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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2001/10/27
by JMH

SKB, State Theater, Falls Church, VA 10/21

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon I snapped off the tv and tossed my Darrell Green jersey on the bed in favor of a long-sleeved T-shirt, grabbed my notepad, car keys, cap and pen; kissed my wife and daughter and jumped in the car. Ecstatic from seeing the Redskins rise from the dead, I stood on the gas pedal to get myself up to Northern VA from my house in Fredericksburg (about 45 miles or so).

First stop was a buddy’s place in Clifton to share a beer and try and convince him to come to the show. He passed, copping that he had other matters to tend to and, after pressuring him a bit more I relented and relaxed for our brief visit. As I sipped on some Guinness, he asked what sort of music I wanted him to put on and I shrugged and said, "Something excellent; as that’s what I’m going to see tonight." He nodded and put in Ravi Shankar. I grinned and told him that Steve Kimock is into North Indian Ragas and such and if he’d come to the show he’d hear for himself… No luck.

After the beer I got back in the car and made for Falls Church. Clifton is in the ass-end of Fairfax County, Falls Church being on the opposite, developed end of things meaning that there is no direct route to drive, so I cranked up the radio and got comfortable. Only in NoVa can one take 40 minutes to go 20 miles. I did it in thirty.

I strolled into Irelands Four Provinces, round the corner from the State Theater just before seven. I sat at the bar, ordered dinner and a beer and before long, Mike Crowner had hopped on the stool beside me. We chatted about the game that day and about the evening’s impending performance of It’s Up To You (a guy can dream, eh?) before he cruised over to talk with his brother. Just then my friend Modi came along.

Modi’s a great guy- my best friend, in fact, but his directions in music have led him away from the so-called jam rock scene to more far flung hardcore funk circles. This would be his first Steve Kimock show. I had previously tried to prep him and lure him with the possibility of Meters covers and such and he had finally caved. The departure of Bobby Vega had me worried, though. Would new-guy-on-bass, Richard Hammond, be a funkateer?

With these questions in mind and dinner in my belly, we strolled over to the theater. I can’t say enough about the State Theater but I imagine that I can only repeat it so many times. Let it suffice to say that I love this venue. The comfortable, attractive, non-smoking interior really feels like home to me (I used to live a short walk away.)

Inside, we ran into Andy D. and Pam and, after killing some time, moved down front-and-center for showtime. The band came onstage just after nine-thirty. Steve Kimock donned his white Stratocaster and moved his Fender dual-steel guitar into position as well. It’s a gorgeous looking instrument with a dark-stained, wood-grain finish that stands on four shiny legs.

Mitch Stein, with his hair cropped short and spiked upwards looked relaxed and ready. Rodney Holmes, as he set up behind the drums, wore a grin that spoke of good things to come and Richard Hammond, with his five-string bass, appeared focused and ready to go.

Opening the set with Tongue ‘n Groove laid to rest the early fears that the winds of change might have overtaken SKB. It also nearly eliminates objectivity from my review of the first song. I love to listen to Tongue ‘n Groove and this version was no exception. It was a first for me and I relished every chord. Midway through, Steve stepped up to the steel guitar and made it dance beautifully. I twirled in place a bit and then grinned as Steve passed the Strat to Rudson in favor of the Ozark. With this guitar and its natural, fat tone he reprised the theme and closed out a very satisfying opener.

Rodney jumped into the next number as Steve setup the Mustang for A New Africa. This was standard (excellent) with Steve’s lead running nimbly overtop of Rodney’s Caribbean-esque rhythms. It was here that, influenced by my earlier listen to Ravi Shankar, I first noticed the accelerando. Perhaps cued by Steve but certainly led by Rodney, the band sped up together and built to a delicious peak before dropping back to reprise the theme and end the song.

Here, they shed their warm-ups and Steve switched to the Explorer- an aptly named guitar and perhaps a sign that they were about go looking for something a little greater than joyous pipe-tunes. Rodney started with a casual beat and Mitch stepped on various pedals producing spacey, feedback and echo laden tones from his amp. The plush moose sitting atop his rig seemed to bob its head approvingly.

Steve got into the spacey business for a moment or two before cueing the intro riff to Tangled Hangers. The theme soared in it rock/anthemic style but, after the first key break, instead of taking off into faster, meatier realms as usual, Steve kept it slow and brought the break back around. I wondered if someone had missed the change the first time through but no, after the second break, they kept it mellow. Rodney swung the beat out in an overtly jazzy fashion as Steve soloed evenly, away from the theme. Mitch’s rhythm turned to space again as Steve followed suit but that didn’t last and, now eight minutes in, Steve reprised the main theme in a heavier rocked out manner that led us to the Arabian bit.

Mitch really likes this bit. Steve nodded him in and he took off and led things out. Mitch’s tone is more of the heavy handed rock/fusion guitar than Steve’s generally more graceful clarity and the contrast is generally pleasing. He led us into a hard grooving jam akin to Miles Davis’ Solea as psychedelic bullfighters encircled the stage but, before they could raise their capes, the jam dissolved back to the main theme.

