To celebrate Independent Venues Week in January, Attitude is Everything hosted The Gloves Are On, headlined by musician and technologist Kris Halpin aka Winter of '82. The show hit four venues across Guildford, Coventry, Bristol and London. Rowan James caught the performance at the Half Moon in Putney.
Kris Halpin’s Mimu gloves look somewhere between a pair of weightlifting gloves and a bionic hand, controlled by a series of buttons and fitted with a complex system of sensors that convert intricate movement into sound. Halpin aims to perform complex musical arrangements in an expressive way.
Halpin’s ‘The Gloves Are On’ tour is dubbed as a musical adventure. I ventured out to the Putney Half Moon for his headline gig, keen to see this musical quest in action.
Kris held the audience’s attention throughout. Yes, this performance had its share of technical issues, but this is to be expected when you are pioneering new technology. But rather than feeling bored or frustrated during these breaks, my attention was piqued, trying to catch snippets of conversation between the stage and technical support. This gave a me glimpse of how much skill and knowledge is needed to operate the gloves competently.
Similar to watching a highly talented guitarist, fast twiddly finger work can at times be made to look easy to the untrained eye. Halpin had bags of showmanship and kept his composure, giving the audience the sense of a real musician, placing himself at the cutting edge. Demonstrating the complexity of the gloves’ system of controls to a greater extent throughout the performance could have been included without detracting from the music. The music throughout was punchy, taking influence from hip-hop and post-punk with flashes of Latin rhythms.
His first number began with a bold old school ‘boom bap’ hip-hop beat with Ian Brown-esque vocals over the top. Conventional indie style vocals with poignant lyrical phrases often repeated to create resonance, giving each song a distinct theme. His vocals lacked variation which was at odds with the music which displayed a range influences, melodies and rhythms.
At times the music and hand gestures all worked together in harmony. When repeating a singular phrase, he often spoke of loss and struggle, in a way that was easy to relate to. These moments allowed Halpin to unify all aspects of his expressive performance. His music grew with complexity and was peppered with surprise throughout. As the music became more intricate, the overall performance stepped up. His music built and then dipped and at times I found the journey breath-taking.
Attitude is Everything is an organisation that aims to bring greater access to Deaf and disabled audiences. Halpin’s tour is part of a campaign to encourage organisations to take access considerations on board.
The Putney Half Moon is a great gig venue. On entering the room the audience was greeted by a stage filled with technology and instruments. The Half Moon did not seem to be in any way fazed by the thought of providing an accessible space. But what about the access for the musicians themselves? Enter the Mimu Gloves or more specifically Kris Halpin’s Mimu gloves, for they have been personally trained to recognise his movements.
Halpin's relationship with the gloves is key to the performance, but at times it felt disjointed, especially when the hand gestures were understated, getting lost in the music. For his final number Halpin was joined on stage by Imogen Heap, equipped with her very own pair of musical mits. Their duet began to truly demonstrate the potential of the gloves.
Attitude indeed is everything when comes to performing your own compositions live, as audiences fall in love with not just the songs but the overall persona of the music and musician. Halpin is on the road to achieving his overall aims of creating complex compositions performed expressively with hand gestures. For this performance his musicality and movements often entwined to deliver moments of visual and musical bliss.
Watch a video of Halpin demonstrating the MiMu gloves below: