First Time Ever I Saw The Church

First time ever I saw the Church
was back in December of 1987
21 years ago or so today
at the Tivoli in Sydney
I was 17
in October 1987
i finished my last exam for school
and took to bed for a month
when I awoke I tumbled out of bed
i turned on the tv
it was 1987 = MTV
as I was rubbing my eyes onto a brave new world
this song came on
captivating chords and lyrics
i was hooked immediately
it was from a band i liked very much
a band i would in time grow to love and adore
the film clip was shot in NYC
and not the usual forests around canberra
or unused lots around sydney
the song opened up a whole new world for me
and continues to do so
for after having walked from the narrow confines of school life
this song symbolised new dimensions
new experiences
and a totally new direction
and it continues to do so
to this very day

at the Tivoli
the church were resplendent in classic 80's format
ploogy was on drums
the band appeared young and freshfaced
I stood near to the front on Marty's side
they started with 'when you were mine'
the signal coming through the foh speakers was too strong
half-way through the first song the speakers clipped harshly
making a horrible cacophany
and kilbey started a pace or so backwards
kilbey was in sensitive vegetarian mode
saying thank you after each song
in a kind, soft voice
that was different to what i'd been accustomed to
on tracks such as almost with you
or freulein
where the man's voice was deep and almost gravelly
towards the end of one song
as marty was swirling off the rickenbacker tones
in circular motion
some aussie git in front of me musta yelled out something nutso clever to marty
Marty yelled 'Shut Up'
and proceeded to swill off his can of VB (aka, aussie mens beer)
sitting atop his amp

they played that song
perhaps for the very first time
the friend I went along with hadn't yet heard the song
hadn't been watching mtv
the song received a rapturous applause
almost unusual for something so new
the band looked obviously pleased
my friend turned to me after the song had finished
and with a light in both eyes
"that was good"
it was the beginning of a new era for the band
they indeed had cracked something truly special
and i carry a love affair for that song
as anyone who knows me well and truly knows

sum school mates were there
yeah, in December 1987
geordie mcbain and stephen frosoni
they played in a band together
and still do
more garage & lounge rock stuff than is my usual schtik
geordie was a maths genius
who got kicked outta school for colouring his hair green
stephen was usually a sort of friendly kinda chapp
they were outtavit so didn't talk to us

the outstanding memory from seeing the Church for the first time
was Ploogy behind the drums
he was almost like a lead player
a lead drummer
his drive and energy were pushing the band from the backline
along with
his talent and artistry
his brilliant drumming
it's kind of sad that he fell away from it all
i saw him play in PK's band the Well
in 1990/91 at the Empire Hotel Annandale
ploogy was gregarious and even somewhat audacious
pushing the band from the backline
a geniunely fine talent was ploogy
i was pleased to see the Church
at least for that one time
with Ploog on drums
those were good times

I didn't bother with the Church
in the 1990 tour
Gold Afternoon was not my Fix
instead i returned to the band
for their 'final' concert
at the Enmore theatre
in October 1992
i can't recall too much about that concert
other than the electricity in the air
the musical intensity
the sublime rush and pass of a church concert
where the band knew it was the end of an era
it was possibly the best concert i'd ever been to
Peter Koppes was leaving the band
he had a mouth a mile-wide
with the corners creased into a noticeable downturn
unhappiness personified in face
and he kept this mask for the duration of the concert
Marty played with vigour and resoluteness
the drummer, perhaps jd, was a powerhouse of sound
kilbey was stoney and resolute
not really speaking
other that to say - what can i say this is the end !
a magnificent gig
rock at its searing sublime best

switch to 1994/5
i saw the church in duo format
SK & MWP both playing acoustic 12-string guitars
at the Metro in sydney
i remember that gig
(funnily enough)
as a picnic
like there was a blanket spread on the ground
and we were having a picnic in the black
while watching killa & co
sing their songs
and we were about level with them
in truth it was a good gig
kilbey again didn't do much talking
allowing his 12-string do that for him
except for his rock star impersonations
his elvis impersonations
that got the metro laughing

