Steve Kimock Band | Chester's Place | Fayetteville, AR

I have wanted to make it to Chester's Place in Fayetteville, Arkansas for a Steve Kimock Band show for some time now. All the recordings I have of Steve Kimock's projects within the friendly confines of this venue, dating back to Zero's trips there in the mid-nineties, are invariably very special gigs. Steve's playing at Chester's is always special, and it seems like he always ramps up the setlist as well, digging up an artifact or reinterpreting a rotating piece. This weekend, I found out exactly why Chester's is so close to Steve's heart.

Kimock freaks from around the country converged on a sleepy, pastoral college town in the northwest corner of Arkansas, knowing that whatever happened would be worth the trip. We were right: Seven sets over three nights, including a very special acoustic/lap steel Sunday show. Plus, the town itself is very fun and progressive; a peaceful, carefree environment with neat restaurants and bars, and a downtown area that has all kinds of neat stuff concentrated in a small area, easily navigable by foot. Last, and most important, the people of Fayetteville are very warm and friendly, offering the kind of sincere hospitality that makes one feel immediately at home.

Which brings me to Steve's words as he started the weekend off: "home, as the Chinese call it, 'the place you return to,'" referring to Chester's. As we would see throughout the weekend, Chester's did in fact make Steve and the rest of us feel right at home.

Friday 03.21.03 | (Happy Hour Set)

The happy hour set started off with Leon McAuliffe's "Steel Guitar Rag," getting the crowd to a-two steppin start. Two of the first three songs were played with the white Fender Stringmaster lap steel, and three of the five songs in the set were decidedly country/western in feel. There was a nice "You're the One" punctuating the country-twinged set next, a soul-funk-blues exploration complete with a very nice solo by Arne Livingston. Back to the steel for the great song "Cowboy," written by one of Steve's old band mates in the Goodman Brothers, the band that initially brought him out west. Next was a wonderful "Tangled Hangers," followed by another country exploration, an exciting and energetic rendition of the great dance tune "Hillbillies on PCP." So in a mere 45 minutes, Steve had made the trip worthwhile. It was an outstanding start to the weekend: but just the start.

Friday 03.21.03

Later that night, we were treated to the first full set. Steve decided to read the setlist out to the crowd before the set. Being one who likes surprises, I'll have to cover my ears if he ever does that again! This one had several compositions that especially feature Rodney Holmes, SKB's incomparable drummer, including "Song One," "Elmer's Revenge," and "Thing One," opening with "Song One," a beautiful tune full of mystery. For some reason this song brings to mind a knight on a quest for me, a mission of magic and wonderment. Following it was "Life of the Party," a new composition by Steve that dynamically builds from a quiet beauty into a progression that really allows Steve to soar. I really like this new tune, which debuted in Falls Church this year, and am glad to see it join the rotation. Next came "Elmer's Revenge," an intense, strange trip which climaxes with a very simple chord progression over which Rodney subdivides measures in impossible ways, but always, like a cat, lands on his feet, hitting the beat dead on no matter where he took the meter in between beats. Similarly, Rodney's impeccable rhythmic sense and intelligence allow him to participate in advanced rhythmic interplay with his band mates on the fly. These sophisticated games must be heard to be believed, or better yet seen. No other ensemble of music that I've heard is doing this. It reminds me of the Miles Davis Quintet with Tony Williams, all those subtle, intertwined polyrhythms. Few drummers are capable of doing this, and no one does it quite like Rodney, and to have other musicians in the band that understand and participate in these games is another thing entirely.

And speaking of Rodney Holmes, one of his compositions was next, "Electric Wildlife." Yes, he is a talented composer too. He told me he uses the keyboard as his compositional tool. The only time I'm aware of his playing the keys live with SKB was the Falls Church show during the debut of "La Petit Groove"-I wouldn't mind hearing more of the same, either. The set closed with a scorching "Thing One." This is an uplifting and inspirational song which builds to a wonderful climax. An excellent way to leave us on a high note at the end of the set.

