Warren Ellis, Dirty Three

Nihilistic, visceral, the ultimate sensual escape.

Live at the Princess Theatre, Brisbane. June 1994.

Seeking escape from the reality that at 24 years old I was staring down the loss of every material thing in my world, the shrapnel coin was all gone and the rent was in arrears. Broke, except for two door spots at that night’s gig and enough crumbs of bush weed for a skinny joint for one, maybe two.

Tomorrow was reality and there was no reason not to take a risk.

I had watched the wiry, blonde, blue-eyed sword swallower busking in the Queen St Mall. I wanted that French-Canadian boy. Waiting until the end of his street show I asked him if he wanted to come to a gig that night in lieu of any coins in his hat. A direct gaze answered, I will come.

Sexual freedom, impulsivity and physical movement were all that mattered.

Neither of us knew each other nor the music we were to witness. Seated in the second row, stage right, eyes glazed and bathed in warm analogue lights we were presented with a prowling, menacing, dangerous, sweaty beast of a man playing the violin. The Violin. Warren Ellis was animalistic in his performance and alongside Mick Turner (bass) and Jim White (drums) the trio’s wall of sound violated every cavity in my body. Everything in me and around me vibrated, radiating from Ellis’ boots repeatedly hitting the wooden floorboards of the century-old stage. The 45-minute set, comprised their recently released debut album Dirty Three, was one long instrumental epic that peaked in a crescendo of chaos that was the undoing of me. The rush was intense — the physical, emotional and sexual power of live amplified music delivered a first time high like no other and I was hooked. Until dawn the carnal suspended our reality. I cannot remember his name, I cannot remember the tomorrow.

I have been chasing that exquisite high at every subsequent gig, for decades.

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