Rare Concert: The Church, Fremantle, June 11, 2023

There are two stories here: The tribulations of off-grid smallholders attending a metropolitan concert for the first time in aeons, and the actual concert review. You can skip straight to the latter subheading if you’re mostly interested in the concert.

Well – it took me a while to finally catch live a band whose music I had liked since hearing songs like Already Yesterday, Almost With You, The Unguarded Moment and Tantalized on the radio as a teenager in 1985. I’d not been to a concert in Perth since 1995; before that, costs and lack of friends with similar tastes limited my outings, and after moving to the South Coast, I caught a smattering of mostly folk and classical acts who travelled to Albany.

In 2021, Steve Kilbey came south with a group of musical friends to perform versions of The Church’s first and third albums with the aid of a fabulous electric string duo. That was such a treat that I wrote a review to remember it by and immediately redoubled my efforts to close my gaps in their extensive back catalogue. When they released studio album No.26 The Hypnogogue earlier this year, I was onto it – and then I saw they were touring the record in Australia. But not coming to Albany.


I ummed and aahed – I’ve not been to Perth in nearly 10 years. If you live on a smallholding and have a dog, you end up travelling very little outside of a 100km day-trip circle from your residence. My husband and I had not overnighted away from home together since 2015. So an 800km round trip and trying to find somewhere budget to stay while travelling with a dog looked daunting. We couldn’t get a farm sitter on short notice. I took a deep breath and bought tickets, then stressed about arrangements and on-costs for another week.

Why would we want to leave home, or at least the South Coast? …will make an exception for certain concerts…

If you live in the city, it will cost you around $200 for two people to go see a band like this, with tickets, parking etc. We were travelling a long way – so add $100 in petrol, plus other car costs; $140 for a bed for the night and breakfast; and whatever meals we couldn’t take with us; so that’s over $500 already. Then double that because a truck flicked a rock that demolished our rear windscreen on the way back and we’d opted out of glass replacement on the last insurance renewal. (At $90 a year extra, you may as well pay for it yourself – the irony is that we paid for it for the last 10 years.)

Oops. Couldn’t get it replaced till the following week but though it cracked and crumbled, it held. We did not open the boot until then though, or drive on gravel roads or over speed bumps…

So we had a 32-hour, $1,000 adventure in which we travelled back roads through agricultural areas away from the deadly boring, busy Albany Highway as much as possible. On the way up we detoured from Kojonup via Lake Towerinning and Darkan to Williams, then stopped near the Jarrahdale turnoff to hike the Balmoral Track for 2 hours for some decent exercise for ourselves and the dog before descending into the Blade Runner world of the Perth metropolitan area at sunset. Next day we left mid-morning to avoid the Monday rush hour, hiked the Bibbulmun for 45 minutes near Monadnocks National Park, then detoured at North Bannister through Dryandra, Narrogin, and Katanning back to Tenterden and from there home.

Late lunch stop in Katanning on the way home – sushi and Chinese take-out

At the motel we found our room didn’t have a window and was away from the car park, so we were unable to leave the dog overnight in her cubby in the car. There was no receptionist, just a key drop, so we couldn’t change rooms or ask advice; therefore after the concert I carried the dog and her freshly washed bedding into our room, and she slept in the corner next to my side of the bed without any fuss. Next day reception was manned and we explained what had happened and apologised. They were fantastic about it and told us just to make a note on the booking request next time so they could give us a room with a window we could park up to. This was the first time we’d stayed at a motel where that was not automatic; things have changed so much since we used to travel.

Overnighting in a comfortable bolt hole in Blade Runner world

On the way from the motel to Fremantle we needed to eat something substantial in a hurry and walk the dog. About once a year we will frequent a Hungry Jacks drive-through for such a reason. We ordered burgers only, the ones with the biggest vegetable content and not the vegan option. HJs used to make a good Veggieburger with a legume-based patty, cheese and salad which I preferred in taste to the beef option, but since veganism became a thing, they stopped making them and their vegan replacement is awful. I tried it once – a soy/wallpaper glue fake-tasting patty on top of their standard fake bread and middling salad; and since then I’m back to beef.

