab the Flying Microtonal Banana guitar for The Book off of the collaborative album. This was then followed by one of the peak moments of the set, which was repeatedly demanded by a voice in the crowd, as Rattlesnake was belted out by Stu, Joey and Ambrose. The song summed up everything good about the performance; from the consistency of each member to play continuously, seldom making a mistake. The pounding beat coming from both sets of rums, the hypnotic baselines, melodic guitars masked behind some wild effects and the vocals that seem to fill every venue that they play.

After a brief break, the performance then took a step into the more prog-rock side of the band’s discography, playing tacks off of Polygondwanaland. From this section of the performance, Crumbling Castle was a major highlight moment (or ten), as well as the brilliant transition into The Fourth Colour that brought a new appreciation to the song. The Gizz then went on to play three tracks from their 2016 release, Nonagon Infinity, which is known to be a favourite of fans and critics alike. This provided yet another highlight to an already spectacular performance, with the crowd going crazy for Robot Stop in particular.

To finish off the band played The River from an older album of theirs, Quarters. Whilst this song is great, it feels as though a track such as Head On/Pill would have been that extra bit special, as well as being a classic Gizz track in the eyes of fans. The ending was nonetheless great, also featuring a surprise performance of God is in the Rhythm, from the same album, which was apparently the song’s full band live debut, even though it was released back in 2015. Despite not being as well known as some of their other tunes, it was a pleasant surprise that went down well.

The intensity of the performance made time fly, with a great Irish crowd providing the atmosphere needed for King Gizzard to deliver such a legendary performance. Looking back, the gig was a hyper-rollercoaster through the band’s various sounds and personas, morphing from metal to 70’s prog-rock to jazz and then back to the psych-rock that the band is most well-known for effortlessly. Although there are some tracks that fans may feel they missed out, it would be impossible to fit all of their best into one gig after such a prolific year. After seeing a performance like that, it would be hard not to get excited for what the band has in store for 2018, as well as gaining a new appreciation for each of the album released by King Gizzard, whether it was last year or some of their older records.

Gig Review: ALVVAYS @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

photos + words by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

When praise is given in a gig review, more often than not there’s a huge focus on energy exerted by both the act and the audience which is fair enough as, after all, a rock or hip-hop show tends to only be as strong as its riffs and beats respectively. This made ALVVAYS a nice change of pace before they had even played a single note: the Canadian dream-pop act has been around for a few years now but 2017 saw the band rise to prominence thanks in no small part to how well Antisocialites meshed with fans both old and new and the chill vibe it rocked.

Of course, once they did start playing they managed to win over the audience without a moment’s hesitation. After showcasing the new album to a busy St Luke’s last year, prior to its release, it’s had time for those in attendance at the ABC tonight to grow attached to certain tracks and witness them being performed in the band’s biggest Glasgow show to date. It was undeniably obvious which one reacted the best with the crowd: as soon as the opening lo-fi keyboard of In Undertow filled up the room, bits of the crowd flooded to the front to lap up every single word and note that the band politely served them.

img_3807-1Usually, if you’ve got your heart set on a Glasgow venue for production value then ABC usually finds itself placed in the middle of the rankings but ALVVAYS managed to subvert this expectation; much like some of their instrumentals, there was a hazy aesthetic splashed on the scenery behind the act, often times taking on the form of TV static, giving the stage a retro feel which went to prove that you don’t have to go overboard with design to leave an impression.

Speaking of retro, well as retro as you can be for an album released four years ago, tracks from the band’s eponymous debut album weren’t left outside in the baltic Scottish weather, especially Adult Diversion whose jangle pop essence resonated well and showcased the band’s weaving instrumentals which they made look almost effortless.

Actually, while we’re on the topic, the whole band has to be praised for the show they put on last night; of course, Molly Rankin (vocals + rhythm guitar) was on spectacular form as always, even getting an “I love you Molly” from the passionate crowd, but Kerri (keyboards), Alec (lead guitar), Brian (bass guitar) and Sheridan (drums) all did a wonderful job in making the transition between record and stage feel utterly seamless.

Throughout last night’s show, there were a few humourous exchanges, such as Molly’s tangents about her mishap with thinking pants meant the same thing here as they did back home and the pronunciation of Sauchiehall street. While this is a staple of nearly every gig, it went a long way to evoke how humble the act really are: touring isn’t a new thing to them and they’d have every right to possess some sort of ego with all the critical acclaim they’ve accumulated but on stage, what we saw were an act who are going with the flow and giving their all every single time.

After all, in their own words, there’s no turning back after what’s transpired.

3 Reasons Why Reading & Leeds’ Lineup Is A Disaster

by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

You know the drill by now: January comes and the musical drought is avoided thanks to an abundance of festival announcements, the big dogs like Primavera and Reading & Leeds dropping their line ups and provoking a huge response in the process. While the former has been analysed and drooled over, there’s been a choir of cricket chirps and tumbleweed drifting as we’re yet to see any Reading & Leeds announcement, to the point where sites like ourselves are doing the work for the organisers and chiming about our predictions.

