Kim Churchill’s sunny melodies were the perfect antidote to a freezing Melbourne night

Kim Churchill’s sunny melodies were the perfect antidote to a freezing Melbourne night

Howler Bandroom
Howler Bandroom
Howler Bandroom
Howler Bandroom
Howler Bandroom
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Words by Priya Francis
Photos by David Harris

The Merimbula singer welcomed his audience with open arms.

He’s travelled and performed all over the world, yet somehow Kim Churchill managed to make Howler feel like a little slice of home for the eager audiences who packed the back room on Saturday. With the fresh release of his album I AM in May this year, the lone kick drum and tambourine set up on stage beside his guitar seemed already familiar.

Sahara Beck tried her best to warm up the gathering crowd, her slightly erratic and giggly stage banter a huge contrast to her haunting voice. ’21st Century’ proved a standout for the audience, an atmospheric callout of the current state of our climate and the complacency we all find ourselves with sometimes. She seemed just as excited for Churchill to come on stage as the rest of us, and by the end of her set, the room was packed and ready for him.

When he finally did come on stage, it was to raucous applause, and fond calls of “Love ya Kimmy!

‘After the Sun’ was the perfect way to open the show, sharing a taste of the musicality and talent that was to follow. His entire setup was put to use and he manoeuvred the range of pedals and percussion at his feet like a pro, whilst simultaneously picking at the guitar with ease and smiling at the enthralled crowd in front of him.

Admitting to initially thinking the idea behind the song was shit, Churchill introduced ‘Second Hand Car’, a song he wrote with the drummer from the Kaiser Chiefs – ‘that band with the Ruby song’. The cycle of uprooting from where he was, moving to a different country, buying a van, building a bed in the back and playing shows provided the perfect timeline for the song to exist within, and the openness with which Churchill talked about his travels and the subsequent exhaustion made it all the more endearing.

A hard-hitting energetic cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Lemon Song’ was followed by a series of songs performed ‘unplugged’, starting with ‘Rosemary’. The tear-jerker written from the point of view of George, an old man who fell in love with Churchill’s grandmother in hospital was received in complete silence, with the audience only revving up again to cheer and applaud at the end of the song.

Kim had a way of making the space so small and welcoming, and the lack of vocal microphone or guitar input made no difference to how easily he captured everyone’s attention. The entirety of the ‘unplugged’ segment was comfortable and open, so much so that a whole five minutes was spent chatting with members of the audience in preparation for it. “Please mute all phone apps except for Messenger because it’s in the same key as the song, so it’s fine.”

The comfort and easy-going nature he had with everyone extended to the crowd as well. He simply smiled when a guy in the crowd yelled out “Where did you write this one?, while “When can we expect it Kimmy?”, was met with an incredulous laugh. “It’s not an interview!”.

He eventually returned back behind his kick drum to perform the final few songs. ‘Weighted Falls’ was pulled out as a request from ‘a girl on Instagram’, who subsequently screamed out her thanks at the end of the performance, and ‘Window to the Sky’ led the audience into a carefree folk-dance.

The finale of the show came with Kim explaining the death of the encore and why he wouldn’t be doing one, instead staying on the stage to finish with ‘What I’m Missing’ from his 2017 album Weight_Falls and encouraging everyone to buy one of his Kim Churchill keep-cups at the merchandise stand.

Highlight: Hearing the story behind the song ‘Rosemary’ and making it through without crying.

Lowlight: When the show ended.

Crowd Favourite: ‘Window to the Sky’.