Brett in our preferred environment

We ate those in a park near the Swan River foreshore before taking the dog on a loop walk to read all the local doggie newspapers and add her signature to them. Jess is a working kelpie complete with the dingo DNA feral instincts, so we never have the problem of No.2s in parks – she had left those in the middle of a bush on the Balmoral hike earlier in the afternoon. She will not defaecate onto a path, and not on grass either if there is the option of a bush or tussock to dispense into; after which she will rake any available leaf litter over the bush or tussock for good measure. The average human could learn a lot about outdoor toileting etiquette from our dog.

Jess stretching her legs on the Balmoral Track, where we hiked for 2 hours to break the drive up to Perth

After that, she was good to have a 3-hour nap in her cubby in a secure car park, and we were ready to roll. And with all the preceding major production of getting there, here we were, miraculously, without an accident or the car breaking down, half an hour before starting time, walking up to the Freo Social building, about to attend a concert by legendary Australian outfit The Church!


As we arrived more than half an hour early, we got into a central position about four rows back from the edge of the stage, straight under the air conditioning vent for relatively fresh air. This is the first time I’ve ever been to an indoors venue without seats; but with a handful of exceptions, this was a well-behaved friendly crowd. The Church has a reputation for playing gigs of 2.5 hours plus; we weren’t relishing the idea of standing up for that long and hoped fervently that there would be no support act.

Shortly before the scheduled starting time of 8pm, technicians were checking instruments and a gaggle of women ran across the stage, causing my heart to sink about chances of escaping by midnight. The bass in the centre looked like it might be Steve Kilbey’s, but I viewed the zig-zaggy guitar on the right dolefully. It looked like the kind of thing ZZ Top would play. I had a brief waking nightmare, groaned and prophesied to Brett that we would get a really awful blues player howling at us for half an hour while backing vocalists produced treacly harmonies a capella.

Mercifully, we escaped such a fate. Sounds began to emanate from the speakers that were definitely in keeping with The Hypnogogue – a futuristic bleepy prelude to whisk us into 2054, exactly a century after Steve Kilbey was born, and the time in which his imaginary washed-up creatively blocked rock star with the cringe-inducing name of Eros Zeta is flirting with The Hypnogogue – a machine that converts dreams into Top 40 hits – and its Korean creator Sun Kim Jong.

And then the band walked on stage and launched into Ascendence, the opener of their new album. Instant immersion in a complex soundscape – this is twice out of two times I’ve seen Steve Kilbey and co-conspirators playing live where I was just blown away from the go-get. It really is worth including a clip of that same song performed in Hobart recently to show these people’s on-stage professionalism.

Brett very much liked this song already from listening to the album and was enraptured hearing it live because the drums and percussion were more foregrounded than in the studio recording. It’s a shame there are no official live recordings of these songs with good audio to demonstrate the difference. The album is more ethereal – but hearing this live was a visceral experience.

My husband has hypersensitive hearing and wore noise-reducing earplugs – I did not, and though it was loud, I did not walk away with tinnitus. The mix was bass-heavy, which is how I like it. The low-frequency range, turned up, doesn’t create hearing issues for me but reverberates deliciously through the ribcage. If a mix is too bass-heavy, it becomes like a suffocating blanket and then I can’t hear anything. It’s the high notes up loud that are painful and do the damage; kudos to whoever was responsible for avoiding both problems.

Part of it may also be the actual compositions. I know I’m one of these weird people who prefers low notes to high – so I don’t as a rule like sopranos singing prolonged high notes or guitars/strings played thusly, but love deep singing voices and compositions that sit more towards the bottom end overall, using high notes only briefly and sparingly for contrast. When I regularly played fiddle for my own entertainment (before the smallholding monopolised my energy), I’d often transpose practice pieces one string (i.e. a half octave) down because that sounded better to me, then run out of strings, which made my long-time teacher suggest I might like to play viola. What I really needed was a 5-string violin, so I could retain the E-string and not run out of notes at the bottom; with my gold E, it’s a warmer sound, instead of the metallic shrieking of a standard E. The E-string is really useful for making short sharp contrasts, like when you’re playing jigs that just skid over to it intermittently to send lovely little glowing fireflies up into the air.