Thankfully though, R&L have a sense of humour and this morning had a jab at the dying meme economy of fake billings, posting the below lineup: 

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Wait…sorry, it turns out this is actually the line-up? Aw for f-

1. Headliners are (mostly) shite

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Let’s try and figure out why this billing is so tragic which no doubt comes down to the headlining acts. Now, if you were to get an alt-rock band that had prominence in the noughties who are even more relevant now than they were then, Paramore would have been the dead ringer especially considering they co-headlined just a few years back. Yet, somehow, the folk (?) over at R&L seem to think that both Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco are far better choices (see also: acts that haven’t released anything worth mentioning in the past 5 years).

In addition to this, the choice to pack Kendrick Lamar alongside PATD is almost insulting considering the former would be able to bring in an abundance of folk to the festival just by headlining. The quality of PATD‘s music is obviously entirely subjective but considering the fact that Kendrick is undeniably more popular than them and every other headliner here, it’s a bit of a total misstep from R&L.

2. The undercard isn’t much better

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Let’s get the good out of the way: it’s hard not to see acts like SkeptaBrockhampton$uicideboys and Wolf Alice on the undercard and being thoroughly happy with some of the inclusions. In addition to this, including the best boyband since One Direction on the same day as Kendrick is a smart decision to get more of those day tickets moved.

Then there’s the rest and if it weren’t for the firm 2018 at the top of the poster, you’d have thought this year’s campsite was located in some interdimensional paradox. Papa Roach? Sum 41? Holywood UndeadAn alternate timeline where Nothing But Thieves aren’t abusive and didn’t intimidate victims with legal pressure? Our opinions on the boring indie/lad rock acts on here aside (e.g Courteeners, Pale Waves), it’s hard not think that many of these inclusions occurred because the organisers were either A) frustrated over the loss of big headliner(s) B) underestimated the competition after the lack of Glastonbury this year or C) both.

3. It feels like a safe afterthought. 

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As I mentioned in the intro, R&L have put this announcement on the backburner for quite some time and now that we’ve got the lineup, it seems clear why: obviously taken aback by the quality of other UK festivals, they’ve tried to take a bit from each yet it all comes off as a bit of a headscratcher. 

I don’t have a problem with R&L not being a rock festival anymore but if you’re gonna incorporate some hip-hop acts into the formula, surely someone like Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt or CupcakKe would be better inclusions as opposed to going for the safest option available? 

If it turns out that I’m completely wrong on this then I take full blame but does it not feel like Kings of Leon probably got a late night booty call from R&L organisers after talks with Arctic Monkeys fell through? I’m fond of some of the Tennesse rock outfit’s work yet at the same time, I just can’t help but feel that R&L went for them just to save face, especially considering the fact that a Sunday which consisted of Arctic Monkeys, Courteeners and Skepta would be a licence to print money.

Well, that’s if you didn’t mind your entire audience calling you a goth for not liking AM.

 

Gig Review: Kendrick Lamar @ Hydro, Glasgow

words + photos by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

None other the man of the night himself pointed out how long it had been since Glasgow last got a taste of Compton’s finest: since 2012, Kendrick Lamar went from being a relatively unknown rapper to crafting an album that could easily be picked up as A24 flick, another that redefined himself as a jazz fueled poet and a 2017 LP that somehow kept the golden run going all in the space of half a decade. To say expectations were high would be extremely undermining the anticipation for tonight’s performance with a queue forming from doors opening that didn’t die until minutes before Kung Fu Kenny himself appeared on stage.

Speaking of which, the DAMN. star certainly stayed true to his pseudonym: as opposed to the usual attire you’d expect a hip hop colossus to walk out in, Kendrick was donning the all black costume of a sensei, already making things feel very different from a superficial level. As the gig started off with D.N.A, a track that we picked as our favourite of 2017, any doubts that he wouldn’t be bringing his a-game to the Hydro tonight weren’t so much laid to rest but put six feet under the ground. The ferocity and slickness that Kendrick delivered in bucket-loads in the studio were here in abundance as well, his flow chugging along like a runaway train that nobody could stop; not that they’d want to.

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As you may expect from a man masterminding the soundtrack to one of 2018’s biggest blockbuster films, the production value on display last night was utterly lavish: at various intervals, the audience were greeted with cinematics you’d expect from a Karate Kid reboot headed by Key & Peele or Tim & Eric, showing off the finesse and skill of a fictional Kendrick that was intentionally hyperbolic but not miles beyond the talent he showed throughout his set.

Let’s find out who’s been here since Day 1” he proclaimed in a suspenseful manner, almost flat out stating that Hood Politics was on the cards and while it was sadly absent, the early cuts weren’t anything to shake your head at: Good Kid, m.A.A.d City got the playtime it deserved with Money Trees, Backseat Freestyle and more all being given the live treatment that transcended them and while To Pimp A Butterfly got left out a tad, King Kunta and Alright certainly banged just as hard as you would expect them too.

As the night came to a close, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with awe that you were in the presence of an artist that is truly at his peak. This wasn’t helped by the aptly titled GOD being played on the encore and much like he did throughout last night, the sheer admiration present on Kendrick‘s face last night was undeniable: we saw for ourselves that he wasn’t shy about bigging himself up but it’s clear to see that the Hydro was witnessing a man just as in love with what he’s doing as his fans are, no doubt cherishing the unpredictable reactions his work incited.

To put it lightly, he was humble.