The Steve Kimock Band rolled into Chicago last Friday for a three night stand at the Abbey Pub. SKB is in the midst of an extensive fall tour of the northeast, south & midwest and have been turning heads with their new edgier sound. Steve Kimock as always been revered as a master of his instrument and has long been associated with psychedelia particularly through his years with ZERO and KVHW. This so- called new sound is just the latest in a series of evolutions for Steve Kimock, an artist that is truly gifted as well as incredibly dedicated to the pursuit of sound. Since forming SKB back in February 2000, Steve has been working hard to find the right combination of musicians to further this pursuit and achieve, as he put it to me, "something totally unique, and completely different from what is out there".
In December 2000, Steve hooked up with drummer extraordinaire Rodney Holmes out of Bronx, New York and nothing in the Kimock world has been the same since. Rodney, whose credits include playing with Wayne Shorter, The Brecker Brothers, The Hermanators, and Santana, is a very intense drummer. He plays with the fierceness of a jedi knight, the speed of a leopard, and the precision of a swiss watch. I have never witnessed a drummer that can do what Rodney does on the kit, he plays 4 different and precise rhythms simultaneously (one with each appendage) creating this incredible wall of sound that often leaves me standing in front of him with a look of wonder and amazement. Rodney presence has completely transformed SKB. Judging from the smile on his face, and the amount of new material coming forth from SKB, Steve seems to be enjoying work with Rodney. Rodney has brought a couple of his tunes and together Rodney & Steve have written a few new tunes which are defining the new sound of SKB.
Mitch Stein, from New York City, joined SKB in March 2001. Mitch is the lead guitar player for The Hermanators and frankly could easily be the lead guitar player in most any band out there. He presents an interesting contrast to Steve's playing, using more effects and pedals and playing in a completely different style than Steve. SKB is sure a guitar lovers wet dream, with Steve and Mitch up there. I like the two guitar approach especially in this case, because both are such accomplished rhythm and lead players.
Currently on bass guitar, SKB has found Richard Hammond, originally from New Zealand, but currently residing in New York. Richard most recently toured with Angelique Kidjo and has an extensive resume of studio experience. This was the first time I have seen Richard play, and I felt that he was an excellent fit for SKB. Being the new kid on the block means that Richard is still learning some of the intricacies of the SKB catalog, which I think, has provided Mitch, Steve and Rodney with more room to soar than previous incarnations of the band. Richard is a solid player that seems to be bleshing quite well with the band, he also makes SKB an "official" hair band, what with his long hair, goatee, and good looks .
Now, what of this "new sound" of SKB? Well to me it is edgier, more intense, and sometimes darker than past Steve Kimock projects. This new direction is due mostly to the collaborative presence of Rodney Holmes who brings so much to the table. Rodney comes from a jazz perspective. He is not part of the looser, psychedelic style of so many of the San Francisco bands that Kimock has played with before, so the new sound is somewhat of a departure for many of Steve's hardline old-timers. Because of Rodney's increased level of precision, there is a much greater control over time signature and syncopations. This is, musically speaking, a very good thing indeed. So what has happened is that when SKB plays a ZERO classic such as "Tongue-n-Groove" or "Cole's Law" there are higher peaks of intensity with more sustain, and just as easily there are lower valleys as well. I think the dynamic range of SKB is now much wider than with previous (pre- Rodney) incarnations of SKB. Rodney's intensity is captivating to watch, I found myself just gasping in amazement several times during the Chicago run, wondering how could one man make so much sound come from that drum kit? It is also been highly motivating to Steve, who is playing with renewed intensity himself, pulling out old tricks like using an alligator clip on his string or using some old idioms from his hard rock days back in Pennsylvania to get more sound out of his rig. It is truly an exciting time to be a Kimockian!
Rodney has also brought SKB into the electronica era with his new tune entitled "Loop in C." Basically Rodney starts a sequence on his laptop to lay the foundation then he plays some wild syncopation on top of it. Then Steve, Mitch and Richard join in creating a variety of wild sounds from their rigs. Very much a work in progress, this is new territory for SKB and, while it wasn't my favorite part of the show, I believe there is great potential for electronica in SKB as it becomes more integrated with the material and the musicians. The two versions of "Loop in C" played in Chicago were both very different from each other, kind of akin to what DRUMS>SPACE was like for the Grateful Dead, for lack of a better analogy. And like D>S, some folks will be heading for the bathroom or sitting down, while others will be dancing with abandon.
There are two other new tunes this tour which I heard for the first time in Chicago. One is from the Hermanators catalog entitled "Arf, She Cried." This is a bright funky rocker, which reminded me of "The Music Never Stops," in fact there is this chord progression that Steve plays as part of the theme that is identical to the changes in "The Music Never Stops." It also has a Meteresque syncopation that is infectious and a joy to dance to. The other new one is entitled "Incantation" which is a dark but seductive number. I'm not sure who wrote this one, but it is full of Kimock-Holmes intensity and dripping with dark wet mystery like something out of William S. Burroughs ENTERZONE. More of a head-nodding tune that a dance number, I was easily put under it's spell.
