Steve Kimock, Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL – 5/19
Photo by Norman Sands
Many reasons brought a multitude of diverse people to the Windy City one weekend before Memorial Day. While the world focused on NATO demonstrations in the business district, and humans donned masks and spouted 1960s protest era chants to police clad in riot gear, a stones throw away tucked under the “El” tracks on Lake Street sat a decidedly more peaceful awakening. Steve Kimock brought his new configuration to the Bottom Lounge. This included the Wizard of Woo Bernie Worrell on keys (Parliament Funkadelic, Talking Heads), drummer Wally Ingram (Sheryl Crow, David Lindley), and bassist Andy Hess (Gov’t Mule, Black Crowes).
Old friends gathered to witness a reckoning and experience another guitar lesson by one of the most enigmatic musicians around. A floaty jam in “Tangled Hangers” warmed up the band as Bernie played jagged quick stabs that brushed up nicely with Steve’s guitar. Worrell didn’t have his Moog synch with him that evening which was indicative of the fact it would be a more roots funk flavored set than psychedelically infused. “Severe Tire Damage” received a jazzy bass line groove from Andy Hess as the Wizard of Woo tickled the ivory keys in a 70s style rendition reminiscent of classical pianist Ramsey Lewis. On “Congo Man Chant” Wally Ingram and Andy played with time signatures moving from five to one and back. A “Get Up Stand Up” tease transitioned into the full song which showed off the reggae influence of this ensemble. Kimock switched to a black Scott Walker fretless for the super funky “TLC” (Tastes Like Chicken) which is one of the newer tunes. Most of the heavy lifting in terms of writing, Steve explained, was done by Bernie and himself. However, he commented that since “this bunch of guys are willing to mix it up, some of the ensemble just moves for getting around an improvisational piece of music and [the music therefore] has gotten more sophisticated more quickly than expected.” The Beatles tune “You Can’t Do That” showed off Steve’s lap steel skills which he says were influenced greatly by playing alongside slide guitarist Billy Goodman. Worrell took lead on vocals for “Super Stupid” which was pulled out of retirement from his Funkadelic days. The hall of famer showed no signs of slowing down as Worrell broke out a mean melodica solo as the song fell back into “You Can’t Do That” to close the first set.
After a short break a hatless Steve jumped back on the lap steel and gave the crowd a spirited “A New Africa” which was accompanied nicely by Ingram on drums. Wally’s rig is a spectacle to be seen. Two room service trays sit to his left top as a medieval looking helmet is squarely positioned in front. I asked him how he became so experimental with his setup and he mentioned since childhood he had “always been banging on pots and pans.” I thought these were simply his modified version of adult pots and pans. The set break did the band well as they seemed to play more cohesively on “Watching The River Flow.” After originals in “Hey Man” and “Anorexia” a classic cover was dropped in the Jimmy Cliff tune “Many Rivers To Cross.” The group played “One For Brother Mike” before ending with a solid Talking Heads classic with Bernie on vocals in “Take Me to the River” which is always a crowd pleaser.
With no real formula in mind the more time spent collaborating, the more the musicians can learn through a direct type of experience. This extensive tour Steve affirmed was the universe saying get out there and play. It’s different living with bandmates day after day, and it seemed during the first portion of the tour the fellas are rapidly finding stylistic tendencies, exchanging ideas, and beginning to click on all cylinders. With a remaining spring tour schedule of ten shows that has the band headed south before coming back up the eastern seaboard a few more gems should be discovered along the way.