Words by: Marc Forman | Images by: Dan Savage
Steve Kimock & Friends :: 11.04.11-11.05.11 :: Brooklyn Bowl :: Brooklyn, NY
Full photo gallery below review!
A chill in the Brooklyn air broke with the heat inducing finger and guitar work that has made Steve Kimock so well known. A two night stint in Brooklyn, NY was just what this Kimock fan needed, along with the many other fans lucky enough to attend this musical journey. The Brooklyn Bowl is an excellent place for a set of shows of this magnitude with its interesting atmosphere and very colorful stage. The lineup for these shows was unreal. The great demigod of guitar was joined by the thunderous Bobby Vega on bass, the ever funky Bernie Worrell on keys, and a drummer new to me, Wally Ingram, who is undoubtedly a master behind the kit. After a few songs, John Morgan Kimock came out and added another intricate layer to the musical mayhem. Each night had something different to offer where all the pieces played took the crowd on a eclectic, colorful rollercoaster ride that only Kimock & Friends can engineer.
|Steve Kimock by Dan Savage|
Steve Kimock's sly finger work trickled us into “A New Africa.” A perfect piece to open two nights of fury at the Brooklyn Bowl, “A New Africa” took on a more tropical, reggae-like vibe and featured a delicate solo by Bernie. Eventually the pace picked up and almost left us in the dust. You can see Steve feeling the music by his facial expressions. He often closes his eyes when he goes on his free, blistering tangents on the guitar.
Steve dished out many of his classics the first night. “It's Up To You” was unique and had great moments when Bernie took the reins, leading the band into a curious jam. He bent his organ into a psychedelic space soundtrack taking us on an intergalactic journey. The climax was reached when Kimock and Vega began feeding off each other in a fast paced, ear shredding jam that melted the crowd into rubber. Even Steve had to brace himself, scrunching his face ever so tightly, followed by a smile and cheetah-like finger work on his fretboard.
John Morgan came out and joined Wally on a second kit. This added a certain intensity and finesse which only that young man can achieve. Steve Kimock & Friends had an interesting addition this night. Peter Apfelbaum on saxophone and Steven Bernstein on trumpet and trombone contributed interesting, unexpected elements to the music, leaving some of us a little sad and missing Martin Fierro. In spite of this feeling, their horn playing filled a gap that’s often felt absent in Steve's performances. It was bittersweet but welcome.
|Steve Kimock & Friends by Dan Savage|
The horns were spot-on during the funky “You're The One,” which took me back to performances of the past. A beautiful trumpet solo was subtle yet clever, followed by another that was a little more adventurous. Next, a wicked dueling drum solo between John Morgan and Wally was followed by Vega really cutting loose, showing off his funky, intricate finger work. We were taken all over the place with “You're The One,” which made one forgot where we started until Steve brought us back around.
“Tangled Hangers” left us missing Martin again, but at moments it felt and sounded like he was still with us - and he was in a spiritual sense. Steve always makes it look so easy when he plays. You know it's about to get intense when he squints his eyes and gives a little smirk. I found myself getting tangled in each and every player’s sound, one by one. The band had some fun when they meandered off on a spacey and experimental jam lead by Bernie's wacky keyboard effects and filters.
“Five B4 Funk” was more intense than usual. The crowd always loves participating, and it appears Steve & Friends really feed off of this energy. Bernie, in particular, shined with his fun and energetic organ solo. There was a great and funny moment when Bernie teased some classical piece that Vega proceeded to turn into his own personal ballet recital. Vega, John Morgan and Wally all had their moment to shine during “Five B4 Funk,” each one showing off during their own short solos.
The first set ended with Trevor Exter joining the boys to sing a soulful, heartfelt rendition of “The Luckiest Man,” a country blues style song that Trevor made personal and emotional.
Steve and the boys returned for a breakneck second set that treaded on some old familiar ground but with a fresh approach. Out of the gate, “Berm” had us boogieing in our shoes with Vega's fierce baseline and some sharp horn playing. Steve really became a maestro during this song, directing with his eyes and hands when he wanted each player to come forward.
|Bobby Vega by Dan Savage|
“Long Form Part 4” was next and it blew everyone in the crowd away with Steve's note blitzkrieg. This night it should have been called “Strong Form.” Steve and the band were on point and flexing their musical muscles. Steve's playing was so tight that your ear had to struggle to absorb every magical note. Bubbling, rapid fire trombone came out to play as the band playfully teased Black Sabbath's “Iron Man” followed by a funkier eruption of jamming. The horns played back and forth with Steve, mocking his riffs as the band made their way back to the top.
A quick paced and magical “Golden Road” ended the evening. Kimock certainly took us on a journey down this road, and just like any road, it had its valleys and peaks. It was great hearing this Zero classic performed by all these great musicians. When Steve begins to play on his table steel guitar the song takes on a movie score atmosphere. Steve had his hood up covering his head like a guitar Jedi. Steve kills it every single night, as evidenced by this performance.
The second night of Steve & Friends proved equally eclectic and inspiring. XVSK would again start the music this night. They play songs about love, being away from home, and personal struggles. A cocktail of blues, rock and folk was a perfect opener for the evening. Trevor Exter and John Morgan offer something different from all the duos I've seen onstage. Trevor has a unique approach to his cello and sings with his heart. John Morgan is always impressive and inventive behind his drum kit.
|Steve Kimock by Dan Savage|
Steve Kimock was ready for tonight, complete with his white hooded sweatshirt, which made him look like some kind of guitar monk. “Nana's Chalk Pipe” was the first song, and Bernie and Steve had some fun playing back and forth with each other as the song took on a tropical island vibe. This quite chill version of “Chalk Pipe” warmed us up for a night of shredding and musical improvisation.