But the violin E-string is murder when it’s played loud and long and total cannibalism when it’s played vibrato. That’s why there are reams of classical music I don’t like and why I never even considered playing violin until I was introduced to Irish music. And long story short, maybe the musicians who make music I consistently like have little peculiarities like that too, and their peculiarities are compatible with my own. Maybe, for example, the guitarists in The Church loathe certain kinds of guitar playing like I loathe certain kinds of violin playing. I notice they usually steer clear of awful wanky look-at-me solos and consistently play with very beautiful tones. Also – Steve Kilbey’s singing voice is undoubtedly one of the things that drew me into The Church from first hearing it – there is an ease and a resonance about it that is very lovely, and he definitely showcases the low end of the vocal range on a regular basis.

And now I need to rant. Please notice the Hobart crowd and venue in the clip above – a decent threatre, sold out. In Perth, with 10 times the population, less than an average high school assembly turned up as an audience. Perth embarrasses me – I’ve long seen it as a cultural cesspit. If you want to sell out a large venue in Perth, you need to be Top 40 bilge, pub rock, heavy metal or an ABBA tribute band. Now don’t get me wrong, as an audience member I am really alive to the privilege of seeing a band of The Church’s stratospheric quality in an intimate venue. I hate stadium concerts – music isn’t basketball, nobody should sit at right angles to the direction of the sound, and what’s the point of watching distant ants crawling around on a stage and huge projection screens, you may as well watch a recording at home and save yourself the superspreader event, the human crush and the commuting. My favourite concert venues are well under 2,000 seats, made specifically for music or theatre, and preferably have lovely old architecture.

When Steve Kilbey came down to Albany with musical friends in 2021, we had orders of magnitude more people per capita attending at our main local indoors concert venue than what Perth managed – and I don’t think it was because everyone was staying home to watch Novax Djokovic win his 23rd Grand Slam title. Perth is just – well, there were good reasons I never wanted to live there. We have a very lovely music culture down here on the South Coast, and maybe that’s why we consistently get respectable international acts coming to play here. So Mr Kilbey, if you’re listening, bring your band back down to us soon; you’ll get a bigger turnout than our hopeless capital city gave you.

One of the first things Steve Kilbey did after the opening song was to apologise to the audience for being in a seatless venue; but then he quipped that he was older than all of us put together and that he always had to stand up for the whole night, before the band launched into Destination off Starfish (1988).

Starfish of course spawned The Church’s best-known song Under The Milky Way. That album we only acquired last week – Milky Way was on our copy of Best of Rage – and it happens I am currently very absorbed in Destination, which is such an applicable song as well as being beautifully crafted. The lyrics to that are something else; written in the late 80s and now so easily stepping in as a reflection for the dystopia we find ourselves in.

Third on the setlist was Metropolis from Gold Afternoon Fix (1989), followed by Columbus off Heyday (1985), before sliding into the majestic-sounding No Other You from The Hypnogogue. The cognitive dissonance I had seeing this quality of music in a tiny school hall-like venue was enormous. Just listen to this…

The interspersing of selected older songs with the new ones worked really well for several reasons: It showed both the high quality of their music over four decades, and that their 26th album is up there with the very best of their past material. Also, I get the impression a lot of thought went into selecting the older songs so they would thematically go with the whole “washed up rock star arrives in the future” narrative of their concept album – sometimes very tongue-in-cheek; so that the epic Unguarded Moment from their first album Of Skins And Heart (1980) was introduced with the following little story: Steve Kilbey was invited to partake in some new fantasy variant of cannabis called Arctic Green, went across the road to the lolly shop to cure his resultant munchies, and was run over by an electric Volvo crossing the road. He had an out of body experience and a discussion with St Peter…I can’t possibly tell it like he does, or do all the background effects, and found a clip from the current Australian tour where he tells that actual story. Warning: Do not drink coffee near a keyboard while watching that clip.

