Steve Kimock Crazy Engine | 06.16 | MO

By: Neil Salsich

Steve Kimock Crazy Engine :: 06.16.09 :: Old Rock House :: St. Louis, MO

Steve Kimock – Crazy Engine :: 03.28 by Weiand
Phish‘s recent show at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (see our review here) brought with it a wild caravan of fans and musicians from around the country. On the day of the show, St. Louis’ Grand Center neighborhood was teeming with people, all eager to cut loose and see some music. The city’s nightlife came alive with bands playing to please the masses. Jeff Mosier’s Blueground Undergrass played both the night of the show and the night before; Vince Herman was playing with local Dead-cover band The Schwag; and, most excitingly, Steve Kimock Crazy Engine had promised three full sets of music at the Old Rock House during and after the much hyped Phish gig. The Crazy Engine show certainly had some tough competition, as anyone who saw Blueground Undergrass’ utterly fantastic show the night before was hard pressed not to return the next night. In addition, Crazy Engine’s bassist, Family Groove Company‘s Janis Wallin, had left the band unexpectedly a few days earlier. Bass whiz Reed Mathis, somehow balancing his gigs with Tea Leaf Green and Marco Benevento, was there to fill in. Judging by the widely circulated NorVa shows (get the shows here), Janis certainly held her own on the bass, so I was sad to hear of her departure, but even more excited to see Mathis play. I had seen Mathis with Tea Leaf Green, and though he was certainly impressive, I was sure I hadn’t seen him really let loose, as the numerous reviews and features I’ve read over the years have claimed he does.

As the sparse crowd gathered for the first set and the band took the stage, Kimock chuckled to the crowd and made an interesting remark: “We’re gonna go ahead and get started, even though there’s only nine people here… but that’s not gonna change what we do up here one bit.” His words certainly rang true. Despite an extremely small crowd for the first two sets – the place was hopping by the third and final set – the band played as though they were headlining The Fillmore. The audience was truly made to feel welcome and special.

Reed Mathis by Josh Miller
Upon the first few notes, Kimock began to spin his magical, musical web. His sound is truly unique – a dreamy fusion of rock, soul, jazz and world music where the melodies, rhythm and solos wash over each other continuously – music of true emotion and beauty. Kimock’s brand of highly improvisational instrumental music is truly thrilling to see and hear, because he almost does away with the traditional concept of a ‘song.’ Often without words to make verses, choruses and hooks, the songs only exist as an introduction and platform for pure music. The band would play the first few minutes and then delve into intense, absorbing musical excursions that were seemingly unrelated to the original melody, only to emerge suddenly back into the song at points throughout. Listening to his music, it’s obvious he’s a great musician, but evidence of his virtuosity is crystal clear when you see him live; the fluidity of his fingers flying up, down and across the neck of the guitar in a controlled frenzy is incredibly exciting, definitely worth the night’s steep admission price.

Enough about Kimock, time to rave about the rest of the band, who easily kept up with the wild haired guitar wizard, sending their own barrages of notes to both accompany and challenge his own fierce musical statements. Steve’s son, John Morgan Kimock, sat behind the drum kit, and despite being only 20 years old he is as accomplished on the skins as many men twice his age. He was an absolute beast and a joy to watch, a promising young musician that we can expect to see great things from. With a much louder, more rocking sound than the NorVa downloads let on, his rhythmic assistance was sharp and youthful – at times aggressive and propulsive, lighting a fire behind the older veterans – and at other times very laid back, ushering in musical change with shimmering cymbals and tasty fills. It was amusing to watch Steve grin with fatherly pride as he joined the audience in watching John’s impressive drum solo.

Mathis was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night. His talent is undeniable, and all the hype I’d heard proved to be true. With a background in highly improvisational jazz as a founding member of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, one could not help but suspect that Mathis was a bit more suited to Kimock’s adventurous musical spirit than Wallin. Armed with only a four string Fender – in a scene with many other bass players utilizing the fancier end of the spectrum with larger five or six string basses – he absolutely tore it up! Quite frankly, his talent makes it difficult to fully express in words, other than saying his playing was spot-on and exceeded all expectations. In a perfect world, he could play in Tea Leaf Green AND Crazy Engine full time (and JFJO for that matter), but alas, that’s not the world we live in. It speaks to the quality of his musicianship – and of the musicians, for that matter – that he could join the band last minute and play as though he’d been with them for years (although he did tour with Kimock briefly in 2006).

Melvin Seals – Crazy Engine :: 03.28 by Weiand
Melvin Seals, the Jerry Garcia Band veteran and fourth piece of the puzzle, is perhaps the perfect musical companion to Steve Kimock. He can offer meaty, rich organ lines when needed but also venture into the spacier, more galactic side of Kimock’s playing as well. Though he sat quietly behind his keyed arsenal for the entire show, his playing spoke volumes, and he even lent an occasional soulful vocal, particularly on a rousing “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” This number really drew the crowd into the floor. All of a sudden the place was packed with dancing maniacs fresh from the Phish show.

The evening brought with it some Kimock favorites including the sassy “You’re the One,” the free-flowing “It’s Up to You” and a dreamy cover of “Stella Blue.” The crowd may not have recognized every song by name, but that was no matter. The only thing of consequence was witnessing the unique journey between two musical spectrums that the band traversed. At one end, brassy, funky R&B, and at the other end, a radiant blend of jazz, world music and rock, all awash in shimmering drums, sparkling keys, earthy bass and Kimock’s sharp, intelligent phrasing. Those with the opportunity to see this most recent outfit should do so soon. With a rotating lineup, no one show will likely be the same.

Steve Kimock Crazy Engine :: 06.16.09 :: Old Rock House :: St. Louis, MO
Set I: Point of No Return, High and Lonesome, Movin’ and Groovin’, Goin’ Down Slow
Set II: You’re the One, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Long Form Part 4, Stella Blue
Set III: It’s Up To You, Crazy Engine, Tongue ‘n’ Groove, Slow Down

You can download this show for FREE here.

Steve Kimock Crazy Engine tour dates available here.

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