Steve Kimock and Friends, Mighty High Festival, Tuxedo, NY – 5/21
Photo by Vernon Webb
Steve Kimock has been a busy man in the past few months with a residency at Sullivan Hall in NYC, Steve Kimock and Friends gigs in NOLA and California, Zero benefit shows and a starring role in Bob Weir’s supremely successful TRI debut. With all that widespread road time so recently under his tread, it should come as no surprise that his set at small Mighty High Festival an hour or so north of New York was a big blowout. The band featured Andy Hess on bass, John Morgan Kimock on drums, and Henry Butler on piano and vocals, the same group that opened the Sullivan Hall residency playing almost the same material, except this time around the band members had just a bit more experience playing with each other, not to mention playing the material. That, and Zigaboo [Modeliste] was there too.
The double drumming machine was on target immediately with the opening “Nan’s Chalk Pipe”, laying down a steady but free groove. Kimock was off his stool right away, crouching down against his monitor as Butler took the first lead, a huge grin smeared across his face, and when his turn came, he worked his way through an number of approaches, strumming and picking and declaring his pallet for the rest of the show. The following tune was a colossus of a “Thing One,” clocking in at about twenty minutes. The song was bursting with energy from the first notes, Steve chunking out rhythm licks as Butler slipped in nice little fills; the two have had a meeting of the minds and are able to wrap around and feed each other in profound ways. It’s not a relationship I would have guessed at, but I’m glad it’s happening. Moving through the first verse, the guitar sounded grander than the venue, a brilliant, burnished glow, and soon Butler was soloing with lush, too-fast-to-catch cascades. The groove was rooted deep and built to a giant climax, only to be followed by a sloppy move to the bridge. All eyes were on Zig as he dug into a solo and then grounded a low, spacious jamlet, Kimock eventually overwhelming it with crazed space effects, and the band rising up with him in response. The moment they achieved that second peak, the band fell away, giving John Morgan his own solo, over which Butler set into anther climb. The field was rocking and the drummers were chug chug chugging and the whole place slammed back into “Thing One”—a monster version.
“You Are the One” found Hess bubbling up to the forefront and locking in tight with JMK and Zigaboo. Kimock was open mouthed with flashing eyes as he sliced through the song. Modeliste’s cymbal work matched up perfectly with Butler during the piano solo to create a stunning rhythmic pairing—such little nuances helped make the set as special as it was. The tune eventually opened up and Kimock, a man with an arsenal of guitars but who hadn’t put down the hollow body all night, finally switched gear for a sweeping solo that rocked back and slid into the finale. Real cool.
The end of the set switched focus to the roots of half the band, Butler’s vocals booming out “Mardis Gras”. Kimock, keys and Zig all took solos before Butler called out, “We gonna groove a bit y’all,” and set up a funky bass line. The band just let it rise on up, the keyboardist rapping over the movement and bringing it home. To close, they did “Big Chief”, the band focused on the piano intro and Hess crushing the one. As much as the material was obviously half Kimock, half NOLA classic, the separation wasn’t noticeable—this was just a killer unit playing killer music on a twilight mountainside. And that’s what matters.