Behaviour Festival: Sam Halmarack and the Miserablites @ The Arches
Having lit up crowds from Edinburgh’s fringe to Australia, Sam Halmarack brings his pop spectacular back to Scotland. There’s only one problem, his band the Miserablites haven’t turned up, and on this, their “big gig at the Arches!” as Halmarack laments. Not wanting his audience to go to waste, he shows us around the stage production, musing on what songs his band would play, how the lighting would be, and waxing lyrical about the joys of playing music. Halmarack explains how the band works, cracking open a handy folder he’s put together for band members, complete with tour schedule and a magic little dvd called "Rehearsal Pack A."
This non-gig, expertly enacted and ripe with pathos, manages to strip the gig experience of all its problems - the swaggering, the posturing, and the potential alienation. Before we know it, we’re copying geeky dance moves, giggling, singing and responding to prompts of "fish" and "star" on glockenspiel and synthesiser. Halmarack embodies everything wonderful and virtuous about pop music - witty lyrics, ambitious, overreaching mission statements and naked emotion are all delivered without clique-y pretence.
His show snaps from the tragedy of failure to the pure joy of music. In a haunting falsetto, he plays and sings about the absurdity of the human condition and the brave act of hoping anyway. Song concluded and audience in quiet reflection, he quickly apologises, "Don’t worry, I’m feeling better now!" It’s this kind of quick wit and gentle, humanist humour which underscores everything in the show, and proves irresistible.