Steve Kimock and Friends :: 10.29 - 10.31 :: George's Majestic :: Fayetteville, AR

Halloween is an incredible time for music goers to tap into their freaky alter-egos and get dressed up in celebration of a time-held tradition. We took the Midwest leap and decided to journey beyond the day-to-day trappings of our hometown of Boulder, Colorado (known for its infamous Halloween "mall-crawl") in quest of the ultimate Halloween musical experience.

We set forth across the plains during a time of political un-rest, as early voting was underway and the Midwest seemed to be in a quiet eerie haze. The air was filled with musty wet heat and the land rolled on forever – giving new meaning to the area we refer to as the "plains."

Steve Kimock :: Halloween 2004 :: AR
The journey took us into the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas, down to George's Majestic where the musical genius and powerhouse line-up of Steve Kimock, Robert Walter, Rodney Holmes, Reed Mathis and special guests Martin Fierro and Earl Kate had been preparing for their first ever performance together. While the line-up reads more like an impromptu jam at a festival or benefit show, this calculated performance spanned an entire three-night run. From the very first notes of "New Africa," it was evident that this Halloween Hootenanny was going to blow the barn doors off of sleepy Fayetteville.

A review of the setlists from this three-night run would seem mundane to the actual improvisational brilliance that occurred during the span of the weekend. So the highlights will instead be painted by commentary and visual aides, the only logical approach to reviewing any of Kimock's projects.

Kimock's proficiency to fill a room with the supple and sweet tone of his guitar has always been an outstanding aspect of his music. His ability to almost eat you with his heart-shuddering tone has never quite been topped by other artists playing in his market. His music is known for meandering through a field of emotions, drawing vivid visions from within, rather than spelling out each emotion in giant block letters. Kimock leaves interpretation to the listener, allowing each experience to be personal and moving. The peerless combination of musicians lined up in Steve Kimock and Friends seemed to be the perfect springboard for his exploratory, ambitious and driven engagements.

While the musicians focused primarily on Kimock-Holmes standards, Walter approached Kimock's melodies, many of which have been in creation for over 15 years, with a fresh and completely new voice, that merely served to extend the creation process. The extent of each player's ability to communicate musically was astounding.

Steve Kimock and Friends
Halloween 2004 :: AR
Walter spread the mix into a starry night sky with soft echoing rhythms interlaced with funk, jazz and probing sounds from another dimension. Each song was extended and taken further than I have ever heard this catalogue pushed. Spicy sections of soul-stirring gospel ran through the veins of even the more serious songs in Kimock's repertoire. Walter led the band in a moving, spiritually satisfying jam during "Many Rivers to Cross" that was so thick; it should have been called jelly. At one moment, I found myself with arms in the air, cheering "Amen!"

Enter Fierro, his silky saxophone laying out the purest tones to contrast Kimock; his surprise addition to the mix was a lament to days gone by, before Zero became nothing. His familiarity with the music was the crossfire between extended playful improvisation and tearing at the helm in the backdrop offered by Holmes and Mathis.

Every single second of the music left the listener on the edge of their seat. Each jam was revisited and brought back to life as a new creation, some songs lasting well over thirty minutes. Songs like "It's Up to You" started out with ten-minute, jazz- oriented jams that barely resembled their original formula until slowly forming into the familiar mix of notes. The balance of musicianship combined within this setting fashioned a perfect helix as the band brought the complex compositions from exploratory highs into the soft and utterly sweet whisper, famously known to be Kimock's trademark.

The excitement and energy in the music seemed to be almost ripping at the seams during songs like "Thing One," "Samba," "Malichi" and "One for Brother Mike" as the momentum spiraled into an abyss of their muse. The music reached in directions so far out from the original material that you were left wondering what song they were playing, but digging every minute of it.

Steve Kimock and Friends :: Halloween 2004 :: AR
The depth and breath of each tune was brilliant in their own right. Rarities and ballads imparted the intensity of meaning while affecting each listener differently. With this line up, the weekend was chalked full of memorable tunes both old, new and never played before.

Highlights include the first-time played "Spirits in the Material World," a Police cover that was presented with a downbeat, reggae feel. Another tune that always seems to stand out is the forever favorite ballad, "Coles Law," which was particularly heart-wrenching with the soulful combination of Fierro and Walter in the mix. Dripping out of the emotion, about mid-way into "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" Walter displayed his versatility as he threw down the grooviest flute-like solo the song has ever heard.

The typically short version of "Steel Guitar Rag" was brought to a soaring new height with the addition of two key elements, local musician Earl Cate and the collector's edition, quad-neck lap-steel guitar, rumored to be formally owned by Leon McAuliffe! This quad steel was made by Leo Fender himself for Leon and is featured on the original version of the song "Steel Guitar Rag." The new quad-neck was a gift from a fan and was played during a number of songs throughout the weekend that included an ultra-swanky version of "Samba" on Friday night.

On the whole, this weekend of SK&F rates as one of my all-time favorite musical journeys in terms of improvisation and musical genius. The voyage home through endless hours of corn fields and genetically-engineered farm operations seemed swift and painless after our incredible experience in Fayetteville. Heck, there were only a few jokes about the "plains" on the return home.

Laura Leiff
JamBase | Colorado
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[Published on: 11/12/04]

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