The other not so new tunes performed included the wonderful "Ice Cream Factory" which is my personal favorite of the bunch. It is upbeat, intense, and very easy to dance to. Actually SKB is reminding me of eating a pint of New York Super Fudge Crunch ice cream, rich, crunchy, dark, and oh so satisfying. Performed twice during the Chicago run, "Moon People" is a new one that comes from the Rodney Holmes Band catalog. "Moon People" has quickly become a kimock classic, while morphing quite a bit over the summer. Now there is a this new middle section which has an ominous feel to it. I love these compositions, they are vivid, sensual, and dramatic. They give the music a feeling of surprise and spontaneity, though the change and basic framework of the section is obviously scripted, it is what the band does once it get's there that is the real heart of the matter. It is there, in full group improvisation, that the envelope is pushed and the limits of the imagination transcended. Another personal favorite of mine is "Avalon" which has typically taken up the set closer position due to it's incredible build up to roaring joyful intensity. This is another tune which is entirely different with the post-Rodney SKB, once again there is this middle section that has been grafted into the piece which provides the basis for incredible flights of guitar and drums. A real shirt soaker, if this one doesn't get you going, you might want to check your pulse. The "Long Form Part 1" and "Long Form Part 4" are two parts to this epic suite of music being written by SKB. Last time through Chicago, SKB played a nearly 60 minute version of this suite, but lately there have been two distinct tunes that have been played throughout the summer and the fall. Both were played this time around, and again these tunes have matured nicely and are reaching a point of critical mass musically speaking. Another personal favorite is "Green" which is a simple little celtic waltz that is quite beautiful and very sweet.
SKB is very much the cumulative result of Steve Kimock's musical odyssey, and therefore Steve still plays classics like "Tangled Hangers," which actually predates his involvement with ZERO. Of course there were the ZERO classics, "Tongue-n- Groove," "Severe Tire Damage," and "Cole's Law" performed during the Chicago run as well as KVHW numbers such as "Five B/4 Funk," "A New Africa," "Samba," and "Bad Hair". Add to that the SKB originals and some inspired covers, in this case, "My Favorite Things," "Better Git Hit in Your Soul," and "Baby, Baby" and you have a nice body of material on which to groove and improvise. In fact, over the 3 night run SKB played 31 different tunes with only 5 tunes repeated. It was a truly inspiring and incredible run of small group improvisational music.
The first night found the band opening with the traditional ZERO combination of "Cole's Law > Tangled Hangers." But even these classics are not exempt from new twists and inflection. It is precisely this continual cycle of renewal that makes the music come alive and keeps me coming back for more. There was a stunning Kimock intro to Tangled which what used to be called the "zero point", kind of like wondering, in the middle of the jam, what tune is this again? Other highlights from the first night included the wild ending to "Five B/4 Funk" with Rodney just laying his kit to waste, absolutely amazing. The second set highlight was without a doubt the "Tongue-n-Groove" a monstrous version, at once so beautiful and sweet yet so intense and fierce very much a projection of the new SKB. The crowd was big, but not quite a sellout.
BigA and Boulevard Productions felt that the Abbey Pub would be the ideal setting for SKB to create their magic, and they were 100% correct. Saturday night was a sellout, but even at this point the venue was extremely comfortable. Highlights included the entire first set, especially "It's Up to You" and "Samba," but the second set was awesome with a wild "Ice Cream Factory" and the gorgeous "In Reply > Avalon" which is, for me, was the best transition of the weekend.
Sunday night was the nectar night, proving that SKB can still deliver the sweet softer material, SKB played one of the most tender nights of kimock music I have ever witnessed. Of course there was still the mark of the new Holmes-Kimock reality on such tunes as "Mozambique" and "Better Git Hit in Your Soul" but to start out with the sweet "Green" meant, for me, that it was going to be a very special night. They also played the very beautiful "Cowboy" penned by longtime Kimock collaborator Billy Goodman. SKB opened the second set with a deeply moving "High-n-Lonesome" which has only recently resurfaced in the repertoire, to the delight of many fans. After a "Tongue-n-Groove" reprise, Steve delivered a very beautiful "Little Wing" to make a perfect end to a truly a magical night of music, a night that is made possible only by these multiple night runs of shows in the same city. For old-school kimockians especially I highly recommend the multiple night-single city setting, it is truly where SKB can do their best work and deliver the best of their material both old and new.
Words: Alan Dorchak
Photos: Joe Iudice
JamBase | Chicago
Go See Live Music!
SKB is on their last leg of their fall tour, with the following stops remaining:
11/08/01 Club Laga - Pittsburgh, PA
11/09/01 Water Street Music Hall - Rochester, NY
11/10/01 Northern Lights - Albany, NY
11/11/01 Bearsville Theater - Woodstock, NY
Then SKB is off for ten days before heading to Japan --- WATCH OUT TOKYO !!
11/02/01 Abbey Pub - Chicago, IL
Set 1: Cole's Law > Tangled Hangers, Freeze Frame, Long Form part 4, New Loop in C, Five B4 Funk
Set 2: A New Africa, Tongue 'n' Groove, Moon People, Long Form part 1, ARF, Sleepwalk
11/03/01 Abbey Pub - Chicago, IL
Set 1: It's Up To You, Baby Baby, Why Can't We All Just Samba, Incantation, Bad Hair, New Loop in "C"
Set 2: You're the One, Ice Cream Factory, Five B4 Funk, In Reply > Avalon, E: Steel Guitar Rag
11/04/01 Abbey Pub - Chicago, IL
Set 1: Green, Cowboy, A New Africa, Severe Tire Damage, Kissin' the Boo Boo, Better Get Hit in your Soul
Set 2: High & Lonesome, My Favorite Things > Drums > My Favorite Things, Mozambique, Tongue 'n Groove, Moon People, Little Wing