Joey Holman and Roddy Bottum celebrate queerness in Brighton with a show that is all physical projection and gentle compassion
It started with a kiss. Well, technically it actually started with some unknown narrator, dryly recounting a roll call of the nefarious psychosexual exploits that were to be had at a bygone cruising area, quite possibly one of New York’s notorious abandoned piers of the late seventies and early eighties famously frequented by outcasts and perverts of all castes. The actual live performance part of tonight’s show began with a tender smooch from Man On Man co-frontman and guitarist Joey Holman on the lips of his bandmate and partner in life, keyboardist Roddy Bottum, just before they both lunged into first tracks 1983 and Stohner from last year’s eponymous album.
Perhaps thanks to Bottum’s role within bands like Imperial Teen and Faith No More, the reciprocally smitten duo, despite appearing a little timid initially, pulled what is a joyously modest and disarmingly saccharine song on record, 1983 (about the pleasures of getting a great blow job and the even greater contentment that comes, if you will, with passionate anal sex) into a snarling power pop monster with a rigorous feedbacking denouement. Yeah, there were some technical difficulties, with Holman’s mic often being inexcusably inaudible, but what the charming young bear lacked in audible discernability, he made up for in physical projection and gentle compassion.
As the droning chug of Stohner began to stuff itself into the dark echoey recesses of the Green Door Store’s main hall, he took multiple glances at Bottum, half for reassurance and half to celebrate the fact they’d somehow made it thus far, away from the trauma that had initiated the project, across the pond to a receptive crowd of queer weirdos and survivors of the alt rock era. Despite claiming there was no rivalry between Brighton and Bristol, where the pair had recently played as part of this, their first European tour, the crowd still playfully ribbed Holman for confusing the two similarly titled cities at one point.
Queerness plays a huge part in the band’s modus operandi, from their name, the content of their songs to their activities off stage. The pair also run a creative network called Chosen Family aimed at building a community for people, who fall under the LGBTQIA spectrum, that is willing to connect in honest and emotionally pure ways. As such, the next song they play is a damning critique of the proliferation of faceless profiles on sex apps, who demand to see people’s dick pics, without showing their own mugs. A less snarky number followed, the Sparks and gospel indebted ballad Baby You’re My Everything in which Bottum reaffirms his commitment to Holman.
People talk about the great romantic partnerships within the music world from Buckingham & Nicks through to contemporaries like Arcade Fire’s Win & Regine, but few couples are willing to be as straight ahead gushing about their significant other as Man On Man. Holman & Bottum also don’t sugar coat their devotion or keep their intimate moments privately wrapped in mysterious lyrical puzzles. And why the fuck should they? As their final triumphant song proudly announced, It’s So Fun To Be Gay.