The Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, is this Friday, the 21st of December. Don't expect spirits to be low at the classic Crystal Ballroom in Portland where the Steve Kimock Band and Garaj Mahal will be shining all weekend long.

Rooted deep in almost every culture on Earth, the Winter Solstice signifies the beginning of the winter and the birth of the new solar year. From this day forward, the sun stays out longer each day until the Summer Solstice in the middle of June. For thousands of years people have gathered to mark this occasion with spirited celebration in anticipation of the return of the sun. In Portland, Oregon, where it's been raining 29 days straight, this seems as good an excuse as any to celebrate.

Famous for both his immaculate improvisational skill and his poetically screaming guitar solos, Steve Kimock has spent years playing with some of the finest musicians in the country. His long list of collaborators is a veritable "Who's Who" in music including Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, Warren Haynes and Trey Anastasio. Since earning a following in his days with Zero and KVHW, Kimock has had the opportunity to handpick ensembles that thrive on capturing the spirit of the room and the tone of the moment, blending them together and unleashing them with reckless abandon back into the stratosphere to the delight of all those present.

In its most recent incarnation, The Steve Kimock Band is comprised of drummer extraordinaire Rodney Holmes (Santana, Wayne Shorter) and Mitch Stein (David Sanborn, Mino Cinelu) on guitar. Special guest bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report, Wayne Shorter, The Other Ones, Jazz is Dead) will be sitting in with the band.

Garaj Mahal, the brilliant consortium of virtuoso musicians, will be opening both nights on the Crystal's main stage. Comprised of drummer Alan Hertz (KVHW, Steve Kimock Band), bassist Kai Eckardt (John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Trilok Gurtu), Fareed Haque (Blue Note Records) on guitar, and Eric Levy on keys, Garaj Mahal's improvisational magic is rooted in funk and groove and is known to affect parts of the body and mind that you never knew existed.

The event, presented by The Crystal Ballroom and JamBase in association with Peak Experience Productions, promises to include far more than just a standard show, as anyone who's ever attended a Peak Experience Production (SCI's Horning's Hideout and New Year's Eve '00, '01, & '02) can testify.

Lola's Room, the bar located just below the famous Crystal Ballroom dance floor, will host performances by some of Portland's favorite homegrown talent - Higher Ground on Friday night and the Buds of May on Saturday night. For the price of admission, guests are welcome to move from one venue to the other, lending a festival-like atmosphere to the event. Also included among the festivities will be a wandering bagpiper and a gypsy dancer as well as a number of wild surprises. That's right, fun for all ages, so feel free to bring the kids along this weekend, though admission to Lola's Room is restricted to guests 21 years and older.

Be it for the spiritual nature of the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the mind-bending improvisational magic that these bands will unleash, or the world-famous 'floating' dance floor, this event is not to be missed. The doors open at 8:00 and the shows begin at 9:00, but don't be late - the opening act alone is worth the price of admission.

Adam Kaye
JamBase | Portland
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 12/19/01]

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