Opening the first set was a wonderful rendition of Charles Mingus' "Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul," with its raging, bluesy intro leading into the delicate, blissful jazzy guitar lines. This is a great piece, and the way SKB interprets it is unique and fresh. It was the first of a series of very danceable tunes that made up this second set. The old classic "Baby, Baby" started right after Andy, a new friend made over the weekend (one of many), asked me whether they still played it anymore. After the opening lines, I said "um, yeah." Next came a song that is much maligned among certain factions of the Kimock fan base: "Sabertooth," a piece that features some sequencing courtesy of Rodney Holmes' Apple Powerbook and the software Logic. There was a new intro that debuted this tour, and it was my first time hearing it. It was very nice, somewhat ethereal. "Sabertooth" is a cool song, in my opinion, a definite departure from the normal routine, and unwelcome by some for that reason. This anomalousness is precisely what makes it appealing to me.

Following this bizarre, trippy exploration was what I can only describe as a controlled spasm by Rodney Holmes: a ridiculous solo that made me vow to never touch another drumstick, while inspiring me to do just that. This led into the familiar cadence of drums, hi-hat and cowbell that betrays that "A New Africa" is on the way. I love this song. It always builds to a high peak, and the main line is a both soothing and energetic melody. Lastly, we were treated to Alan Hertz's energetic funk composition "FiveB4Funk," which features some audience participation in addition to the normal boogying, hooting and hollering. A great song, a great version, and it was a good way to leave us that night.

This was a very special, even an epic, show. But what happened Saturday STILL has my hair standing on end.

Saturday 03.22.03

Some of us were treated to a magnificent Leo Kottke show across the street as our happy hour set. It was my first time seeing him and I was positively thunderstruck. But my night hadn't even started yet: the SKB show started with a little ethereal improv by Steve solo. He quoted the melody from "Cole's Law," so I wrote it down on my pad. Then he teased "Tongue N Groove" a little. Then "Cole's" again. This vacillation was very entertaining, and I kept reaching for my pad. Ultimately, my initial instinct was correct: it was indeed "Cole's," and among the best that I've EVER heard. It was amazing. Steve always climbs to incredible heights on this song, but he really extended the ladder on this version. While we were still quivering and bewildered, they launched into Mitch Stein's "ARF! She Cried," a whimsical funk song that the band was obviously having fun playing. Each of the members of the band wore a wide grin as they playfully interacted on this fun tune. Mitch, by the way, is an excellent guitarist in his own right; capable of inflaming the audience with a solo or creative comping like you've never heard, creating a surreal backdrop for the explorations. Then, back out of the playfulness and into another mind-blower: "Point of No Return," an old classic that had not been performed since early 2001. This was a huge surprise, and a beautiful rendition. Then we were treated to an excellent "Moon People," a surreal exploration that catapulted the crowd into the ionosphere. Next came fan favorite "In Reply," a delicate and beautiful song that is often used in segue, in this case, into the weekend's second "Hillbillies on PCP," thus ending one of the strongest sets in SKB history, in this fan's opinion.

