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Steve Kimock Band, Showbox Theatre, Seattle- 12/20

I arrived at the Showbox at 8:30, for a scheduled 9:00 kickoff to what has proved in the past to be one of the best values for my dollar in the music scene today. There is something really great about seeing a show in the town you live in and getting to sleep in your own bed at a decent hour. I was also excited, since I had not seen the band since early last summer at The Two Louie's in Blaine near the Canadian Border. I knew that even with the recent changes in bass players the band had evolved into an tight and cohesive group and had recently been playing some new material. The advertised Garaj Mahal opening set turned out to be inaccurate, as they were only to join the band for the Portland portion of this Northwest 3 show mini-run. I was disappointed but wasn’t overly concerned, as I knew Kimock and Co. would deliver. The surprise "make-up" was that Alphonso Johnson, (Weather Report, Wayne Shorter, The Other Ones, Jazz is Dead) would be sitting in on bass although only originally advertised for the Portland shows. The guy is a legend in the jazz community and while I knew that he and Steve had collaborated before I never thought I would get to see the two share the stage in this incarnation.

The band took the stage at about 9:30. After Steve commented on how surprisingly cold it was in Seattle and a quick tune up, they launched into a beautiful rendition of "In Reply." Everyone on stage seemed to be settling in for a long night, even though Alphonso needed a little help from second guitarist Mitch Stein with the changes (and from some written notes at his feet). But true to form, right out of the gate he was on, and it quickly became obvious why he is so revered. Next was "Elmer's Friggin Fudd" a jazz-flavored song with a title that has evolved over time (as many of Kimock's compositions often do). Then, following a fine rendition of Bruce Hornsby's "Rainbow's Cadillac," Steve moved to his steel guitar for "Why Can't We All Just Samba?"

After this song, Steve was tuning the lower end of his Fender Steel stand-up when seemingly out of nowhere came this strange trance-like electronica sound that to be quite honest caught me a bit off guard. It seemed as though the sound guy had inadvertently pushed the wrong button and couldn’t shut it off. It sounded out of place, and even Steve's tech made a sweeping motion across his neck towards off-stage for him to cut it, but was told by Steve that it was "Okay". Drummer Rodney Holmes started off by playing drums to the background sounds and soon everyone was playing along to the same. I never had heard anything like this before. While it seemed out of place, I assumed it to be some sort of impromptu decision perhaps venturing into a possible new direction musically. Later I found out it was all part of the plan and even has a name. They call it "Loop in C" in the discussion groups on the internet, but since I had acquired the setlist from Kimock himself at the end of the show, I don’t think the name is carved in stone as the list read only "Loop?"

The set closer was a rousing rendition of "5B4 Funk." This one is an interactive fan-favorite with the audience screaming "WOOOOOO!" at the appropriate times. They really jammed this one out with everyone taking solos and then pounding the rhythm extra long while Rodney just hammered away on the drums.

A long set break followed, where I ran into some old friends and made a few new ones. This break seemed longer than "a few minutes" and everyone was getting a bit antsy wanting to get on with it and dance some more. It was almost midnight when the band came back out to fire it up again.

"You’re the One" kicked it off with Steve wailing away on his Gibson Explorer. Both Steve and Mitch were rockin', while Rodney and Alphonso were busy laying down the undercurrents. A slow melodic intro and Steve solo jam gave us all a tease of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" but then turned out to be "It's up to You." "Baby, Baby" and a Mitch Stein composition called "Arf (She Cried)" were exploratory yet at the same time grounded in structure. These songs lead into a "Moon People" that was over the top and so full of noise and distortion that I thought the roof might just fly off the top of the place. At the conclusion of "Moon People" Steve was obviously angered by the fact that the time had gotten away from him and they were really close to curfew. In his words at the end of the show, "The Gig clock fucked me."

The last three times I have seen Kimock the same thing has happened and makes me think that he either gets lost in space and lets it get away from him regularly, or the guy just does not like to do encores. Realizing this they closed with a short but very sweet "Avalon", said their thank-yous and invited everyone down to the Crystal Ballroom in Portland for two more shows on Friday and Saturday Night. Then it was off to San Francisco for a four night run at the Great American Music Hall to finish up 2001.

If you don’t have enough to do during this crazy holiday season or just need to get away for a bit, that is precisely what I would recommend. The band is ON and playing better than I have heard them in years. SKB seem to be finding its way through the awkward times of adolescence and maturing into the powerhouse they have the potential to be. For under $20.00 you would be hard pressed to find anything under your tree this year that can even come close.

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