It’s Friday and it’s the longest day of the year. The sun is shining and I’m descending into the depths of the Soup Kitchen, airless and dark, filled to the rafters by an animated hubbub of hot revellers. “Why would you want to do that?” I hear you ask. Well, we’re here for Bipolar Sunshine, a solo project fronted by a Mancunian, hailing from Chorlton, Adio Merchant. There has been fair bit of industry interest in this young rising star. Formerly a member of Kid British, a band of school friends who notably attracted publicity after a series of guerrilla gigs across London tube stations, leading to a performance for Boris Johnson in a train carriage.

Merchant as a solo artist released his first EP, Aesthetics, under the moniker Bipolar Sunshine only days ago. The EP contains three songs, each of them has a warm guitar, indie feel to them and if paired with any other vocal, could potentially sound like your generic indie grouping. However, Merchant’s rich, warm honey voice and charismatic demeanour gives the sound a transformative edge .

The Soup Kitchen sets quite a dingy, sweaty scene. We are immersed in almost complete darkness. There is little to illuminate the stage, except for a huge projection of Gone With The Wind playing to itself silently behind the five musicians.  The stage is decorated with three large, red helium balloons.

Merchant opens with ‘Trouble’, a new song. I’m not blown away by this opening track and the crowd are yet to establish how to respond with dancing. It was, sadly, a tad lacklustre. Song two is markedly better, performing ‘Rivers’ from the EP. This is upbeat and catchy with energetic drums and bass. The crowd are fully on board now, singing alongside him. I love the cheery guitar rift and the lone vocal chorus of:  “Been Low, but I’ve been higher.” It perfectly conjures up the light warm weather outside. His vocals are spot on, vibrant and smooth.

Next, he dials down the mood with the slower and darker ‘Blossom’, the second track from the EP. There are features of indie rock with the heavy bass in the background and his raw vocals reverberating throughout. There is real depth to this song. The whirring and rasping textures of the instrumentals lull you into a bit of a stupor (perhaps also to do with the heat). By now the crowd, his home crowd, are now audibly rooting for him. Their response following each song is noisy and enthusiastic. He is clearly chuffed that so many have turned out: “you’re listening to a load of songs you’ve not heard before so thank you for listening. Enjoy the vibes.”

The next two songs, like the first, are on the indie pop/soft rock side and I’m starting to wish I was outside in the fresh air. He pulls it back with ‘Long Live ASAP’, which is his cover of the Rocky track. It’s raw and simple, just with the guitar for company. His raspy, reflective lyrics suit the dark Soup Kitchen space now.

After just 35 minutes on stage, he finishes with probably his biggest hit to date, ‘Fire’ as he expresses the pain of failed relationships. The echoes and hazy guitar strings really complement his vocals and the poetic completeness of ‘Fire’ is, I think, by far the best song he has written to date. He speaks softly over staccato guitar chords, sharing with us his story about his struggles. An additional layer of depth comes from the sampled extracts from The Notebook which linger in the background; deeply personal and quite moving.

The songs he performs for us from the EP this evening demonstrate his maturity and ability as a song writer. These are the real stand out songs that set him out as a serious contender for greatness. I’m sure we’ve not seen the best of him yet.

He didn’t play it this evening, but this is my favourite track from his Soundcloud page : A LITTLE SUMTHIN [FTSE vs Bipolar Sunshine]