A bass driven version of “Rigor Mortis” was next, and Vega got the crowd moving with his thunderous bass lines as Steve added an equally thunderous groove that made one just want to bust out and dance. It was an ear blitzing moment by Steve on guitar, which was followed by Vega throwing down on a wicked bass solo. This solo left our mouths watering. It's unbelievable the chemistry Vega and Kimock have together. You can really see them build and evolve off of each other during each piece. It was a pleasure seeing Steve playing with Bobby for the first time, something I've missed being on the east coast. Bobby Vega needs to come east more often and share the magic he has with Steve. At the end, Kimock took it back to the top with a heartfelt outpouring on his guitar that gave one chills and brought a tear to one’s eye.
Later, John Morgan joined the rest of the band for an extended version of “Ice Cream Factory.” Apfelbaum joined the band again on sax, but this time he brought various percussion instruments, including a cowbell set up, and a Korg keyboard. What would be in store for tonight? We started off in a delicate place with gentle guitar and plenty of hi-hats and subtle drum work – a very ambient place to start off a song like “Ice Cream.” I could tell there would be many flavors offered, and a long build up ended when Vega plugged in and took us off on a tour of musical heights. The horns really gave “Ice Cream” a new life. Steve played back and forth with everyone before he melted our faces off with his crazy finger work. Each note he played surged through the crowd, making me stand taller and taller with each one. Vega was in great spirits for these two nights, often dancing in place and hopping to the incredible music coming from his bass and partners in crime. Steve took out his e-bow to lead a blue light filtered ambient jam that was simply enlightening and otherworldly. The tones Steve gets out of his guitar with this strange device are surreal. They hit you in the back of the head and travel down your spine. Everyone had their time to shine in this version of “Ice Cream” with their own solo. This factory doesn't just make ice cream anymore!
|Bernie Worrell by Dan Savage|
“Baby, Baby” was played loudly and sharply on Kimock's Explorer. I just love the blend of rock and blues Steve & Friends dished out during this song. Apfelbaum had a chance to jam out with his keyboard, going on a funky tangent. Vega got into it as he trotted in place and dished out his bass slaps as if they were to our faces. Having never seen Vega perform with Steve & company before, I wasn't sure what to expect from his stage presence or how much we'd be able to read his emotions. It was clear Bobby was having an excellent time, moving around while playing the bass, lifting up one leg and leaning into the other. Everyone onstage felt the music, and that's what it's all about - the free flowing expression that rolls off the band’s instruments.
A quick but potent “Tongue 'N Groove” enchanted our minds and bodies. Steve pours out his soul when he plays this song. It's soft like a lullaby at times but roars like a beast during others. It takes you through a gambit of emotions, from touching moments to moments where one can almost not withstand the onslaught. This song is truly epic every time it's played, and is definitely a crowd favorite.
The second set began with a thumping “Anorexia” lead by Wally, John Morgan and Bobby. Another classic that new and old can enjoy, Steve seems to have a lot of fun with this song, often smiling wide at himself and his friends. Bobby had fun thumping away on his bass, and walked us up and down it while the sax and drums lightly played in the background. Steve finished off with an intense blues rock solo before leading us back to the signature riff. The band followed with a forever funky “Merle's Boogie” that does just what it should, i.e. make you boogie! The whole crowd was getting down with Steve and the boys. Vega's punching bass really drove this song and set the framework for Steve to do what he does best. During one moment, Steve pointed over to Peter and gave him the reins to have some fun experimenting with his saxophone. He impressed the crowd and made Steve flash a big smile by playing the sax and keys at the same time. The band had the opportunity to act a little silly with Vega and Wally acting like aliens. Vega put his earplugs on his head and Wally followed by putting his drumsticks up to his head like antennas. It all came around once more before Steve took it back home.
|Steve Kimock & Friends by Dan Savage|
After all that boogieing we needed something to bring us down and Steve did that with a delicate version of “Many Rivers To Cross.” A soft blue light set the mood as Steve's delicate, almost weeping guitar captivated our minds and ears as he serenaded us in the magic that is “Many Rivers.” It's like Steve's guitar was writing its own lyrics to this Jimmy Cliff classic; intricate words that even the best poet could never pen.
Next, we were chopped down to size by the relentless “Hillbillies.” Screams came from the crowd as Steve teased the first riff. Vega and Kimock's energies came to a head as Steve closed his eyes as he unleashed his guitar magic on us. The more delicate playing in “Hillbillies” is always positive and playful but the breakdown put a smile on our faces as well as Steve's own, and Wally had a good time introducing his various percussive touches. Vega's energy finally boiled over and gave us one concluding, intense onslaught. Vega played with charisma and creativity, and he is one of the most talented bass players you could ever have the pleasure of witnessing. Vega teased “Manic Depression,” which had the crowd looking at each other in surprise. Even Bernie got into the act, teasing “Norwegian Wood” at one point. The band was full of surprises in Brooklyn.
Exter joined the band for the final song of this incredible two night adventure. Trevor sang a soulful version of Bill Withers’ “Use Me”. The crowd clapped along with the snare drum, though our clapping was not only to the music but a show of appreciation for the last two nights of amazing music.
The incredible outpouring of music on these two nights made me realize once again how special each Steve Kimock show is. Every performance one walks away with a smile on their face, daydreaming about what they’ve just heard, Steve's impressive, fusion finger lingering in one’s head, he and his band still jamming in one’s head. You don't even need to put on music for your ride back home; you can just continue riding the K-waves inside your skull. I look forward to seeing Steve Kimock and his friends return to the big city. Steve and his band could stand tall with the rest of the New York skyline and fit right in with the monstrous buildings. Their presence was monumental and ground moving and their musical output was solid as steel.
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