You won’t see him on the cover of magazines – he has no press representation and rarely does interviews, especially outside of Scotland. You mightn’t recognise him if you bumped into him onsite, as his ‘80s footy casual dress-sense and ever-present shades give him an air of anonymity among the hordes of Liam fans. But today, at the John Peel tent, Gerry Cinnamon had a 45-minute window to show the world quite how massive his cult has grown. In physical terms: the entire John Peel tent, and the masses of space around it. In geographical terms, it seems: about as far south as Birmingham.
“The whole place is full of Jocks and Scousers,” Laura, a 24-year-old from Liverpool tells me. She found out about Gerry Cinnamon from a colleague of her friend, Emma. Their other friend, Lucy, says she’s added his songs to her “work belters” playlist – and now her colleagues are hooked too.
The word-of-mouth story is one that’s echoed throughout the crowd. Clark, from Burnley in Lancashire, said he and his mates first heard Cinnamon’s music on a stag do in Benidorm, and they all Shazam-ed it to find out what they were hearing. “Now I can’t stop listening to his album – it’s just brilliant. And it’s just him up there with a drummer – he’s a brilliant guitarist.”
Cinnamon’s set-up is, basically, that of a busker: him, an acoustic guitar, and a drummer supplying a rudimentary beat. His songs are rabble-rousing sing-alongs and ballads, with obvious appeal for fans of Oasis and, as new convert Josh, from Hull, says, “The Courteeners – it’s very Courteener-ish. I’d heard his name but not much else so I thought I’d check it out and it’s great. My only complaint is there isn’t any shade here outside the tent. Couldn’t he have brought some ice?”
The Courteeners – who also play Glastonbury today, second-to-top on The Other Stage, which is big but not for a band who sold out the massive Heaton Park in their hometown of Manchester – is an on-point comparison. Like Cinnamon, the Manchester band started with a local following that spread to become national.
Katy, from Glasgow, is one of those Scottish early adopters. She got to know Gerry Cinnamon at Glasgow festival TRNSMT, and a video of his performance there that went viral on Twitter. Craig, from Fife, says it’s all about the quality of his songs. “He’s got the bangers,” he says. “I heard about him through pure word of mouth – he has no promotion. He’s an immense legend. I’ve been playing his songs on the guitar in the campsite here and it’s been going down a storm.”
Cinnamon’s latest tour takes in arenas around the country, which might seem like a lot for one person’s shoulders to bear until you see him in action, and the ease with which he whips the crowd into a frenzy. When he plays ‘Belter’, his big – well – belter, at least five flares appear in the crowd and the place fills us with red and black coloured smoke. “Can you still see me? It looks like my old bedroom in here,” he quips after.
The lack of mainstream media uptake on Cinnamon speaks to a sort of snobbishness about his genre of music and his fans. It’s easy to caricature him as nu-ladrock (‘Belter’ is about a girl who is “a belter”) and his fans as stray members of Liam’s parka monkey tribe, but that is, at heart, regional and class snobbery.
Cinnamon makes music for mates, essentially. And everyone here is in a group of mates who’ve shared his music among them. It’s a word-of-mouth sensation, the kind of analogue oddity you don’t expect in the digital age, but is so much bigger and stronger than Twitterati leaping on the latest trend.
Cinnamon’s presence here, and that of peoples’ prince Lewis Capaldi, and The Courteeners, is a marker of a revolution that’s happening in music at the moment – ordinary people bashing down the doors previously guarded by tastemakers.
“I’ll be back,” says Gerry after his set, punching the air. And it’s a safe bet that he will, in a big – possibly even the biggest – slot. The John Peel Stage compere one-ups him. “If Gerry is not headlining the Pyramid soon, there is no justice in the world.”