Painkiller gig @ Oxford Art Factory

Wednesday night, 10 September, I went along to the Painkiller gig at the Oxford Art Factory situated at the Hyde Park end of Oxford Street, Darlinghurst.

I almost didn’t go. I was heavy-hearted and burdened with a friend’s unhappiness. The anticipation of witnessing and involving my senses in Steve Kilbey’s new line-up and music washed over me. I felt cotton-wooled, numbed and nonchalant about leaving the door. Conversely I knew perfectly well I couldn’t miss this. So, after a (small) glass of red, I hopped into my car and drove the 15 minute drive to Oxford Street.

I parked at Oxford Street Paddington and walked briskly towards the Darlinghurst end of things. It was a crisp, fresh evening with a dry icy breeze that served to awaken and straighten my senses. Activity around Taylor Square and Darlinghurst seemed relatively subdued, even for a Wednesday night. Perhaps because it was such a crisp night, or there was some sports game featured on the tele, that people avoided what is usually a 24-hour bustle. It was the kind of night that made you feel a sense of joy about hopping into bed early. I walked fast to my destination and was pleased to find tickets were still available.

I got there with little time to spare prior to the main act coming on. The OAF is underground, a large cavernous room with a fine stage and moshpit and elevated section toward the back of the room. I bought myself a beer, a mid-strength Coopers Light Ale, and guzzled it pleasingly as I observed the throng in eager anticipation of their hero, and the music that was about to be divined & delivered for the first time on a universal stage. I felt very alone, but not lonely. I really wasn’t in the mood to be talking to people anyway, but that’s probably because I wasn’t talking to people. I wondered who the bloggers were. Apparently two Go-Betweens showed up. I didn’t recognise them; they are a band I’ve officially gotten into since…last Saturday.

By the time the band came on I bought myself another of those delectable malty mid-strengths and wormed my way toward the centre of the pit although I didn’t quite make it. I was conscious of not wanting to stand in anyone’s way even though I’m of about average height. Tim Powles, Steve Kilbey, two guitarists including one from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and a sound programmer/keyboardist herded the stage to our rapture and delight. Kilbey’s countenance differed to what I’d encountered on the numerous times I’ve seen him take the stage. He seemed serious, resolute, dead-keen to dive into some unknown and unexplored territory with this new line-up of musicians to perform an album recorded yet not performed up until now. A man on a mission, in other words.

I was struck with Kilbey’s incessant bass-riffs. The bass, the fender custom 60's jazz bass, sounded tremendous. Warm, rich, creamy, deep. I felt Kilbey was in the deliberate process of channelling as much power and mojo from his bass than ever before. The man and his instrument were one. He had the freedom. His aura shimmered. The familiarity of expectation that comes with a famous tried-and-true line-up was cast aside so that essentially, this gig was almost a Kilbey solo gig, the star being the man and his bass. The surrounding musicians unleashed much sonic glory and magnificence, yet the core of this sonic tour-de-force was primarily focussed on the singer and his bass guitar.

I tend to listen to bass more than other instruments, always have, so perhaps I’m biased.

There was one song that struck a familiar chord with me, ’Wolfe’ which I’ve seen Kilbey perform solo at a couple of shows this year. And along with the remainder of the gig, it was magnificent. The music was primal, seismic, almost volcanic in its underlying intensity and sonic visionariness. Kilbey seemed set to explore uncharted territory in rock on a visceral level, to uncover majesties that travel deep beneath the earth’s crust, revealing themselves sonically in shades and sparks of multi-dimensional colour, feeling, and fury. He wanted to go higher than Everest, transcend the speed of light, and with his band, he actually did. They achieved something mighty special that night. Kilbey is an astonishingly magnificent man, I always see him as a deep well of unbounded creative intelligence. On this night I feel that he dived further into this well as the earth rumbled around us all.

People around me had their cameras out, taking photos, sizing up the band members, shooting mini-videos. For one fleeting moment I wondered if I’d best brought my camera but dismissed the notion immediately, refocussing my total awareness again on this sonic journey into hitherto uncharted psycho-musical territory.

My heart remains heavy for a good friend’s predicament. I am sending much love into the universe. Painkiller is what we need, or what most of us need. Musically I felt the earth move under my feet. Is the earth about to move under our feet? Time will tell. Until then there is the album to listen to, Painkiller.


Lian said…
Thank you Ross! What a great review!

p.s. a lovely goldfish. :)
Great read, man!

I love it when music makes the earth move, it's the ultimate, like nothing else around!

Take care,
Polydora said…
Excellent post...

"I tend to listen to bass more than other instruments, always have, so perhaps I’m biased."

I too listen to the bass line more.

Wish I was there and sending love to you and your friend. I'm glad you went to the show and got your very own shot of Painkiller.

Lian said…
For one fleeting moment I wondered if I’d best brought my camera but dismissed the notion immediately, refocussing my total awareness again on this sonic journey into hitherto uncharted psycho-musical territory.

I like this line most. grok for it cause I had some same experiences. Once I travelled on Yangzi river. That day I woke up at dawn, the ship was quietly going ahead in the fog. I felt as if the beautiful mountains on the both sides of the river were silently telling their mysterious stories to me... so amazed by the beauty that the nature had spread in front of my eyes. Deeply amazed. I forgot my camera, and I forgot myself. I just let myself In it, feeling the oneness of the nature and youself. Thank god has create all of this, and thank god give me the sensibility to feel it, the beauty. the nature.

Have a nice sunday, Ross. I will always remember your words, as free as air, as free as sunshine..., they let me feel so good life is.
ross b said…
Thanks for your comments, all. It's, ah, almost 1am here so I better hop to bed, just got home 45min ago.

Just to say that photo of the fishtank is not my own, it's a work photo, taken on the night of a gala fund-raiser, and I've pilfered it...they won't mind!! ;)

Yeah it's a tempatation to take the camera wherever I go but sometimes it's good to just be in the moment and be where one is...the camera can be a distraction from that primary experience of life in the moment. I love those moments too, out in nature.

Well-wishes to you all, in heart & spirit, Ross.

off to bed now!
ross b said…
Anne-Marie I just want to thank you for the well-wishes and love you sent for my friend, she's much better thank you and I'm feeling much better too. The amazing thing is I've just received an email from her telling me she is totally loving and being inspired by a website-link I forwarded to her,, which of course, you spruiked in one of your blogs!! Ah, the magic of synergy and universal flow! :))

I hope things are well at your end,
Kind regards, Ross
what a brilliant review. painkiller also spinning on the northern hemisphere...
ross b said…
thank you so much! it is an awesome record, fits the mood of the times I think,

kind regards, ross
lily was here said…
Thank you for the wonderful review Ross. Ive stopped becoming obsessed about taking photos at gigs these days, just to enjoy and live in the moment. I'd prob take mine to an SK gig though :)

ps i was a latecomer to the Go Betweens too, in the 90's. I would recommend going to Grant's solo albums, a place to fall in love with a broken heart.
ross b said…
Thank you so much for your comment Sue. It's a pity Steve can't tour this band, they are so good and their sound & energy very much befit the mood of the times. It would be well worth the effort to make the trip to Sydney to see the show on the 22nd.

Yes I'm very fond of Grant McLennan, I feel very endeared to him. He seemed, under the surface, to be such a vulnerable, sweet man, it makes his untimely passing to be all the more sad and poignant.

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