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Steve Kimock Band, Starr Hill Music Hall, Charlottesville, VA- 10/20

Guitarist Steve Kimock is the rare musician who may be fairly described as a virtuoso. In his current tour he is traveling with 14 different guitars, 8-10 of which he will use on the stage on a typical night. The evening of October 20 at Starr Hill was of no exception, as Kimock readied himself for the first set juxtaposed with 7 guitars in his rack as well as his 1954 Walnut Triple Neck Fender Stringmaster, a steel tabletop slide rig. Just as with his live album East Meets West, Kimock began his show with popular tune, “High and Lonesome.” In an almost zen-like moment, Kimock began the first few strummings in a light, legato, extensive prologue. Using his white strat, his stop time solo lead straight into his shredding and drummer Rodney Holmes picking up the beat.

Touring with Reed Mathis on bass from Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Robert Walter on keys (of his 20th Congress fame as well as Greyboy Allstars), Kimock’s all-star lineup did not fail to deliver. While initially the other members held back for Kimock to take center stage, Mathis, Walter, and Holmes soon let their talents fly with reckless abandon. In the next song, “Green,” Kimock incorporated an almost Celtic vibe with a country twang with his bouzouki mandolin. Basically, this was an extended mandolin which Kimock manipulated to give an “electric chamber music” sort of feel. He next led the guys in classically quirky, “Why Can’t We All Just Samba?” using his Triple Neck Stringmaster. He finessed the series of strings with delicate precision, often using a flicking motion to achieve his optimal sound. At this point, Mathis had switched from using his 4-string Fender bass to use a 5-string Modulus, apparently another part of Kimock’s vast instrument collection.

In “Electric Wildlife,” Kimock and the others exuded pure energy from the first note. The only song of the set not written by Kimock, “Wildlife” was penned by Holmes. As Kimock progressed playing intervals, I was reminded of Pat Metheny’s signature style of changes. He would often take two notes and move them up his frame, bringing an intensity to his sound. “Cole’s Law” gave way to an avant-garde jam, and then they brought out “Tangled Hangers” to close the set. With Kimock on his Gibson and manipulating feedback, this tune turned into a veritable funk-off. Walter sat at his Fender Rhodes and tweaked some harmonies while Mathis and Holmes kept things strong and funkdafied. At times it sounded like techno/house music, and the audience was super-psyched.

When the four musicians made their way back to the stage after their well-earned break, they broke out with “Five Before Funk.” Combining audience interaction with a little bit of salsa, this was a fantastic second set opener. Mathis’ bass lines sounded south of the border, and the staccato drum action led into a spectacular bass-led funk jam. “Moon People” kept things going next. Another Holmes tune, this song is featured on Kimock’s latest release, Eudemonic, as well as the aforementioned East Meets West. The signature gritty guitar riff exploded throughout the packed room. Kimock and company next went into another highlight of the evening, a cover of the Police’s “Spirits.” Filled with reggae-beats and chord progressions, this version was the perfect incarnation of the classic danceable tune. Walter inserted his time-appropriate Halloween-ish effects to add another layer to the song’s depth.

The group next went into “Nana’s Chalkpipe,” a tune by Ernest Ranglin. As Mathis shredded out on his bass, the rest of the band held things together. As Kimock readied for his solo, his pick in his mouth, he stood up and showed the audience why he can be thought of as the virtuoso that he is. As the fellas headed into Walter’s tune “Kickin’ Up Dust,” they showed their stamina, keeping the whole place moving to their robotic sounds. Walter began getting bitten by the bug as he took a solo and broke it down for us. To finish things off, they broke into “Brother Mike” into “Hillbillies,” both Kimock originals. Kimock used his Charvel guitar and showcased his mastery of subtle changes that make a difference. Truly, Kimock possesses a distinct voice in the guitar world, and he continues to let that shine through.

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