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Steve Kimock and Friends, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA – 7/15

An earlier Kimock and Friends show – photo by Vernon Webb

The marquee at the Great American Music Hall simply read “Steve Kimock and Friends.” The “sold out” sign on the ticket window told more of the story. The stage was so crowded with talent that “Steve Kimock and Friends” didn’t do the band justice. Kimock has been playing around the Bay Area with many different ensembles and has been a mainstay in the San Francisco musical community for almost thirty years now. This longevity showed in the audience that had gathered to hear his latest project. Young and old, everyone there was all hugs and smiles like it was a family reunion not a rock concert.

In a pair of shows in the Bay Area, Steve was joined by Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident on keys, the amazing Bobby Vega on bass, and Wally Ingram on drums. The band came on to the boisterous cheers of the crowd and slipped into a light, jazzy exploration of sounds and textures, almost testing the waters it seemed. Working through instrumentals that touched on jazz, rock, and at times, lilting island rhythms, each band member carved out a space and then proceeded to accent and complement each others playing. The band stepped on the gas and delved into some funk territory before a musical exercise that showcased Wally Ingram’s expertise with some drum breaks and call-and-response playing before dropping into familiar territory with a smoking “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” to end the set.

After a short break, the band took flight with a space-jazz version of “Bird Song” that showcased Kimock’s mastery of his instrument and the reason that he is a mainstay on the jam circuit and a Bay Area fixture. With an ending that turned from the familiar coda to a rocking workout the band dropped into the Rolling Stones’ classic “Tumbling Dice” and got the whole house dancing. In Kimock’s imitable style he blended jazzy improv and old school rock and roll into a Vega-led breakdown that took a turn into the funkiest “Taxman” that George Harrison could’ve ever dreamed of hearing. The whole band was firing on all cylinders. Hollingsworth’s fills fleshed out the exploratory lines that Kimock was spooling out and Vega’s bass was providing counterpoint to Wally’s off the wall drums. After an epic jam like that one would expect Kimock to at least stand up off his stool. It’s little wonder with the calm, detached air that some journalists have come up with the “guitar monk” nickname. After pulling out all the stops on an all out rock and roll jam, the band stood up and took their bows. As the crowd went crazy and yelled for more, the guys’ came back and obliged as Wally counted off the second Beatles tune of the night, “Don’t Let Me Down” but this time the crowd turned it into a sing-a-long and provided a fitting cap to what turned out to be the best family reunion you might ever attend.

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