When he says, “Are you happy now?” after playing that song, he sounds just like my hairdresser when she does an awful thing to someone’s hair on request. I’d like to shake Steve Kilbey and then remind him that this was off their very first album and surely a fantastic song for a young band in the mostly terrible 80s to be coming up with. I mean, hello…

Here’s a good audio clip – from the album it was off.

Just before that one on the playlist, there was Kings off the 1992 album Priest=Aura which is a mistyping of Priest=Cura and happens to be the one album I don’t have yet from 1980-1996, a situation to be quickly remedied given the feel of this song and Kilbey’s own assessment of that record (I’ve been reading up lately). In the late 80s/early 90s I had zero discretionary income, which meant no music purchasing; I’m still slowly buying audio files of albums I missed during those years, and subsequent years when I entered the workforce and put a lot of my income into a savings account in case of rainy days, which thanks to the policies of the Howard government there would be plenty of even for a well-educated, big-work-ethic person like myself, as the rich purposely destabilised the rest of us, but that’s another story.

I do remember seeing that record somewhere and thinking, “Hmmm, Church album titles are getting strange!” Later titles I am yet to acquire and am much looking forward to include Hologram Of Baal and Pharmakoi/Distance-Crunching Honchos with Echo Units.

The Kings clip from Hobart is worth having just for the band intro that precedes this song. Between humorous anecdotes and much casual swearing, including to admonish flash photographers, Kilbey regularly gets ultra-polite to make formal addresses to the audience. He’s very likeable on stage and readily gets the crowd’s attention and affection, but without the hero worship and underwear throwing that puts me off some of the fans of other bands, including a large subset of Cure fans. I love an audience that is just there because they love music, and not because they have projected fantasies onto musicians and turned a band into a religion (even if that band is called The Church).

Two tracks from The Hypnogogue followed – the brooding mood piece Flickering Lights and the title track. The official film clip for that song is worth viewing for some exposition of the narrative of this concept album. Also it’s decent audio of this richly complex track. The Hypnogogue might be a story, but that story is also a metaphor that can be applied to so many other situations in modern people’s lives, especially involving machines that promise to make life easier for you while actually causing so much destruction to yourself, your relationships, your society and life as a whole.

Of course, when thinking about The Hypnogogue we should remember Oscar Wilde’s observation: Give a man a mask, and he will show you who he really is. Not that Steve Kilbey hasn’t done exactly that for decades – I think he’s one of those people without much of a front who tells it as he perceives it – but when you’re nearly 70 and still in the music industry, there will be so many parallels between your own life and that of your futuristic cartoon hero, even if writer’s block isn’t one of them. Also, we who were adults at the turn of the millennium are in the future, and some of us are acutely aware that we live in a dystopia which is glossed over by the advertising, dominant narratives and psychology of our fundamentally destructive Western culture.

Next came another track off Starfish called Hotel Womb, which reads like a touring commentary and so fits into the meta-narrative of the Hypnogogue album and show. Antarctica off that followed, and then Old Coast Road off Further Deeper (2014). Steve Kilbey reminded everyone to go buy merchandise in the intermission because living in Switzerland is expensive, we tried not to think too much about the ordeal our feet were halfway through, and walked around a little to get some circulation back in our legs before the second bracket opened with Albert Ross, another fabulous track with gorgeous guitar playing, communal singing, keyboards, percussion etc etc off the new album…

There really comes a point where I can’t enthuse about this music any further and simply have to suggest people who haven’t already might want to give this album a serious listen, and then another and another, and watch it unfold itself. I think this one will keep giving for a long, long time. The Church is not nearly as internationally known as many other bands of far lower calibre; partly because they didn’t sell out. The record industry stuff even in their Wikipedia band summary is hair-raising, and a fine illustration of the concept of necrocapitalism. On which subject, should a reader wish to explore further, I highly recommend this blog.

Fly and One Day from Seance (1983) were next in the setlist – let me just plug a mesmeric track off that called Electric which I can listen to on endless repeat in part because of its bass pattern, and also a floaty track called Fly Home from Sometime Anywhere (1994). Comedown from Magician Among The Spirits (1996) was next, followed by Almost With You off The Blurred Crusade (1982), which was a highlight for me as one of the original gateway drugs that got me into The Church as a teenager.

