Steve Kimock at Green Apple Music Festival, NYC, 4/19-4/22
Kermit and Kimock
Kermit the Frog was famous for the saying, “It’s not easy being green.” If that is the case, then I think somebody forgot to tell guitar maestro and music visionary Steve Kimock. During this week’s inaugural Green Apple Music Festival, Kimock played no less than seven times in five days, enough that I was afraid he was going to turn into that loveable Muppet himself.
They past twelve months have seen numerous firsts for Kimock, even after a musical career of over thirty years. Last summer, he released his first studio album with the Steve Kimock Band, Eudemonic, with a revamped lineup that included Robert Walter (keys), Reed Mathis (bass), and Rodney Holmes (drums). One of the most energetic, fresh, and inspired tours in years followed close on its heels. After the tour’s conclusion, Kimock remained in high gear, playing with a range of artists including: Jerry Joseph, Dark Star Orchestra, PBS, and a triumphant reunion with Zero, his main band for fifteen or so years, all saw Kimock’s virtuoso guitar grace the stage. This Green Apple was no exception, as Kimock continued his recent hustle.
The Canal Room on Wednesday night saw the first of the festivities, and Kimock was smack-dab in the middle. Joining Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, affectionately known as the Rhythm Devils, Mike Gordon, The Mutaytor, Rob Barraco, Baaba Maal, Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), Charlie Musselwhite, and a few others, Kimock again managed to let loose in the midst of a full-out tribal drum-a-thon, that also included elements of trance, rock, and calypso.
The band opened with a long version of Babatunde Olatunji’s “Jingo,” and got the room pulsing. Kimock mixed well with Gordon, a pairing I’d often admired separately, but never considered together. After covers of and “The Other One” and “Aiko, Aiko,” Kimock and company helped to turn the Canal Room into a nonstop gyration of flavor and color, while the presence of The Mutaytor’s dances, theatrics, and drumming made it impossible to not experience sensory overload. Expect this troupe to take the festival world by storm this summer.
A double encore of “2001” > “Not Fade Away” put an exclamation point on the evening, complete with Hart leading the band off the stage, out of the room, and straight onto the street. It was apparent that this was not going to be just another week in NYCanything could happen. And, in many cases, it did.
The sixth-annual Jammy Awards were scheduled for Thursday night. Boasting the likes of Richie Havens, Chick Corea, Dweezil Zappa, and Peter Frampton, it was safe to assume that the normal “jamband” labels could be thrown right out of the window. There were more creative collaborations than I could count, with Kimock playing three different times. First, his showcase band of the week, consisting of Mathis, Perkins, and trumpeter Willie Waldman, played relatively early on in the show. Kimock stayed pretty low key, instead choosing to set the mood. Guest Joe Satriani (guitar) absolutely shredded on some improv stuff and “Cortez the Killer.” Mathis and Perkins also proved an unconventional, but exceptionally solid rhythm section, while Waldman added a nice flavor, relaxing all in attendance and truly exploring the psychedelic realm with these numbers.
A bit later, Kimock returned with the same cast as the previous night’s carnival parade at the Canal Room. The Mutaytor again entertained, highlighted by a bedazzling SuzE Q, who donned her patented red evening gown, and left more than a few drooling mouths at the performance’s conclusion. Kimock was again steady during another version of “Aiko, Aiko,” while Hart conducted the theatre in a game of call and response. The final installment of Kimock-mania at the Jammys was seen when he came out (with just about everybody else), to play a cover of Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” which eventually morphed into “One Love” by Bob Marley, concluding the sixth-annual Jammys.
Friday night saw the first full-show of Kimock’s “own” band for the week, back at the Canal Room. It consisted of Mathis, Perkins, and Waldman. The first set fired on all cylinders, while set two opened with a duel between Kimock and special guest Mickey Hart on the kalimbas. Once he picked up his axe, Kimock continued playing ferociously, while Mathis managed to hold down the bass line while dancing his own butt off.
Perkins was easily the biggest surprise of the night for mostboth physically and aurally. His tattoos, wife-beater, and Mohawk made him stick out like a sore (green) thumb. However, the feelings of not fitting in through appearance quickly evaporated once everyone got a taste of his playing. At times, he was clearly the conductor of this wild riding, high-flying set, with Kimock close behind. These two seemed to really be enjoying themselves, especially the interaction with one another. Basically, an all out dance party ensued, with barely a breath drawn from the band during heavy jamming and improvisation. The band was exploring unchartered territory, something that seemed to be going on all over town.
As good as Friday was, Saturday night’s show (with the same lineup), was my highlight, probably of the entire weekend. I got into the famous Blue Note Jazz Club about mid-first set, right around 2 a.m. for my second show of the day. I quickly scampered across the floor to a table at the rail, where my friends awaited. The general feeling of excitement in the room was immediately apparent to me, and with each passing note, I wondered who would be the first to jump out of their chair and begin dancing on their tabletop. With the appearance of Nate Wilson (Assembly of Dust, Percy Hill), I almost managed to win the distinction myself.
Wilson was an artist I had not even thought about in some time, but recognized instantly. He slunk behind the keys and immediately let his presence be known. His jazz lines added spice to a mix that was already bordering on flammable. Kimock and Wilson played a game of cat and mouse, while Perkins and Mathis rowed the oars of this jazzy boat in unison. Waldman’s runs on the trumpet felt like he was sprinkling tinsel on the Christmas tree, and channeled the true sprit of many jazz greats who had stood there before him.
The Saturday show was one of the most memorable concert experiences I have ever seen Kimock ever be a part of. The band played until about 4 a.m., and perfectly represented the spirit of Jammys and the Green Apple Music Festival: Complete crossovers between genres and creative exploration beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Waldman entertained and led the cheers, Mathis managed to charm and throw down at the same time, Perkins is a face that should be known to many more “jamband” fans in the future, and Kimock continues dazzles with anyone he pleases (and I hope he continues to do so). If Kermit thought it wasn’t easy being green, he obviously missed Kimock this past weekwhere Green was definitely the color of choice.