John Bramwell and Dave Haslam review by Richard Frost
On this evidence, few musicians have more fun onstage than John Bramwell.
The frontman of celebrated Manchester band I Am Kloot was at his irreverent best for Chorlton Arts Festival 2013. Like so many Chorlton Arts Festival highlights down the years, the 2013 launch event took place at one of Chorlton’s grand old churches – Wilbraham St Ninians in this case. But Bramwell seemed determined to turn what could have been a staid and formal affair into something much more light-hearted, laughing and joking his way through even the most searching questions from former Hacienda DJ-turned-author Dave Haslam.
When asked by Haslam whether his lyrics were a way of expressing feelings that he couldn’t talk about openly, he replied that it was the same for everyone and everything, before conjuring up the image of a mouse singing out his heart to another mouse. When asked by someone in the audience whether he believed in reincarnation, he joked “have we met before?” before veering off into a flight of fancy about caves filled with spiders in South America (me neither). And when there was a momentary break between questions, he dashed out to get more wine.
There were serious moments of course. The most compelling was when he opened up about his “unhinged period” of 5 – 6 years around the 2005 release of I Am Kloot’s third studio album Gods and Monsters. In his own words, he became too pushy as his ego ballooned and he grew impatient with a music industry that clearly still infuriates him. Even now, he admits to occasional delusions of grandeur, telling the audience: “I sometimes feel like I can write the perfect three minutes that will sum up all your lives, which is mental.”
But then the irreverent Bramwell returned for the second half – a surprise full-length solo gig. Songs were started and stopped on the flimsiest of pretexts. At one point, he paused mid-track to tell fans about an idea he’d heard that involved composing totally silent music. At another, he made a big show of giving up a track because it was too tricky. And at a third he wandered straight into Chorlton Book Festival territory, breaking off from the set to read a novel onstage.
When he did finally play some music, it was clear he relished the freedom of being able to play whatever he wanted. There were not one but two Beatles tracks taken from the White Album (his musical inspiration), as well as rarely played numbers from the I Am Kloot back catalogue that people had told him were too downbeat to perform live. The conviction with which he delivered those songs showed just how misguided critics can be.
There are many more musicians left to perform at this year’s festival, not least during the Chorlton Weekender. But I’d be willing to bet none will have quite as much fun as Bramwell did here.