It was a Thursday night during a busy week at work and it was right around the time I usually start thinking about going to bed. Yet, here I was, dead tired but standing on the upper deck at Oxford Art Factory, anxious with anticipation. If a set starts around your bed time, it’s going to have to be pretty amazing to put some life into you. Lucky for me, Kim Churchill was just that and more.
Before we talk about Kim, I should really mention BOO SEEKA. The pair from Surry Hills helped me get over my disappointment that Pepa Knight wasn’t supporting this show (although I would see him the next day at Mountain Sounds) with an awesome set of their own. Although labelled a “hip-hop-psych-soul/dream-tronica project” on their Triple J Unearthed profile, I got more of a John Butler vibe from them. If their debut, limited edition, EP becomes widely available, I strongly recommend having a listen.
When Kim came out with his shaggy, sun-and-salt-bleached golden locks, and welcomed us with possibly the most Strayan “How’s it going?” of all time, I knew he was my kinda guy. He started things off with “Backwards Head” and showed off his talents as a traditional one man band. He played his guitar, had one foot pedal for the bass drum, and another for his tambourine. By the time he hit his next song, “Rusted Walls”, after another “How’s everyone going?” and a big, cheesy grin, he’d added the harmonica. Some inspired dancing on his stool and a long-held note singing “Stick aROOOOUND after they go” to show off his vocal talents, and he’d well and truly won over the crowd.
The first of many covers saw him play Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Parallel Universe” before settling down to tell us one of many interesting stories. He told us of the song that triggered the rest of his most recent album and its inspiration. Growing up in Merimbula, he bought a camper van after finishing high school and travelled around playing music. He was living the dream but he kept going too long, became selfish, and “kinda realised after a while I was being a bit of a dick”. Out came the singer from BOO SEEKA and Tyson the guitar tech to hit away on the drums while he played “Don’t Leave Your Life Too Long”. This also saw the first use of wind chimes, being played with his elbow and adding to the amazement that is Kim Churchill’s one man band.
“Canopy” was next after Kim asked if the crowd felt like having a dance before another cover in Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song”. Then came more backstories (this guy should write a book!). “Fear The Fire” was written about “coming to grips with your ambition” after “one of the only things [he] remembered from high school” was from an ancient history class where he learned that “anyone who was ambitious ended up with their heads cut off”. This song was accompanied by a downright epic drum chorus from Tyson and BOO SEEKA which erupted the venue. “Smile As He Goes Home” had a more sombre backstory of Kim’s first funeral, his grandfather’s funeral, and how he couldn’t believe it was such a boring and sad event. So he wrote a song celebrating his life. It was played with a lot of emotion and finished off with a pretty cool guitar solo played on the fretboard.
My highlight of the night was my favourite of his songs, “Window To The Sky” (which got a cheeky vote from me in the Hottest 100) which had a most peculiar backstory for a hit song. It was about the first time that he had the time to do the dishes when staying with people on the road. A simple act of kindness turned what could have been a shit day for them into a slightly better day and he wrote a song about that feeling of doing something for someone else instead of thinking about yourself. When the crowd belted out the words “what do you want? What do you love?” Kim laughed, “That was good singing”. And when he finished and a fan yelled “I LOVE YOU” he smiled and answered, “Well, I love you too”.
As if the crowd didn’t love him enough, he told us how much he loved performing to “a room full of people that give a shit” and played his last two tunes, finishing to huge cheers with “Single Spark” and a “I’m not even sure what this song’s about” in place of his usual backstory. He managed to fuck up once to some laughs both on and off the stage but then he fucked up again leading into the chorus. Considering this is the “Single Spark Tour”, it was a very amusing moment. “Well that’s officially the biggest fuck up I’ve made on the whole tour” he told us. Don’t worry, Kim, we still love you.
He ended to huge applause, bowed, and walked off to chants of one more song. Having already played his big singles, I wasn’t even certain of an encore. Yet, when he returned saying “I was a bit nervous after my multiple fuck ups. I thought, you know, they’re not gonna want more” and played a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, he got some more movement from the crowd for one more boogie. Hilariously, a crowd surfer surfed his way right into the arms of the security. He thanked us for coming, broke down on the guitar and harmonica, bowed once again to huge cheers, and left us buzzing. A huge set filled with crazy energy, interesting stories, and much laughter. Thanks Kim. You rock!
Hometown: Merimbula, New South Wales
Latest Album: Silence / Win, released 23 May 2014
Sounds like: Roo Panes, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young
Say what? Kim doesn’t save all his great stories for the stage, sharing many amusing stories on his Facebook page. Recent highlights include ordering over $300 of crab because he didn’t notice the seasonal pricing and almost getting beaten up by a drunk fan when the fan’s girlfriend came to get the CD he bought signed.
Parallel Universe (Red Hot Chili Peppers cover)
Don’t Leave Your Life Too Long
The Lemon Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
Fear The Fire
Smile As He Goes Home
Window To The Sky
Bathed In Black
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan cover)