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.