Kim Churchill
Kim Churchill @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Paradiso
7:00pm, Sat 16 Feb 2013
One of the most mind-blowing musical experiences I’ve had in recent years was discovering The Tim McMillan Band; listening to (and watching) McMillan’s insanely fast hands dance around his guitar, picking and strumming and tapping and thumping the instrument to produce an incredibly exciting and cohesive song structure, is one of those experiences I’ll never forget. It completely redefined what is possible from one man and a guitar.
So when I saw Kim Churchill’s style described as explosive, with intricate fingerpicking, percussive beats on the body of the guitar, tapping intertwined with stomp box, powerful harmonica melodies and soulful voice, I figured he’d be following in McMillan’s footsteps – as a result, he was one of my earliest ticket purchases.
And whilst he opened up with a nice tune that allowed him to roam the fretboard and show off his white-soul vocals, there was no evidence of guitar-based percussion; instead, Churchill produced his beats using a single small kick-drum. Additional instrumentation came from his (treated) harmonica, which allowed him to venture into the one-man-band stereotype, and two accompanists who provided trumpet and (superb!) electric violin.
Churchill’s songs were really quite nice: peaceful tunes that just sorta existed and pleased my ears, without necessarily tricking my brain into emoting. His stage manner was also quite pleasant, and he’s comfortable with his blonde-haired surfie good looks – humble words and flashing smiles and gleaming eyes. Churchill provided, on most fronts, a professional presentation…
…except for one thing – which, for me, was a pretty major thing. In using his kick-drum, Churchill’s ability to keep time… well, wavered. I reckoned he’d stray around five BPM from his nominal target – not much, to be sure, but enough for me to actively notice it… and once my brain picks up on something like that, it refuses to let me ignore it. The fact that these timing variations didn’t throw his accompanists is of credit to them… but they shouldn’t really have had to deal with it.
So, despite some polished presentation and pleasant tunes, I left this performance disappointed. Disappointed that I didn’t see any McMillan-ish brilliance, and snobby-disappointed that the rest of the crowd hooted and cheered for someone who – my brain kept reminding me – couldn’t keep the beat.