Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kim Churchill with Boo Seeka and Pepa Knight

The Abbey
Federation Square, Nicholls
Friday 16 January 2015
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

For $15, the capacity crowd at The Abbey on Friday night definitely got bang for their buck.

Boo Seeka, a duo formed almost minutes before the metaphorical curtain went up, kicked off the night. The Canberra gig was just their second. Gumby, with his top-knot, vintage shirt and skinny jeans began with a couple of acoustic numbers, before Sam stepped up to the MPC (Music Production Centre), adding samples of keyboards, drums and various sound effects. At times these seemed a little clunky, but overall the sound was really catchy. Gumby’s smooth voice is somewhat reminiscent of Pete Murray, only sexier. Add a sprinkling of Chet Faker and a touch of TKST and that’s about where these guys are etching out their niche. It’s mellowed out psych meets dream tronica.

They did a cover of “Wicked Game”, performed fairly faithfully to Chris Isaak’s original, although it was difficult to clearly understand the lyrics at times. They also have a Cody Chestnutt cover in their budding repertoire.

Gumby switched to a steel resonator guitar to see out the set, which included the chilled tune “Kingdom Leader” and “Deception Bay”. The latter was the most memorable song of the set - soothing, melodious and with lyrics perfectly matched to the vibe. Gumby’s beautiful voice really did conjure up the feeling of floating off across a tide somewhere, whether in bliss or despair. The boys finished up their set with sexier, heavier beats that roused the crowd.

Boo Seeka was an exciting find. Plus they were selling cassettes with digital tracks! 

Boo Seeka equals a lazy afternoon on the beach or a groovy Sunday sess and no doubt will be making regular appearances at beach and folk festivals.

Pepa Knight, having recently returned from India, was the second support act. He usually has four other musicians with him, but tonight he performed solo. This meant he constantly flicked through an impressive range of instruments including the sitar, oud and wooden flute.

“Fortress” and “Clams” from Pepa’s recently released solo album, “Hypnotized Vol 1” were highlights in his hectic and emotive set. At times it felt a bit experimental, something that would forge ahead rain, hail or shine. Some of the Hindustani inspired vocals seemed challenging but the songs performed using the Vocoder (or equivalent) were great and really suited Pepa’s voice. Toward the end of the set he was sounding like Coldplay.

Pepa created an impressive soundscape. It felt as though a teepee full of ganja and harem pants were prerequisites to completely embrace the indie folk vibes. Pepa's short, timid interactions with the audience were punctuated with sips of tea and a song performed in tree pose. Halfway through the set he informed us that on the way up from Melbourne they had all been fined $933 for not wearing seat belts. And by the way the merch table is over by the door.

Then it was time for the main act – enter Kim Churchill. Blonde, messy haired and barefooted, Kim looks as if he’s just leaped straight off a surfboard or skateboard (he probably has, as these are his other passions), and landed on stage. He really is a one-man band with his sophisticated kick drum beats and full-on harmonica playing.

Smokes can this ex-Canberra boy bash out a tune! He lit up the stage with his “Single Spark”, belting out its discordant hooks. Kim has impressive guitar skills (he has significant classical training), and utilized the whole instrument, also using alternate fingering techniques.

Kim performed songs from his 2014 album “Silence/Win” with absolute exuberance and joy. He has a youthful charm and an easy, warm manner with the audience, regaling us with the stories behind his songs. He told us of his recently deceased grandmother, who, seeing out her days in a palliative care ward, had caught the eye of a gentleman in the same ward. He had decided she was the love of his life and after asking her son’s permission, sat with her each day until she died. With that, Kim sang his bitter-sweet, brand new song, “Rosemary”.

On the whole, though, this is just damn fine, happy music. Music to jam to in a coast house.

By the time Kim got to his Led Zeppelin cover, he was smashing it out of the ballpark. And it was a close call as to who was having more fun – Kim or the audience.

His encore took it up yet another notch, reaching a frenzied display – the rows of people dancing up the front cheered as he smashed out the final chords. And with that it was over.

You might not remember all the lyrics to all the songs after the show. But the rounded performance, talent and joie de vivre will stay with you long after Kim’s catching the next wave out of town.