And then highlights just kept on coming. You can hear some more of Steve Kilbey’s banter on his intro to the next song on the list, again borrowed from Hobart (we got an extra serving of aioli and kale with that in Fremantle πŸ˜‚) – but then I suggest listening to the clip under that because these songs all deserve good audio.

C’est La Vie was instantly one of my favourite tracks off The Hypnogogue – I love the layers of singing and sound, the energy, the juxtaposition of different musical elements and moods, the casually laconic I wouldn’t fuck with that/So good luck with that. If you look at the live performance you can see that this is serious teamwork, with everyone sharing the stage as part of the one organism – something The Church have in common with another of my favourite live bands The Cure, although you couldn’t get two bass players with less alike stage presences than Steve Kilbey and Simon Gallup. Kilbey stands at the centre like a human metronome, very upright, long fingers typically straight while playing his strings; Gallup prowls around the stage, a slouched figure wearing his bass around his ankles as he visits other band members and climbs diverse equipment, fingers curled over the strings. Lately Gallup is handing out bear hugs to bandmates between songs, something I’ve never seen Kilbey do, but then it is quite possible that The Cure are in farewell mode and I can’t see Kilbey giving up live music anytime soon despite being older than anyone in The Cure.

Since Steve Kilbey is lead singer and band frontman as well, it’s also interesting to compare and contrast him with Robert Smith. Again, it’s a chalk-and-cheese situation; Robert Smith has only lately mellowed into talking in multiple sentences to his audience between songs, while Steve Kilbey has long had concertgoers in stitches with his regular lengthy humorous commentaries, anecdotes, caricatures and general thoughts. Two wonderful singer-songwriters, completely different personalities.

You might have seen Kilbey’s quip about managers in the live clip above. At our gig, he added a joke: Satan promised a manager that he’d make him the best in the world, in return for his soul. The manager replied, “Sure, where’s the catch?”

Under The Milky Way was next, followed by an old favourite of mine, Grind off Gold Afternoon Fix (1990) – except that the studio track was done with a drum machine because of various issues, so it was good to hear it with a proper drum/percussion section.

Now compare what a real drummer does, to a drum machine…this is young Nicholas Meredith, from NSW.

I Think I Knew, another excellent track off The Hypnogogue, was next. Here’s a clip from the Gold Coast the month before the Fremantle show.

That new gem was followed by a rip-roaring Tantalized, one of my favourites from Heyday (1985) along with Happy Hunting Ground and Already Yesterday. Here’s a comparison of the breathy, ethereal original with the amped-up live version as played presently.

The official set ended with Second Bridge off the new album; then we got a fabulous performance of Reptile off Starfish. Here’s a clip of that from the American tour recently, in an underground cave, which would have been a fabulous acoustic environment. You’d just want to make sure there hadn’t been a soprano vibrato sing-off the previous week in that venue as such things can interfere with the geological stability of an area…πŸ˜‡

And just because, here’s the original version with this band’s longstanding 80s line-up.

It’s a bit of a shock to look back into the last millennium either with your own photographs or someone else’s concert footage and go, “Oh wow, everyone was so shiny and new and full of energy!” There is no doubt a certain regret at what happens when you get photocopied over and over as the decades go by, but would I give what I have gained in other ways to be physically in my 20s or 30s again? I have to say no, and interestingly, so does everyone I know who has grown and developed as a person. It is only those who stand still who would make that trade. For more about that, I strongly recommend Chapter 12 of C.S. Lewis’ Out Of The Silent Planet.

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing…What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lay down to die, what it makes me all my days till then – that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this? …(in a poem) the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only by means of all the lines after it; if you went back to it you would find it less splendid than you thought. You would kill it. I mean in a good poem.”

(Malacandran Hyoi to earthling Ransom, who is trying to find out why the Malacandrans are so peaceable and reasonable compared to humans with their insanities.)