i liked 'Magician amongst the spirits' very much
it came at a good point in my life
by this point Koppes was back
and I'd go see the Church on many occasions from now
usually at the Metro
once at the Basement
though not at the Opera House or State Theatre
which i kinda regret now
the box the birds tour of 2000
also represented 20 years of the Church
in March 2000 at the Metro
the church faced a rougher crowd than usual
there were a few drunk idiots around me
Steve's wire was crossed
and fused
some hack yelled out to him "you're fucking brilliant"
"I'd agree with that" seth Kilbey quick as a dart through the mike
pointing to the pimple himself
the church remained in an indignant mood
which kinda spoilt it for the nice(r) people in the audience
i noticed marty was drinking heineken
obviously having graduated from the gutteral VB
that i'd observed him drink on stage some 13 years prior

possibly my favourite church gig
was a freebie at the market square
in November 2004
it was the perfect spring evening
with light-warm fresh breeze
and a glowing radiant sunset
i was waiting for my date at the manly ferry so as to hop across to the rocks
one of us didn't have our cellphones with us
likely me
she didn't turn up
20 minutes into the concert i had to go off on my own
she told me later she couldn't find the manly ferry wharf
i didn't believe her
everybody knows manly ferry wharf
just as everyone knows
the taj mahal
or sphinx
or coliseum
if you gotta meet outside those places...
and after having followed miss w to see her favourite band
like 3 times
a band i'm not particularly struck by
it was obvious this dalliance was to fall apart...
and so i took off to the gig on my own
as i arrived Marty was singing one of my favourite songs
something i'm intimate with
Kilbey was in a happy state
playing songs from the Blurred Crusade
such as "An Interlude"
announced as having been written at Rozelle Writers Centre
I was in heaven
and...they performed "you took" from the aforementioned BCrusade
hearing that bassline had me shivering very gladly
a group near the front began a big dance
i surged to the front
and joined in
this was musical heaven
if only every night was like this
after the concert
on my ownsome
i clouded through the crowd all glazed and churched-out and happy
i run into Stephen Frosoni & Geordie McBain again
plus a couple of others i knew
i join them at the pub for a couple of drinks
and we discuss the music and a bit about the old times
it was a nice moment

I last saw the Church supporting the Divinyls at the Enmore theatre
precisely one year ago in Dec 2007
I was asked if i was interested in seeing the divinyls
and because my favourite band were supporting
it was a no-brainer
the divinyls were quite enjoyable actually
i got into them
they had a great sound
great amps
very nice guitars
difference between they and the support act
is that the main act played all their hits
the support act played much recent material
eschewing the need to play songs from 1981
but they did play that song
from 1987/88...
Kilbey perhaps could see the irony of it all
at the end of the concert he imparted almost teasingly
through his microphone
"you've been a wonderful audience...
a curiously, charismatic audience"
these words carried in waves
and reverberated throughout every being in the theatre
the room was silent for that moment
and in a flash as i looked around
everyone's heads were like small shimmering pumpkins
all eyes bulged toward the singer
divinyls fans may have well wondered
who is this powerful, intriguing, and mesmerising man?

Long live the Church.


All I'll say is the words of the great Nietzche - without music, life would be a mistake.

Long live music!
ScaughtFive said…
I was 20 in 1987. Blurred Crusade was one of my fave rave albums back then and still is. The drumming is quite stand out on that disc. I've seen the Church three or four times since those days and they've been mostly spectacular. Once though, on the Heyday tour I had a day off from the shite indie van tour I was on and saw them in Tucson Az in a tiny club called Ninos. They played for about 15 minutes until Steve left the stage in a huff. That was a low point, methinks.
veleska1970 said…
what a splendid blog today!! i first discovered them while watching MTV in 1985 when i was 15. "columbus" was what i heard. and i've been happily hooked for life on this band.

yes, long live the church. :)
ross b said…
Thank you for your comments. I've been far away from the blogworld over the past few days. I remember when all those videos came out from the Heyday album - i was in awe of these great looking guys with the coolest music on the planet....kilbey was right in his recent blog about Heyday, "we were as cool as fuck"!

Would have been great to see the band in 1985, stormtrooper huff and all. I envy people who say they used to go see the band in 1981 - to witness magic percuolating in its wild exciting infancy!

Tomorrow night I will be seeing Painkiller with the same friend I first went to see the Church with in 1987. It feels like a full circle has turned. It will an emotional event in many ways.

Have a great Christmas everyone if there's no contact beforehand, let's hope it's a good one for all of us,

much love, Ross
veleska1970 said… was the painkiller concert? review!! review!! review!!

ross b said…
Ah, review will be forthcoming! :)

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