Kim Salmon is a man who needs no introduction. As a pioneer of Australian music, he’s the type of guy who appears in numerous line-ups for dozens of local bands and projects. His vast portfolio of work is so diverse that fans are often oblivious to some side-projects he has been a part of. At the first in a month-long residency at local Fitzroy watering hole The Old Bar, Kim Salmon treated his fans to two sets of songs, merging the old with the new to create a vast tapestry of his musical career. Much like a giant jigsaw puzzle, bits and pieces of his dynamic career were grabbed from all directions and pieced together to paint an autobiographical portrait of his musical life.
Kim Salmon’s drawcard has always been his obsession with swampy, heavily distorted sludge. Images of urban dystiopia are evoked by the distorted, drawn-out wailing of chords, as Kim injects the headspace of all spectators with imaginary trash cans, urine soaked alleyways, broken beer bottles lining inner-city gutters. It is this aural aesthetic that defines Salmon’s sound; a masterpiece of adulteration, a sludge thickshake inside which the listener drowns. This aesthetic was on full display for patrons of Old Bar on Sunday night in songs such as Prog Suite and Prog Suite II.
This distinctive watermark was vastly counterposed with Salmon’s softer, more melodic songs. Us fans were lost, starry-eyed, in a whirlwind of reverie as radio-friendly Come on Spring, Saving Me from Me, Things Have Changed Little Girl were strummed ever so softly. Die-hard Salmon fanatics stood silent during these songs, almost transfixed by the dreamlike lucidity with which these songs were performed.
The same reverant stillness swept over the crowd as Kim played the Beasts of Bourbon hit Cool Fire. During this song, the effortless sexual energy that often characterizes his live shows oozed from every guitar note, each crisp note injecting oxygen into the bar’s stale air. The bluesy, soothing soul heart of songs such as these was much like a tranquiliser that seduced all those in its path, casting an atmosphere of sedation across the room, which finally landed to rest on the rustic walls of the bar.
Between the oscillation from heavy distortion and sweet crystal blues fell songs such as Drop Out, I’ll Be Around and a semi-acapella version of Lord of Darkness that started off the second set. It was during these songs that fans witnessed the eclectic song-writing abilities of Salmon, as he switched from fast-paced tempos to slow melodies without blinking an eyelid. Kim’s primal howls punctuated many of the “rockier” pieces and showcased his unique vocal range.
The evening’s climax was reached during the encore. As the band belted out the intro to Gravity, the crowd surged forward, fists pounding the air and beer spilling in all directions. As Kim screamed “Owww oww owww” with a raw electricity, the entire bar erupted into a chorus of primal screams in sync with him.
The first night in the month-long Salmon retrospective met all expectations, and after Sunday night, fans can only look forward to being spoiled even more in the coming weeks, when Salmon is sure to revisit many “old faves” of his past and not-so-old recent albums.