And so it is with the music of The Church – solid, meticulous, beautiful music that it takes a lifetime to hear and enjoy. That first song that caught my attention on the radio in the 80s when I was in middle school was only the beginning of a long long journey that adds layers through the years and grows all sorts of vistas through bare eyes, microscopes, telescopes, kaleidoscopes, rear vision mirrors and the beating hearts of audience and musicians alike. This is how it is with all my favourite books, music, art, people, wild places; all of them ongoing conversations collectively helping to birth thought, heart, connection and backbone in my life, all of them threads woven through me that give me warmth and shield me in the storms that blow in this world.

And here endeth my review – before the last song of the encore, and you can choose to read on below if you want to know why.

♦ β™₯ ♦

As a bit of a humorous conclusion with a serious take-home point, I need to tell what happened to us during the last song of the encore – which was a very spiky, embroidered, high-octane take on You Took off The Blurred Crusade.

I will preface it by saying we were both getting exhausted from standing upright for nearly 3 hours on top of the monster day driving up to Perth and that it was now well past our normal bedtime. I will also note from personal experience that it is far less exhausting to hike for 3 hours than to try to just stand for the same amount of time in a postage-stamp size space and very upright with elbows glued to your sides like an Irish dancer to avoid bumping into the crush of people in the crowd. When you hike, you are engaged in the kind of natural movement a human body evolved to perform, and your circulation doesn’t shut down. But instead, here we were, hardly able to move with the blood pooling in our legs, valves in the veins screaming from overload, pins and needles in our protesting feet, and getting light-headed from lack of circulation as well as declining oxygen levels in the hall. On top of that, I have naturally low blood pressure and can get postural hypotension from standing up too quickly or for too long without moving.

So I was already uncomfortably light-headed when the last song began, and morphed into a high-intensity aural assault. Have you ever heard of the experiments in the 70s where goldfish were played beats of different speeds while measuring their heart rates? To an extent, even the human heart rate can be slowed down by slow repetitive beats and sped up by fast beats. Some of the goldfish died from cardiac stress at insistent beats higher than their own normal heart rates.

Also, do you know that strobe lights can set off epilepsy, and that people with Asperger’s can experience sensory shutdowns when too much information is coming in and unable to be blocked? So here I am, lightheaded, hanging out for the end of the encore so I can actually move and get back into fresh air, when my husband suddenly seems to be at the verge of passing out. He’s swaying slightly, his eyes are closed and his chin is on his chest. I can’t talk to him because the music is way too loud, so I put my arm around his shoulder and he is swaying. I now stand behind him with my arms around his chest to prop him up. He is eerily unresponsive, head hanging down, and I am getting increasingly dizzy. I am beginning to break out in cold sweat and waves of intense nausea start to wash over me. Then the drumbeat speeds up, intensifies, and so does my nausea, and I am now trapped in a nightmare world just waiting for the minutes to pass so this can all stop and we can leave, but time seems to stand still and the situation goes on and on, longer and longer, stretching out and not stopping. When a guitar begins to wail over the top of all of this and picks up speed, I begin to think I will lose the fight to hold on to my stomach contents but am afraid to let go of my semi-conscious husband in case we both crumple to the floor in this crush.

And then the strobe lights start, and I know I can’t stand here any longer and I have to leave, now, and sheer survival instinct begins to move my feet, like an automatic tropism, away, away from the flashing lights and the noise and the crowd and the crush, towards a place with more oxygen where I can sit flat on the floor, and I am moving through the line gazing blankly at faces like rows of moons, uttering automatic excuse mes, thinking why could I not stand there another couple of minutes, why this fuss and bother for others, and I reach the edge of the crowd and steer towards a wall as the world goes black before my eyes, and I collide heavily with someone who feels like a large balloon and is saying something to me and I am thinking, and maybe saying, sorry, and with my arms outstretched I find the wall and I sink down against it, sit with my back against it and my legs stretched in front of me trying not to vomit as the room sways like a ship on high seas, and I breathe, breathe, and there is cold air coming from a door around the side, washing over me, bringing oxygen.

