The Cube is a small, independent cinema and is perhaps more used to putting on films than the kind of thing I was there for (EDIT: they actually put on at least two gigs a week). It's hidden away down a little side street in Bristol. The building itself is a little confusing - it's all on different levels. While we waited outside the actual room where the gig was going to be, we watched at least seven people ask where the toilets were, only to be sent back out the door from where they had come. (The toilets had some of the best graffiti I've seen in a while, which I posted just below).
There were only about fifty people there in the end, in a small theatre style room. Considering the buzz there's been around Mike Hadreas and his music, I was quite surprised, and even more astonished when I overheard someone saying they hadn't actually listened to any of his music before coming.
The support act, Lonely Galaxy, are signed to Transparent Records which means they're label mates with bands like Yuck and The Smith Westerns. Main member, Harry Granger-Howell, has an incredibly beautiful, powerful voice; accompanied by just his guitar playing and a viola, creating a really mesmerizing and haunting atmosphere. Their best tracks were 'Waiting', 'Time' and 'Have A Heart' - including the lyrics "I've been feeling pretty low". Unsurprisingly quite obvious, but if gloom can produce music like that it might not always be such a bad thing.
In between Lonely Galaxy and Perfume Genius was some quite perky jazz, which I assume was played so that people didn't start crying while the lights were on. Once Lonely Galaxy finished playing, they sat in the crowd to watch Perfume Genius.
When Mike Hadreas and Alan Wyfells walked on stage, it took a while for people to notice because Hadreas is a small, unimposing guy. Even after all the hype, the live sessions I've seen online etc, it was a surreal feeling to see him on stage. Seated nervously behind a keyboard, draped with dark material, he started playing the first song of the set, 'Lookout, Lookout'. Very quiet, whispery singing, close enough to the mic that you could hear everything perfectly, even his shaky intakes of breath. After only a few lines, he started giggling and had to pause before continuing. Considering the dark subject matter of the song, this was a little strange, but endearing. He played a variety of songs from Learning, as well as some of his rarer demos, including 'Put Your Back Into It', an emotive track.
During the gig, Hadreas and Wyfells continually glanced at each other, their eyes meeting rarely. Nervously adjusting the microphone, in a low voice Hadreas mentioned that he couldn't see the audience at all it was so dark saying that, "it's like a nightmare, a beautiful one though".
There was just something about his naked vulnerability on that stage, singing about such personal, and often-horrific things that really reached out to me (and the rest of the audience), almost painfully intimate perhaps, but far from awkward. His final song was 'Never Did', the lyrics of which were almost like the light at the end of a dark and beautiful tunnel, "it's all part of his plan, it's all in his hands". Wyfells and Hadreas shared the same keyboard for this one, their chemistry an important part of the success of the performance, seeming to support each other through what cannot have been an easy performance, dealing as Hadreas' songs do, with such deeply personal material.
The encore was 'Write To Your Brother', and for this Hadreas came out on stage alone. His eyes flickered towards the door whenever someone came in late, perhaps drawn in by the music, adding to the performer's slightly uneasy, timid demeanor.
Afterwards, Mike Hadreas walked past me, I'd been considering this throughout his performance, and it sounds strange, but as he walked past it appeared as though he was illuminated by a different light to everybody else. His pale skin and dark hair give a beauty, that when combined with his singing and piano playing, is striking. Due to a lack of confidence, I didn't go over and say thank you to him, but I wish I had, as it was an implausibly brilliant, heartbreaking, yet uplifting night. I will be praying that he comes on tour again, soon.