Mickey Callisto @ The Folklore Rooms, Brighton, UK, February 7, 2024 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  

Mickey Callisto

Mickey Callisto, Vanity Fairy

Mickey Callisto @ The Folklore Rooms, Brighton, UK, February 7, 2024,

Feb 09, 2024 Photography by Nick Roseblade Web Exclusive
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It’s safe to say that Mickey Callisto has it all. Incredible voice. The ability to write songs that mean something and a strong look. Yet to some he’s a bit of a novelty pop act. This isn’t fair. If you listen to his music, he’s the embodiment of everything good about 2024. Positive. Forward thinking and, most importantly, fun. Yes, times are hard, but you don’t need to be hard on yourself.

Vanity Fairy opened the night. OK, now let’s try and paint a picture, with words, or Vanity Fairy’s 30-minute set. Musically it was 70s and 80s city pop. HUGE melodies under static drumbeats and pumping basslines. The whole thing boarded on disco in a way that didn’t feel cliché or chintzy. Now we get to the good stuff. Vanity Fairy’s look and stage presence. Given the retro vibes she was bedecked in a red sequined kaftan, a gold lame headband/wrap, red tights and red sneakers. When she took to the stage she was wearing MASSIVE sunglasses which were concealing glittery eye make up. To say she looked like a character from a 70s Mike Leigh film is understating it. In between songs Vanity Fairy engaged with the audience. Part of this felt like scripted patter and the other was a stream of conscience chat. Throughout her set Vanity Fairy moved around the stage, through the crowd, hid behind curtains like a toddler playing hide and seek, upended a potted plant, walked down the stairs into the pub and generally made a bit of a nuisance of herself. It was more punk than cabaret. The music was tales of love, loss, redemption and acceptance. “He Can Be Your Lady” was the star of the set. The lyrics were catchy but thoughtful. The music had a Gorillaz/Goldfrapp feel to it but totally its own thing and her falsetto vocals were a delight. Sadly the set was over as soon as it had begun.

Mickey Callisto took to the stage bedecked in one of his trademark jumpsuits. This time it was black with red trim. As he strutted around the stage he oozed confidence and killer melodies. Before I left to go to the gig my six year old daughter asked me who I was going to see. I told her and played some of Callisto’s music. After she’d heard a few songs my daughter said “Dad, tell him not to play the slow one’s. Only the fast songs”. I passed on this message to Callisto, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, and luckily he ignored my daughter’s advice. The more upbeat songs got the crowd going more than the ballads, but there was something transfixing about watching him delicately play the keyboard while crooning about contemporary living. Near the end of his set Callisto said that he’d recently quit his 9-5 job working in a high street phone shop and “Slave to the Man” was dedicated to his ex-boss and living under successive Tory governments. After he told a hilarious story about his last day at work. An old lady came in and complained that her phone wasn’t work and to check that the Sim card was in. On removing he phone from her bag Callisto had to inform her it was, in fact, a TV remote. “I’m not fucking joking” he said “It had Goodmans written on it”. The highlight of the set was “Homospace”. The crowd exploded in dancing, singing along and a general feeling of togetherness. “Homospace” feels like this era’s version of Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy”. “It’s a song about a fake night club in space” Callisto said “Weirdly it was inspired by the Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquiluty Base Hotel and Casino but, you know, gay” he explained. The final songs were a cover of “Hey Jude” and his debut EP closer “Lost in Space”. And then it was over. Well, almost. Someone from the crowd bellowed “PLAY HOMOSPACE AGAIN! ” and he did. This time the emphasis was on audience participation. And then it was really over.

Mickey Callisto
Mickey Callisto

Callisto’s message is easy. To make you feel better about yourself on the way out than you did on the way in. He achieves this by playing incredibly catchy songs with positive messages. When things aren’t going your way, try not to feel bad. Focus on what makes you happy and work hard to maintain that feeling throughout your day, and life. On new song “Take it Easy” he spoke about growing up on a council estate in Sunderland and having to get out so he wasn’t going to the same workingmen’s club every day. And he did. You can too. Callisto is more than a novelty city pop act. He’s the real deal. As he sings on “Homospace”, “Be anything you really want”.


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