Skip to main content

Home Music Music Live Reviews

Barry Can’t Swim live in London: jubilant beats from a rising star

On this evidence, Joshua Mainnie is primed for a festival season that could make him a defining voice of 2024.

4.0 rating

By Will Richards

Barry Can't Swim
Barry Can't Swim at the Roundhouse.

Selling out the Roundhouse has become a regular signpost on the road to superstardom for dance music’s most exciting new British names. Bicep’s show in 2018 was a key moment in their rise to becoming festival headliners, as was Fred again..’s memorable show in 2022. Last October, Overmono proved they had the chops to make it big with a dazzling show at the iconic venue.

The Camden venue is a suitable space to host such realisations. It’s still somewhat intimate (with a 3,000 capacity) but can entertain impressive light shows that hint at much bigger things for those who grace its stage. At the moment Barry Can’t Swim launches into the ecstatic ‘Blackpool Boulevard’ to close his set on Thursday night, the wooden roof of the old venue feeling like it’s going to blow off, you’d be convinced that he’s the next to rise the ranks.

The Edinburgh-born and Ninja Tune-signed musician and producer – real name Joshua Mainnie – emerged last year with eclectic and sun-soaked debut album When Will We Land?, a mix of dance, jazz and beyond. Mainnie’s intricate beats and stomping pianos were set against diaristic storytelling from a handful of guest vocalists on a record that had significant depth as well as a surface-level satisfaction.

Joined by a pair of veiled musicians on drums and electronics, Mainnie is a magnetic frontman, skipping his way around his equipment with an ever-present grin. For music that’s meant to be danced to, and against a background of a somewhat self-serious dance scene, his immovable smile and infectious energy feels refreshing and necessary. It helps that he’s playing house tracks as delectable and joyous as ‘Sunsleeper’ and ‘Sonder’, which beg to be heard blaring out of a festival tent at sunset.

Special guests – Låpsley for ‘Woman’ and somedeadbeat for ‘Deadbeat Gospel’ – elevate the show to another level, as does the excellent musicianship of Mainnie. Having played in indie bands for a decade and only learning to DJ in the pandemic when he was being booked for sets as Barry Can’t Swim, the set has a warm, organic and live feel that lots of dance gigs swerve.

Music like this should be as much fun for those on stage as in the crowd, and the singers and guests return to the stage to dance with abandon as ‘Blackpool Boulevard’ – a contender for house banger of the decade so far – causes pandemonium in the grand old room. When this show gets to festival season, Barry Can’t Swim could become a defining live act of the summer of 2024.