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Published: 2016/04/04
by Matt Nestor

KIMOCK, Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA- 3/18

Sitting alone in the center of the stage, his scraggly hair tied behind a black fedora, Steve Kimock picked up his dobro and began plucking. His fingers slid up and down the fretboard, creating sounds that would have fit well at a backwoods West Virginia campfire or a far-east meditation ceremony. It was the album release party for Kimock’s Last Danger Of Frost, and this commencement raga was the record’s opening tune, “Music Tells a Story Pt. 1 (The Old Man).”

Kimock paused to remark how he had begun recording the album the previous winter on that same dobro, in his barn just an hour north of Ardmore in Bethlehem, PA. On the album, “Music Tells a Story” is split up into four parts, each an instrumental chapter with a distinct mood. Despite this being Steve Kimock’s album release party, this was a KIMOCK show – just the 7th KIMOCK show, in fact –and this new band has already taken some interesting liberties with Steve’s song catalog, particularly cuts off Last Danger Of Frost.

Featuring longtime Zero and KVHW bassist Bobby Vega, pianist and singer Leslie Mendelson, and Steve’s son (and Mike Gordon Band drummer) John Morgan Kimock on drums, the musicians in KIMOCK certainly weren’t strangers coming in. Their chemistry showed. After Steve invited the rest of the band to join him on stage, the band kicked into “Orson,” which is a reprise of “Music Tells a Story Pt. 2 (Twelve is Good)” on Last Danger Of Frost. The tune gets its stage name from a 1955 Orson Welles narration that’s played throughout the song over eastern electronic interludes. In the narration, the filmmaker Welles describes the time he told a story at a Hollywood gala but forgot the ending.

“I continued with the story and I hoped that somehow I would find an ending – somehow find a way to invent one,” Welles explains. “The people were all looking at me very eagerly, waiting for the finish, because they knew that although the story was very boring, it must be boring for a purpose.” In the narration, Welles recalls how his doomed story was eventually cut short (and saved) by an earthquake.

First, I’d like to note that other than the 50-minute set break, nothing about this show was boring. And, the band certainly managed to invent an interesting ending to the story it was telling (more on that later).

But more than anything – more than the synergy between John Kimock’s syncopated drumming and his father’s gorgeous guitar work, more than Mendelson’s soothing voice, or Vega’s funky pocket grooves – my mind has lingered on why this Orson Welles narration was included in the show. Was it about the band searching for an ending to that song? This show?

Although this idea of “inventing” an ending would very much be in the spirit of Steve Kimock’s long history as a great improviser, that particular song wasn’t entirely open-ended. In fact, most of the songs were more structured – a KIMOCK show is a little different than a Steve Kimock Band show in that sense.

About half of the songs played over two sets were versions of Last Danger Of Frost songs. The rest were covers or older Steve Kimock compositions, including a fiery first-set-closing “5B4 Funk” and sultry “Tongue N’ Groove” to open the second set. Kimock and Mendelson added vocals to “Surely This Day” making it a sort of baroque folk tune, while Mendelson took the lead on stirring versions of “Careless Love” and the Jerry Garcia Band staple “Waiting For A Miracle.”

Although the second set in particular had a few songs that were older than 26-year-old John Kimock, it was his timekeeping on a new song that brought the show – and the story of this show – to a close. On Last Danger Of Frost, “My Favorite Number” is just a catchy chord progression played alone by Steve Kimock. But live with KIMOCK, this song was an epic, anthemic closer.

So, as I sit back and look at these setlists filled with old tunes and new, it occurs to me that maybe the Welles narration was referring to Steve Kimock’s career as a whole. The ending to that story is yet untold.

Or, maybe there really wasn’t anything to that narration. Maybe I should have let the “Music Tell a Story.”

Alas, I couldn’t. I listened to the rest of that 1955 BBC show from which the “Orson” narration was cut. Welles goes on to make an interesting observation about the artist-audience relationship:

“...An audience can be a very fierce creature. It can turn suddenly dangerous. That fierceness is generally in defense of the fragile miracle which is expected every evening in the theater. The audience defends that miracle, the artist presides over it. Nobody performs that miracle. Everybody contributes to it. And above all, it must not be treated lightly.”

Ardmore Music Hall is small enough that the crowd can converse with the band from just a few feet away. The fans at this intimate KIMOCK show were convivial, supportive and far from hostile. But, they were “waiting for a miracle” all the same.

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