Steve pulled the Fender Steel back into position and another aural excursion began. Mitch copped his familiar echoing tones and lifted his guitar by the "whammy" bar. Steve stood one of his slide bars on end and began tickling the strings of his steel guitar with it. The sound which this produced was akin to Chick Corea’s Fender Rhodes on an electric Miles recording. Steve next stepped back from the steel guitar and turned up the white strat for a funky little jam that carried us into The Long Form (pt 4). The rapidly descending riff, ripped across the room before Mitch took up the first solo and Steve moved back to the steel guitar.

It was then that Richard Hammond seemed to come alive. Previously, he’d been present but unobtrusive, supporting and following along but not stepping out with notable fills. Here, he stepped up and got his groove on. The audience responded favorably as well. Steve’s next solo came from the strat and Modi pointed out that, for a few bars, he was picking the strings as would a bass player- elbow locked and thumb planted atop the pickups. Wild stuff. Then, playing more traditionally, Steve set out to redefine the theme while standing stork-like- transmitting mutating passages into the room.

This melted down a bit and Rodney addressed the laptop which now sits to his right. He sampled himself and built a groove, morphed the tone and began playing along with it. This was some deeply funky, modern music. Richard Hammond got right onto the mix and seemed to build a loop of his own. Mitch fiddled with his pedals and Steve alternated between the steel and the strat blending into the groove for a bit then leaning into the steel for a strong lead.

When Steve backed off, Mitch did the same, leaving Richard and Rodney a moment to hit a tight Drum ‘n Bass groove then the guitars leapt atop the heap for a rocked-out electronica jam that wrapped up the excursion currently billed as New Loop In C. New indeed.

You’re the One followed strongly- smokingly, in fact- and wrapped up the set in a more traditional rock/funk style. Steve then stepped up to the mic, introduced the band and they cleared the stage for a fifty minute break.

Seventeen minutes before twelve o’clock, the band retook the stage, Steve donned the Explorer once again and, as we’d predicted throughout setbreak (all day, in fact), they opened with It’s Up To You. My favorite tune danced delightfully about the room (and I danced giddily in my place front-and-center). The up-tempo Caribbean swing segment kicked in and Steve and Rodney went off, clearly locked into one another and enjoying it before: The Dark Section.

Richard, Mitch, and Rodney setup a mellow groove-jazzy, driving beat while Steve mined his darker tones and minor keys. The band locked tightly together and took off on another ragaesque accelerando; peaking with a glorious rock jam. Then, at the stroke of midnight, Steve took it out another step and found a dirty tone. The Heavy Metal rock jam was better than any heavy metal you’ll find at Tower Records. Powerful, intense riffs were staggered by breaks from Rodney the like of which Lars Ulrich never imagined. Phish fans call this start-stop jamming. I call it mind-bending. But, as quickly as it came on, it was gone, and we found ourselves hovering over the standard outro theme, a little bliss to cap the journey.

And there was more yet to come! Steve switched to the Cripes and pulled the steel back into play and, while he fiddled with cables or knobs, Modi shouted out, "Cissy Strut!"

Rodney looked around and started up the beat which was picked up by Richard and Mitch before Steve, shrugging, joined in. Modi was pleased and they played a groovy version which included a nice solo from Mitch and a seventies-sounding rock jam with Steve teasing I Shot The Sheriff on the steel guitar.

Next, while Steve switched back to the white strat and put the steel away, Rodney introduced the next number with a strong beat. Moon People has become a springboard to another new (for SKB) type of jamming but don’t let that scare you. After the introductory theme, Steve revived the heavy tone. Reminiscent of Neil Young and Warren Haynes, it’s not death metal by any means and how you play it is always more important than what you play, right? Steve played this well. The second "Heavy Metal Jam" of the night had me joyfully banging my head while shaking my booty and concluded with Crazy Horse-like waves of feedback washing through the room as Steve took off his guitar and held it to his cabinets; moving it about to vary the tone. Mitch extracted similar sonic bombardment until Steve stood up, strapped the strat back on and re-launched the Moon People theme.

Roseannes Beak followed and was quite rockin’. I took it as an opportunity to head upstairs and check the sound/scene in the balcony. The sound up there was dialed in nicely and I found myself compelled to get my dance on in my usual perch beside the fire exit. I wisely move back downstairs and down front before they finished, however.

Steve switched to a telecaster and, as the first bars of Avalon came on, Mike Crowner tapped me on the shoulder and sent up a K-Wave alert. K-Waves, indeed. My first Avalon was not a disappointment, sending delicious chills up my spine for fifteen minutes. After which, few could argue when Steve announced that the band was turning into pumpkins and it was time to say goodnight.

A terrific and enjoyable show with a taste of the new as well as a mouthful of the old. Modi tells me that he had a good time but I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t blown away. That’ll happen with a band like this though. His primary complaint, "They need to stick to a groove", is reasonable but, given the newness of the Richard Hammond as well as several elements to their sound it will likely take time before they know where they’re going well enough to sit back and enjoy the ride. Once the bumps are ironed out, it’ll be smooth sailing.

We slipped out the side exit and saw Steve and Mitch getting some fresh air by the stage door. I said a quick "thanks" and "See you tomorrow" and headed for the car, with miles to go before I'd sleep.

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