STEVE KIMOCK BAND
Chester's Place | Fayetteville, AR | 04.23.02
Steve Kimock, guitar | Rodney Holmes, drums
Alphonso Johnson, bass | Mitch Stein, guitar
Have you ever been listening to a stretch of music, say by Miles Davis, or Jerry, or [insert your favorite improvisational musician], and found it to be so beautiful, so captivating, so poignant, so moving, or so exhilarating, that it makes you ask, "where does that come from?" What special source of creative energy was being tapped into at that moment? Is it something that exists inside each of us, and only comes out at rare and special moments in our lives? Or is it some exogenous energy force flowing through us if the moment is just right? You hear it referred to in many contexts. In sports, athletes say they are "in the zone." Around these parts you may hear someone refer to "IT." So just what is IT, and where does IT come from? Many great writers and philosophers (obviously more prodigious then I) have asked this question since the dawn of time. Alas, it is no less of a mystery today then it was in ancient times.
New Song #1
(untitled as yet)
New Song #2
(untitled as yet)
You're The One
Avalon - Vega
Well, I'm sad to say that I don't have the answer to any of those questions. But I can say that whatever the source, whatever the nature of that energy, however you define it, IT was thick on Tuesday night at Chester's Place in Fayetteville, AR. IT permeated the air, and made for one of the most musically satisfying and thrilling evenings I have ever experienced. This was the second night of a two night run. Chester's Place has a long and storied history for Steve Kimock and his fans. He has been playing here in various configurations since around 1994, when Zero first took this stage. Since then, there have been historic runs by Zero, KVHW, and now several incarnations of the Steve Kimock Band. There were fans there from all over the country, many of whom have followed Kimock for many years. Chester's Place has become a sort of Mecca for Kimock fans where East meets West in the heartland.
This night at Chester's was really quite special. From the opening bars of "Ice Cream", until the closing crescendos of "Avalon", the music just flowed through the Steve Kimock Band. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I thought during the show that just about every song was a standout version. Steve was so utterly captivating that it was almost hard to absorb, and the rest of the band rode right along with him, pushing the envelope wider and wider. Rodney Holmes, who has been playing with Kimock now for about a year and a half, is a force of nature all by himself. He has to been seen live to be truly appreciated. There are not many drummers who are themselves as captivating to an audience as Rodney Holmes. It's no wonder that he is given huge ovations night after night. Mitch Stein has added a new sort of “edgy” sense to SKB. He could easily be the lead guitarist in just about any band. Alphonso Johnson, of course, is simply one of the greatest musicians in the world, with a long and storied career. Together this current configuration of SKB is making some very fine music.
During the first set, the band played a sparkling version of "Ice Cream", one of the newer SKB songs. They also played two new songs, both of which were terrific. The first had a sort of bouncy, funky beat and made me think that Mitch Stein had a part in the writing, or at least was an influence. The second struck me as a classic fusion number, very reminiscent of early 70s jazz-rock. The good stuff, before it was watered down and ruined by the likes of Kenny G. My guess (and this is just a guess) is that Alphonso Johnson had something to do with this one. The fourth song of the first set, "Cowboy", is a favorite of many Kimock fans, including me. This is a song written by Billy Goodman that SKB has been playing for a couple of years now. Kimock was a member of the Goodman Brothers back in the early 80s when he first moved to California. This song, "Cowboy", even though it's not really a great improvisational vehicle, just has a kind of magnificent beauty to it. While Steve was tuning I heard the opening chord, turned to a friend and said, "Did you hear it? It's 'Cowboy'!" Sure enough, a few moments later Rodney started the slow loping cadence on his sticks. I threw up both my arms and must have yelled out a YES!, because Rodney looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, “yeah, this one's for you guys.” We all just swayed and smiled for the next few minutes and soaked it up. I couldn't tell you if this was a particularly good version, I was too busy reveling in the sound.
The first set ended with what has to be one of the all time most intense versions of "Hillbillies." This is not really my favorite song, but I must say, the band just kept pumping this higher and higher. I've not personally heard anything quite like that one, I can tell you. After that, we all needed a break. Most of the crowd up front just sat on the floor in total bliss and contemplated what had happened and what was to come. And my goodness, what was to come...
The second set opener, "Cole's Law", was just stellar. I don't know if this will come through on the tapes, but it was an incredibly powerful version of this Kimock classic. I must admit that I felt a twinge of disappointment when they just ended "Cole's Law." But it was quickly quelled when Earl Cate, a locally popular and very talented guitarist, joined SKB on stage, as he has done in the past, and they started up "You're The One." Now, in days past, I might have groaned a bit, but lately this number has had new life breathed into it, as evidenced on the new SKB CD, Live From Colorado. Cate took some lovely soaring solos and added some interesting textures on rhythm as well. It was pretty remarkable to watch three very fine guitarists on stage, each with utterly different styles yet blending so well.
After all that, Cate left the stage and the band (happily) simply started up where they had left off, with "Tangled Hangers", another longtime Kimock favorite, as if nothing had transpired after "Cole's Law"! This version was an absolute monster. Steve just kept soloing, pounding out riff after riff, and seemingly didn't want to let go. Even after they switched into the "Middle Eastern" section that recently has become Mitch's territory, Steve kept going for a bit, eventually relenting and letting Mitch take over and lead the band into the climactic finale of the song.
Cate came back on stage and the band went into "Rainbow's Cadillac" (Bruce Hornsby), a good choice for a guest. Everyone took solos, each seeming to one-up the last. Cate and Kimock traded licks. Cate played a lot of Allman-esque runs and Steve responded in kind to each one. It was great. But the most incredible moment was yet to come. Perhaps the thing I will remember most vividly about the whole night was when Alphonso Johnson took a bass solo that was not from this world. He played like a man possessed… and considering the earlier discussion, perhaps that's what he was! Blazing white light, white heat coming from the right side of the stage. I thought at one point that as he rocked back and forth on his two feet that he would literally levitate right up off the stage! This was the stuff of which legends are made. For myself, I can say that I feel incredibly blessed and grateful that some cosmic force led me to that place at that moment. I've seen lots of bass solos and many great players, but I really can't recall ANYTHING quite like what I saw/heard/felt at that moment. And yes, I've seen Victor Wooten, many times.
When it all was done, the band (and the crowd) took a little tuning break and then they played "Avalon." For all intents and purposes it was an encore. Not a bad version, but not really one for the ages either. I think the specter of the "gig clock" was looming large and it was just a bit truncated, though still full of crackling energy. At EXACTLY 2AM (the absolute limit) Steve held up the cursed little gig clock and informed us that we all have turned into pumpkins. "Stick a fork in it!" he said. And it was over. The bubble had burst, the great force of nature that had been SKB was done for the night.
And we packed up and wandered off into the night wondering if that was all just some mass hallucination. Who knows, maybe it was!
But, this is what it felt like to be there that night. I've seen many Kimock shows, some great, some not so great. But this much I can attest to, the second night at Chester's Place this year was truly special.
I guess I can't end without mentioning what a cool place Fayetteville is. I finally made it there and it certainly didn't disappoint. Such a lovely little town where everyone is so friendly. There were lots of out-of-town fans there (comprising most of the front half of the small venue, I think) and we all felt welcome and at home.
The Steve Kimock Band is on a major creative roll right now. If they come through your town, you should check them out. This current tour is just about over, but there are West coast dates and East coast festivals on the horizon.
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