Steve Kimock and his musical cohorts rolled through the DC area on the second night of what is shaping up to be this Bay Area guitar god's most extensive east coast tour ever. But a major mid-summer band makeover affected many aspects of SKB including a new sound man replacing the inestimable contributions of Howard Danchik, a new booking agent which planned this sprawling, ambitious run of shows, and the shockingly sudden ending to the long and amazingly fruitful musical collaboration of Kimock and bassist Bobby Vega. In fact, the State Theater kind of brought things full circle for Kimock as it was the fateful sight of Vega's last performance with the band before he abruptly ended almost two decades of musical adventures with Kimock just days before the band's appearance at the High Sierra Festival.
So with newly minted New Zealand bassist Richard Hammond in tow,
Kimock, Mitch Stein, and Rodney Holmes resumed the sultry musical odyssey that unfolds each time SKB takes the stage. Only this time something was certainly different. The impeccable mixing of Danchik was only slightly missed and Hammond was competent and even won credibility among some SKB faithful. No, this was a difference in the overall direction this band is taking its music. While the sultry and soaring transcendence of Kimock's clear, clean tones were surely present, the music was edgier, darker, and notably trancy. The band has taken a clear step into the realm of electronica and, at least to the ears of this reviewer, the results so far are a mixed bag. Which is to say it worked wonderfully in some places and left little to be desired in others. All to be expected for something still new and evolving.
The music began at 9:40 pm in glorious fashion with Kimock wasting no
time locking into his zone with "Tongue and Groove." But soon thereafter the departures from SKB of yore began in earnest. Rodney "The Human Metronome" Holmes shined all night long and began what, I hope, will become a staple for this evolving SKB sound. He began many songs off by laying down some intense and energetic beats while Steve and Mitch noodle around the rhythm, joining in full force once Hammond and Holmes have locked up. A beautiful "Africa" spun itself out of this first drum intro jam. The "Tangled Hangers" that followed another drum intro jam was amazingly transcendent and perhaps
the highlight of the set. Things then started getting more experimental with "Long Form IV" rolling out of another Holmes intro. Kimock's searing guitar began to lead us through an abyss of space and ambiance that slowly built into an intense heavy metal type jam before finally resolving back into the dual guitar lead. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of "Long Form" was Rodney's use of a laptop computer and preprogrammed beats. It was very eye-opening to listen to the layered levels of beats and to hear how Rodney allowed the electronic to color the tone of the organic throughout the song.
The next tune was an all out experimentation called "New Loop Inc." Rodney again allowed the laptop to set the tone and following it up with a mean groove of his own. Hammond locked into a deep pocket with him that became even deeper as he too began looping his basslines on top of each other. Stein was also playing with some tech toys as Kimock alternated between powerchording and distortion effects. Some more seasoned Kimock fans looked confused during this segment while others were themselves deep into this trance, dancing their hearts out. The boys ended a set of risk-taking genre blending music by a slightly reworked version of "You're the One."
While the second set was more traditional SKB (with some exceptions)
there was still an obvious electronic tinge to everything they touched this night and I believe this will continue in the foreseeable future. "It's Up to You" was eagerly anticipated by many in the crowd and Kimock didn't disappoint as the set opened with this SKB classic. It's worth noting that many well-worn songs seem to have been re-examined and reworked in spots. A pattern that I noticed developing (especially in the more experimental, electronica pieces: "Long Form IV," "New Loop Inc.," "Moon People," and "Elmer's
Revenge") is Kimock laying his traditionally hot solo down and then a
segment of more open space and ambiance followed by metal jamming that
builds and intensifies and is finally brought back down to earth my Kimock returning to the melody.
Overall I left the show feeling fully satisfied. Sure, there were some disappointments but the risk-taking factor was ever present and it really seemed like these guys were enjoying themselves on stage. They have begun to really relish in the fact that they are able to push each other to limits not yet explored by the band. As long as SKB doesn't begin using electronica elements simply as props or toys on stage and ultimately create a sound that melds both old and new styles into something uniquely Kimockian, than I say all is well indeed for this band and it should be interesting to watch this tour unfold.
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Tongue and Groove, drums > Africa, drums > Tangled Hangers, drums > Long Form Pt. 4, New Loop Inc. (per Jim A.), You're the One
It's Up to You, drums > Cissy Strut, drums > Moon People, Elmer's Revenge/Fucking Fudd (per Jim A.), Avalon