The 2 Bears LIVE @ Islington Mill, Salford

“Are you Ready? I SAID. ARE. YOU. REEEEEAAAAAADYYYYYY!!!!” bawls our bushy haired host clasped in tight 80s spandex and radioactive leg warmers. Anyone who turned up thinking they could slope in to the back of the dark depths of the crumbling Islington Mill, have a pint of ale and zone out to the chilled house vibes of The 2 Bears in a quiet midweek gig, were pretty quickly having to think again.

Tonight, like it or lump it (and it’s safe to say most definitely did like it), the entire audience were conscripted for Kelley D Presents: The Raveathon. A support act that is not so much a warm up for the headliner this evening, but a warmer up of the entire audience. As sirens wail, horns blart and the lighting rig goes into meltdown, the host and erm… fitness instructor Kelley D whips the audience into shape with an Acid House aerobics session. Guiding her class with a spastic semaphore, in no time at all the crowd lost their minds, limbs flailing to the grooves of classic bangers like N-Joi’s “Anthem” and Donna Summer’s disco demolisher “I Feel Love”.
Rave whistles cascade from the front row. Fluorescent paint splatters across faces that beam like acid smilies. In a dizzying half an hour, the aesthetic changes from week-night to all-nighter in a whirlwind of day-glo.

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The event reaches a climax as Kelley D offers up her own string theory. Hurling balls of yarn into the bouncing bodies, the twine unwinds with each punter’s throw to form a UV tripping web that ensnares everyone. Helpless and gurning, the crowd gasp as Kelley draws a blue laser like a lightsaber and slashes her way through balloons floating from the rafters. Creating a chain reaction as she pops each to unleash a white powder onto the gawping gig-goers beneath, she eventually reaches the last one before popping out herself via the back doors. Exhausting!

But from work out to “Work” itself. Guzzling up the boundless energy in the room messrs Joe Goddard and Raf Daddy lumber onto the stage to deliver their big bear beats with the funky 4/4 of “Be Strong” that segues seamlessly into fellow début album track “Work”. But it seems, the ‘bear’ necessities of your typical gig aren’t quite enough for a 2 Bears live show. A cohort of transvestites leap out from the wings as soon as the second track hits speakers. Slinking seductively across the stage and bringing all new meaning to pipe dreams as they swing from the plumbing exposed on the venue ceiling, the band’s bearded backing dancers prance on and off stage for the duration of the show, liberating more of their flowery items of clothing with each visit.

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Taking their music out on the road for the first time as a live band, the tracks from the former DJ collaboration’s debut LP Be Strong are given an altogether new lease of life. With the help from the powerhouse vocals from a new soul diva backing them up and a menagerie of delightfully wonky synths the old material feels as fresh to hear as the new material outed this evening, that equally shines.

Tracks like “Warm and Easy” and “Take a Look Around” are vamped up into House smashes, whereas the blissful pop of “Angel” and the irresistible chorus of latest single “Not This Time”  provide ear-worms that won’t dislodge for weeks. “Bear Hug” provides arguably the honey pot pick of the set and sees Jo Goddard get grizzly, joining his transvestite troupe to whip out some deranged bear masks.

Yet all parties after to come to an end. Acknowledging what a religious religious experience tonight has been for the delirious mass before them, The 2 Bears close with spirit lifting  “Church” as the whole crowd get immersed in its closing mantra “Hey now, hey now, let’s get up together” . With bear hugs all round, the band bid their due to the euphoric crowd leaving a bedraggled set of ravers looking wild eyed and at a loss for what to do next. After all, it’s still only 10.45pm.

Are we ready? Hell Yeah!!! Just 2 hours with The 2 Bears  and Kelley D, and you’d be ready for anything. If you go down to their gigs today, you’ll be in for a big surprise. Completely unmissable fun.

Rating: 5 / 5  * * * * *

Words: Thom Williams

Watch the video for latest single “Not This Time” by The 2 Bears – here at 45 Magazine: