For many years now I’ve been damn glad I don’t live in Melbourne. There’s more quality musicians there per square metre than almost anywhere you can name. The worst of it is, see, I don’t like to go see a brilliant band just the once. No, that’s not how you’re called to music.

Here in Adelaide, I would relentlessly follow - and record - my favourite local bands. The Lizard Train, Bloodloss, I couldn’t get enough of. There were others I liked, but not like this. If I lived in Melbourne, I’d have to have myself cloned.

Kim Salmon, expat Perthian (we think they’ve stopped worshipping Baal, we know they no longer eat their young at Easter but the inbreeding remains a problem) and one of a handful of musicians with the strongest and most extraordinary creative imperative in the country, plays here tonight with a pickup band (the only way the gig would work).

kim adelaideKim Salmon
The St Morris Sinners
The Crown and Anchor, Adelaide 
April 16, 2016
Mandy Tzaras photo

At the back of the stage of the Cranka (as it is known) is a bunch of red curtains. With everyone else you they’re just curtains. What does Kim remind me of the most, after years of seeing him live? Well, imagine if Marc Bolan had lived, continued down a path of dirtier, fuller rock’n’roll, migrated to Perth (to work in an abattoir alongside the likes of Tony Pola and Brian Henry Hooper) and then came outta there again (with not just more chords, but jazz chords) and plunged the world into peril… 

Well, yes, there’s always been more than a touch of the Marc Bolans about Kim for me (no idea if Bolan was an influence, by the way, and it doesn’t matter anyway), and right now, standing on stage using The Pro-Tools’ kit, with Sarah on drums and Pete “The Stud” Howlett grinning like a loon on bass, Kim Salmon looks like an older Marc Bolan who found himself in an episode of “Twin Peaks” and liked it.

Kim’s not been here for a while, and given his recent performance at Melbourne’s Day Beside the Green playing Scientists songs, he has the notion to mix some old tunes with the new; early on we have “Frantic Romantic”, “Last Night” and “Swampland” rubbing shoulders with songs from Kim and Leanne, from the newly re-released on vinyl “Ya Gotta Let Me Do My Thing” and from his new LP, “My Script”. It’s thanks to pick-up bassist Pete “The Stud” Howlett (formerly of the Blooducking Freaks, currently of The Pro-Tools) that the gig happened at all, and we should be damned grateful to him.

In context tonight, Kim’s newer songs stand out very, very well. Love those old ‘70s Scientists for their pizzaz and for reminding us that there was a better world out there, and love those ‘80s Scientists for their walls of expression as we do, but it’s Kim’s newer material which is currently endlessly involving, startling, fresh, exciting. He can still come up with a simple song, a complex song, a gut-wrenching blues thing and a pop song. His albums are still the most extraordinary things, like a cat on a hot tin roof, you can’t believe things can be this hot and making you step in this strange way.

And that’s why I’m damned glad I don’t live in Melbourne. I’d be at Kim’s every gig, Spencer’s, Michael Plater’s, Penny Ikinger’s, Tex Napalm’s, Garry Gray’s, Hugo Race’s and so on and so on. You can keep yer old-man stock-rock, this is where the action is.

I brought along two friends who’ve never seen Kim play a solo gig before (one’s 18, the other was lost in FM radio land for a few decades), who’ve never really heard Kim’s stuff, except recently, and on YouTube through the ubiquitous tinny speaker. Surprised and delighted, they loved it. Malcolm Hall’s mix was damned good; nothing too unpleasantly loud; we could hear Kim’s vocals exceptionally well, all the instruments well-separated so we could actually hear what was going on.

Sarah had clearly picked up her beats well, and Pete (Kim went to introduce him, paused, and asked, “What do I actually call you?’, meaning, do I call you ‘Pete’, ‘The Stud’, ‘Stud’… “ to huge amusement) hammered a red monstrous bass (apparently his son’s) as if - as Stud does with these stringed instruments - he had a personal grudge against it.

The audience was a usual Cranka mixture of old stagers, even older stagers (like me), Pete’s mates, young folk discovering the joys of live music in … erm… salubrious circumstances (yes, that’ll do) and dodging thrown glasses as they trekked down Rundle Street to get here. A few friends I thought would be there weren’t, but they would’ve had trouble getting in as it was pretty crowded.

The show opened with the St Morris Sinners, who’ve been with us for a while now. The lead singer is a gangly, awkward character who you can imagine tripping over schoolkids’ backpacks on buses, sending grannies toppling into empty prams, the pram cannoning into a nursing mother and baby flying out the window. Norman Wisdom, Adelaide style.

The band themselves are good; the bass player wears a sort of fixed smile throughout which makes me wonder what he’s on and how much it costs; the drummer has an intuitive flair and the guitarist is very talented. Which you’d have to be, maintaining the song as the singer flails about the stage to no purpose in an assortment of r’n’r manners reminiscent of everyone from Cave to Curtis.

At one point he shoves the mike stand into the crowd, failing completely to see that he’s plunged it into two of his friend’s hands, both of which contain full, just-bought drinks, which of course explode in a welter of wet and splinters behind him. I wonder if this will be the first he’ll hear of it; St Morris Sinners gigs are something of an event, and I am told they were rather tame tonight by their usual standards.

One excellent thing about them is that, afterwards, I notice that they hang together like a gang. Bands work best if they hang like hoodlums around the village petrol station, waiting for something, anything to happen.

Of course a few inebriated creatures came in off the street and did their (presumably usual) bad behaviour in an attempt to either ‘join in’ or ‘be noticed’ … with predictable results.

All part of the rock’n’roll dream, of course, though how the musicians stand it I’ll never know. Imagine pouring your soul into performing, trying to communicate with the multitude as you’re subjected to assorted mysterious and unintelligible howls from the front. I mean is the musician thinking: ‘ok, she’s got my name wrong; no, I don’t want to scull this glass of gin, look I’ll take a sip to be polite and hope she’s not stuffed a Roofey in there; dammit my name is not Lachlan; I wish they’d stop talking this is a terribly personal song’..?

I mean, of course there are some folk who want to get into the musician’s pants; I suppose that’s only to be expected, but sometimes the most appalling individuals have no idea that they are, indeed, truly ghastly. Indeed, one thirsty, salad-dodging lass seemed to have urgent need of adult diapers.

Here’s the set list as it appeared at Kim’s feet;

Dropout; Freudian Slippers; Frantic; Cool Fire; Making Me Better; Animal Man; Bitter Projection; It’s All The Same; Carry-On Baggage; Science Test; Fucking Shit Up; Swamp; Already Turned Out; Destination; Gorgeous // Safe; Already; Pathologise; Master; Get a Hold; Last Night; We Had Love

Of course, that’s what was played on the night, but they weren’t in that order…

The encore, incidentally, was stupendous; Kim came back on and did four songs on his own, then confessed to feeling a bit lonely, and invited Sarah and Pete back up for another couple of songs, finally closing with a stinky, drawn-out version of "We Had Love".

Since we can’t go back in time, Kim’s inclusion of any of his own substantial back-catalogue is a delight; tonight was very, very special. It was in fact a lovely gig, not a term I use lightly. The mixture of fun, power and assertion was palpable in such an intimate setting; the stage-divers stayed away (doubtless contemplating Black Sabbath), Kim was in top form and fine voice, and the general mood was groovy to the max, if I might mex my mitaphors.

Kim gave his all, made the difficult and powerful look easy, almost offhand, but always intent. He was kind enough to go straight to the merch table (vinyl and CDs of his last couple of  albums, vinyl of "You Gotta Let Me Do My Thing" and "Salmon" - there must be precious few of these left). Kim’s website has more details; I hope there’s a T-shirt for My Script…

Get the St Morris Sinners here

Get Kim Salmon here