SXSW Live Shot: Kirin J Callinan

Here comes Jangling Jack

Kirin J Callinan set us up with his appearance: hockey mullet, rodent mustache, bedroom tattoos, pawnshop gold chains, hiked-up army pants, and a sneaky look in his eyes. Then he whips out a song like “Landslide” and absolutely crushes our soul.

With a smoke machine on full blast, the Australian singer/guitarist drowned us in melancholy and waves of reverb, arm aloft, pouring out upside down lyrics in a slow, low, Nick Cave-like bellow.

“The stars are dirt! God is in the water! And hell is right here on earth!”

“Oh my god,” breathed one audience member, shock in his voice. “That was beautiful.”

Then, in an instant, the soul-baring vanishes and Callinan falls into his renegade noise-rocker persona, cracking open a fire hydrant of distortion from his 18 effect pedals, which are arranged in a U-shape and plugged into two amplifiers facing each other from opposite sides of the stage.

Photo by John Anderson

Over a oscillating thump provided by his semi-electronic two-piece backing band, Callinan’s feet dart around triggering effects on and off with rapid precision, then he hits a loop and conjures a pulse that matches the beat. His manic eyes stare down the crowd, his chest puffed in faux masculinity, as he barks a gothic trash rap.

“And when a boy grows up he’s still the same, but he’s a man, and a man is physical and a man has to put his physical body to the test!”

Then he drops to his knees and slaps his effects pedals on and off like they’re hand-drums, wailing like a maestro of unholy noise. He spins his guitar into the air, snatches it up, and proudly holds like a scepter.

For all 100 people crammed into Cheer Up Charlie’s inside room Thursday night, this was the show they’d be talking about for days.

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Kirin J Callinan, SXSW Music 2014, Nick Cave

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