I breathe with my eyes closed and the wall steady behind me, conscious of music still playing, more quietly now that I am away at the side and behind the speaker wall, and I hear it more through the vibrations of the floor on which I am sitting than through my ears. When I intermittently open my eyes I can see lights and the crowd and silhouettes of security and other staff walking at the edge of the hall who I am aware are monitoring me in passing to see if things are OK. From my underwater state, I am aware of that and grateful for the good in our insalubrious species, for the looking out for strangers and the wordless communication of which intact people are capable. And I breathe.

Then the music stops and the crowd cheers and I see my husband working his way out of the crush towards me, very normal, “Ah, there you are!” and he sits down beside me and gives me a hug, then straightens against the wall. I am feeling better and we talk. I explain what happened; he says, “Yeah, standing around for hours isn’t good for you!”

I am amazed he is so bright; I thought he was nearly passing out, asleep on his feet. He laughs and explains, “There was just too much going on with that song, and I shut down completely. Just blocked my brain, it was the only way I could get through it. I would have left but I thought you’d be disappointed. That you’d want to stay till the last second.”

And now we laugh because we realise we both wanted to leave from a couple of minutes into the final song that stretched out like a rising inferno for over 12 minutes and if only we’d known, and we sit for a few more minutes breathing the cold fresh air, and then I know my legs will carry me, and we stand up and leave through a back door, out into the Fremantle night, walking under the stars past sandstone buildings, around the corner to the secure car park where our dog is asleep in her cubby in the cargo bay but wakes up wagging her tail, greeting us, then peering through the windows as we get back on that long long road that will tomorrow carry us home.

♦ β™₯ ♦

Postscript: We found footage of the encore of the gig we attended, online later on. Through the computer speakers the final song sounded quite innocuous; people were tapping their toes to it in the clip, faces beamed. But what happened for Brett, a cusp Aspie, was a sensory shutdown that only lasted while the sensory overload did; so he was fresh as a daisy by the time he found me. I worked out by the strobe lights that I left less than 2 minutes before the end of the song; time stretched like a rubber band for me so it seemed long, surreal and underwater. I’d had a bad episode of postural hypotension that was exacerbated by auditory overload and the strobing lights – another ND with sensory hypersensitivities here. I also had an episode of bradycardia brought on by the drumbeat pattern and the hypotension. I needed extra oxygen and to sit down until my system could right itself again.

I occasionally get bradycardia, where the heart slows to about half the normal resting rate, which is like this: THUMP. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. THUMP. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. THUMP. And just like with tachycardia, which is when the resting rate roughly doubles, you become eerily aware of your own heart beating in your chest like a drum. Both are temporary glitches in the electrical signals that set your resting heart rate. Breathing deeply seems to encourage a quick reset to normal. Either type of episode can be spooky, but the amazing thing is that we even have a heart and that it beats mostly faultlessly for 80-plus years. Just don’t take it for granted!

Brett says that the person I collided with and other onlookers probably thought I was drunk because that’s the most common explanation for that kind of presentation. That is extra hilarious because I have never actually been drunk, or recreationally intoxicated; clearly I am listening to the wrong bands – although I have begun to look out for mushrooms lately because they sound like an interesting experience and I am now at a safe point in my life to contemplate such matters. However – I can see that I am the kind of person who would need to do such things in quiet serene spaces away from crowds or strangers and most definitely not at a gig.

I will end with an exhortation to any reader – if you see a person staggering or collapsing in public, please do not assume they are intoxicated and walk away. I collapsed from rapid-onset viral gastroenteritis on a university campus in my 20s and was unable to get assistance for a long time despite people constantly passing by because they either made those kinds of assumptions or just didn’t care. Not until a person who knew me and cared saw me did I get help – and I had to be stretchered away by the university medical unit, I was so sick. This happens not infrequently in this world so please remember that a person who seems intoxicated could be having a stroke, a heart attack, an aneurysm, a variant of epilepsy, a fainting attack, a serious infection, have been date-rape-drugged etc, and may need others looking out for them. So stop, observe, think, act as you would want others to do for a person you love.

And enjoy your favourite music – you only get one lifetime.β™₯

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