By Elise Ryerson
But that was just the first set! The second set opened with some noodling by Steve, ultimately settling into a very familiar and very cherished groove among the Kimock faithful: "Chance in a Million," an old Zero tune, and a great one. Steve opened with it gently and slowly, and then took it up to speed, letting a gorgeous solo stoke the crowd's fire. As if this were not enough, SKB segued into "My Favorite Things," which hadn't been dusted off since late 2001. This was a real treat. Rodney's drumming in particular was explosive and tremendous. Hearing him in his normal context of jazz was great. Steve flirted with jazz scales, but ultimately interpreted this Coltrane classic in a way only he can: totally fresh and unique. Then we received the weekend’s second "You're the One," which topped the first one and which featured another solo by Arne Livingston that was just magnificent. Arne's performance on Friday had been good, but somewhat subdued--he didn't do much more than he needed to. On Saturday, the Arne so many have come to know and love through Living Daylights, a wonderful Seattle-based fusion trio, was evident. He really notched up his playing, explored higher registers on the bass, and played more active bass lines. Next came what ranks among many fans’ favorite Kimock tunes: "It's Up to You." This is a deceptively soothing and gentle tune that always builds to an explosion. This rendition was no different, nothing short of stunning. They really hustled through it, too. The set closed with the wonderful, soothing tune "Tongue N' Groove," which has a similar dynamic as "Cole's Law" in terms of building to a dramatic and emotional climax. This soothing beauty was a perfect way to close out what might be the very best SKB show to date. What an adventure! After the show, Ira Schwartzman got onstage and stepped to the mic and said something about the omnipresence of hate in the world and how this room, at least, was devoid of it on that night. Given the smiling faces of the kind crowd, I'd say he was right. We had just experienced what has to rank among the best sets Kimock has ever played. The spirit of awe and gratitude and amazement was palpable.

Yes, the community was satisfied, even emotionally drained--and what a community of fans! I had met many fans over the internet, and it was very nice to meet them in person. The FLOK has some of the nicest and most intelligent people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. Each of us shares a passion for peace, love and Kimock, and it makes for an excellent environment at a show, not to mention before and after it.

Sunday 03.23.03

But this journey was not yet over--and how do you follow up such an amazing show? Well, you might try an acoustic and slide steel set. Works for me! After an explosion of that magnitude, it made sense to me that a soothing show like this would help us come down from the heights the band had taken us to. Problem was, that even though there were those beautiful slow moments, Sunday also had a few more bombs for us too. I really like "La Petite Groove," which made its second appearance this night. It starts out with a raga intro and moves into a nice soothing vamp. The second set was especially notable, an eerie, Eastern-sounding improv faded in and out of "Bronx Experiment," finally settling into it, and in amazing fashion. "Bronx Experiment" is a great song, and this was a great rendition. Rodney again had my jaw on the floor. How does he DO that? I asked him and he was very modest and said it came down to rudiments on the snare and then he later learned to move it to the drums. Well, he neglected to address how the heck he developed complete independence of each limb! The old favorite "Mr. Potato Head" was also played. This is a traditional Celtic melody fused to a bizarre jazz thing--very strange and very cool. In celebration of Arielle's birthday, Steve played a delicate and absolutely mind-blowing "Many Rivers to Cross." Arielle, and the rest of us, were beside ourselves with bliss. I think it's a tribute to Steve's character that he would create such a beautiful rendition of this song on a friend's birthday. Other highlights included a wonderful "Cowboy" and "Can't Find My Way Home" with Steve Pryor sitting in. This was totally off-the-wall and unexpected, as were many songs that night.

Songs like "ARF! She Cried" and "FiveB4Funk" completely surprised me for an acoustic set. I should note that during "FiveB4Funk," Mitch fell off his stool laughing at the audience participation, and the whole band stopped playing for a second, except Rodney. The glee and interaction between band and fan was intimate and very special: this is part of what makes Chester's so great: that level of comfort for fan and performer alike. Steve's work all night on the lap steel was simply stunning. I had a very good close view of what he was doing and it was very interesting to watch his intimate familiarity with the steel. Amazing stuff! As if we hadn't gotten enough this weekend, we demanded an encore Sunday, and were treated to what Steve called "the saddest song in the world," "God Bless America," on the baritone ukulele. Beautiful and a sobering reminder about the dire state of the world outside our warm and cozy Kimock-sphere.

To sum it up, this is a band that reaches dizzying heights EVERY time it plays, and this weekend was full of moments I'll never forget - an incredible musical experience through and through. I encourage you to catch this band, they have never sounded better and are red-hot right now.

Mac Causey
JamBase | Arkansas
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 4/4/03]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!