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Published: 2006/03/11
by Philip Walter

Save The Dave Benefit with Steve Kimock, Martin Fierro, Free Peoples & Eckobase, Georges Majestic, Fayetteville, AR-3/4

REAPING THE BENEFITS: Compassion and Collaboration at the Save the Dave Benefit

At any given moment there is the chance something will happen in this difficult world that raises your spirits and reminds you that perhaps the deck is not stacked against you, that maybe life isn’t so unfair after all, and that when the situation demands it people can still come together and do what’s right and no I’m not talking about Triple-Six Mafia winning the Oscar for best original song Sunday night.

I’m talking about the Save the Dave benefit at George’s Majestic in Fayetteville, AR, March 4. Dave Gesualdo, bassist for Mountain of Venus, has just about beaten Hodgkins Lymphoma. His chemotherapy, taking place in Tampa, Florida, has been trying for everyone involved, and his recovery is likely to be long and expensive. Musicians and fans alike rallied in Fayetteville last weekend to help his cause.

San Francisco based jazz-bluegrass-fusion band Free Peoples, Fayetteville regulars Eckobase, and an all-star ensemble including guitarist Steve Kimock, saxophonist Martin Fierro, Steve Pryor on guitar and vocals, Casey Van Beek on bass, Dylan Layton on rhythm guitar, and Mike Garrett and Scott Mariner on drums, all took the stage Saturday night to raise money for Dave’s recovery. And the fans showed up in droves to show their support, making for a fantastic evening of music and positive energy.

I went down to the venue early to grab a ticket and saw a bunch of folks setting up a table on the side of the room opposite the bar. Everything from an autographed picture of John Bell to a backpacking pack was up for auction to benefit Gesualdo. I noticed Tanya Shylock, MOV vocalist and Dave Gesualdo’s fianc walking around the room, all smiles and feeling the good energy swell as Free Peoples set up.

Free Peoples plays a combination of lilting West Coast jamgrass and complex jazz pieces, with standout bass lines by Michael Dipirro, lively trumpet work by Jason Thor, and ripping, jazz-style lead guitar by Johnny Downer. They are high-energy folk fusion at its finest. Near the end of their set they called out for Martin Fierro, saying, “Martin Fierro, your steak is ready,” to which his manager asked, “Are you ready for him?” And we were all screaming, “Hell, yeah!”

After the Martin guest appearance, it was time to migrate to the back, where Kimock, Pryor, and friends would be taking the stage shortly. I chatted for a second with Dylan Layton, a friend of mine performing with the group, while fans piled slowly into the room. The energy was high when everyone took the stage, Kimock in a skull cap, Martin in a Stanford baseball cap, and Steve Pryor with his intellectual reading glasses.

Pryor lead the group through a series of largely recognizable songs, his soulful crooning on lead vocals and Kimock’s unmatched wizardry on lead guitar. I was at the front of the crowd on the right side of the stage, in front of Dylan, and couldn’t help noticing Tanya dancing so sublimely in front of the speakers to my right. “Overwhelmed” was the word she used to describe her feelings when she introduced the band, and let me assure you, she wasn’t the only one!

Highlights musically include “Who Do You Love” with Tanya on vocals, a super high-energy “How Sweet It Is,” “The Harder They Come,” “So Far Away” (Dire Straits) with Kimock on fretless guitar, and many more. Late in the second set, Tanya took the stage again and added her vocal talents to the Stones cover “Dead Flowers,” on which Steve Kimock sang backup. First time I’d ever seen that! Toward the end of the second set for which all the musicians (except the drummers) stood up, after having sat down through most of the first set Martin said “Now, if everybody would just shut up for a second, Steve’s gonna show you something,” no doubt an allusion to Steve’s now-infamous tirade against noisy barflies, before breaking into a beautiful rendition of “Cole’s Law,” the only Kimock tune played all night. Then after another appearance by Tanya for Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the band left the stage only to return to chants of “Save the Dave” for an encore version of “Goin’ Down,” a song made popular by Freddie King.

Next up was Eckobase back in the front room. And the sold out crowd was nowhere near finished dancing as someone announced the end of the silent auction and Eckobase’s three-piece techno-jam set took off. I must say I missed Jeff Gray’s trumpet work, but these guys can still make you move. Carter Malloy gets better every time I see them on guitar and synth, Clay Belknap is a force on the bass, and Clayton Suttle is solid on drums, driving the beat late into the night.

All in all, the evening was wonderful, and I was reminded of two things. First off, Steve Kimock is hands down among the most versatile and talented musicians to ever play a guitar. And he played several of them, taking time to swap guitars often throughout the evening to get just the right sound for the given tune. And secondly, there is hope for the human race. Seeing the joy on Tanya’s face and knowing that all proceeds, including half the bartenders’ tips from the night, were going to help Dave recover from his devastating illness, reminded me that even in this age of global terrorism and self-serving corporate greed, the human heart’s capacity for compassion is as deep as it ever has been.

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