Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sometimes you get THE show ...

Sometimes not. While I enjoyed Steve Kimock Crazy Engine's session at Asheville's Orange Peel on November 12th, and the friends with whom I went, both of whom had seen Kimock in various bands before, had a good time, not everyone was ecstatic. Long-time fan David Riddle, for instance, decidedly was not:

Musically, this was probably the low point in my Kimock career. That's not to say that it was bad...because it didn't feel bad, per se, but there was pretty much no emotion whatsoever. It was as unimpressive a band performance as I've seen in a long time. There was just no energy at all. Kinda weird really...but whatever, better luck next time right?
... there were absolutely no IT moments. Regardless of my past shows and interest in Steve's career, the one thing that has always been a constant is some moment during the show where he takes you on a trip that melts the flesh, and has you floating in a sea of sonic bliss. This show didn't get close. That's a first for me personally...
The weirdest part of the night was probably whenever Steve took the mic and said, "Well...normally this is the time of the night where we say goodnight and walk offstage." They'd played 8 songs and had been on stage for roughly 75 minutes. That was a true "what the fuck" moment for everyone there. Trevor and John were standing up and looked to be thinking setbreak...then looked entirely confused. Steve then said something like, "we're just gonna play a little more and then walk off". Somehow they stretched it til maybe 10:45 and got two hours out of the set, but the whole scene after that was just weird....and I don't think that's subjectivity either...it was palpable confusion. The venue's curfew was 1am and people were just starting to wake up. We were on the street looking for something to do by 11pm.
The relative shortness of show was weird for me, too, since every Kimock show I've ever been to, aside from festival sets, has raged on for a good hour longer.

So maybe the band had an off-night. Bands do that. That's one reason that, back in the day, even I, not a tour rat, would try to catch a couple of shows when the Dead were nearby; and the Dead, during the later stages of their odyssey, made it easy to catch multiple shows by playing two and three night stands in major cities. You were almost certain to get a few IT moments, as Dave calls them, out of the run.

And the Kimock band seems to have taken things up a notch the next few shows, and got rave reviews on the Kimock list for their performances in Charlotte and Atlanta. I'll keep an eye out for them on the Live Music Archive; so far there's no recording there of the Charlotte show, and the Atlanta recording is missing the second set. Oh, well. Hopefully another will turn up.

And, for now, I'll just wait for next time.

Photo: Steve Kimock Crazy Engine at the Orange Peel. L to R: Steve Kimock, John Morgan Kimock, Trevor Exter, Melvin Seals.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Auricular festivities

A note from Tony Torn reminds me that tomorrow night's the next Auricular Hour:
The Marshall Auricular Hour music and literary series returns to Downtown Marshall NC, with a reading by Local Poets Laura Hope Gill, Rose McLarney, and Local Novelist Ed Krause on Tuesday November 17th at 7pm, at The FBI, 68 North Main Street in Marshall. The performance will be followed by a reception and book signing down the street at Lapland Bookshop & Arts, 147 North Main St, Marshall. Refreshments provided by Zuma Coffee.

THE MARSHALL AURICULAR HOUR marks the partnership of three cultural destinations in Marshall, North Carolina, thirty minutes from Downtown Asheville. The FBI (The French Broad Institute of Time and The River) is an arts venue and residency program founded by poet Lee Ann Brown and actor/director Tony Torn. Lapland Bookshop & Arts offers new and gently used books and select handcrafts in a storybook cottage setting. Zuma Coffee is Marshall’s meeting place for Coffee, Tea and Fresh Baked Goods.

Laura Hope-Gill is the Executive Director of the Asheville Wordfest Media Outreach Project, a poetry project which includes an annual festival as well as public access television, public radio, and internet presentation of poetry. Her book The Soul Tree: Poems and Photographs of the Southern Appalachians, which is a collaboration with photographer John Fletcher, is currently available from Grateful Steps Press. She offers classes and one-on-one support in creativity and poetry [at] the The Healing Seed (www.thehealingseed.com).

Rose McLarney works for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, and is completing her MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College, as well as a collection about changing landscapes. She is WNC Native living in Madison County, NC.

Ed Krause is the author of two novels published by Parkway Publishers, Our Kinfolks and Our Next of Kin, both set in the mountains of Western North Carolina. He has been practicing law in Western North Carolina since 1973. Ed will be reading selections from his upcoming third novel.
Missed all of the summer Hours, so I'm glad this one's not in conflict with anything else I have to do. And I'm in town. Don't know Ed's books, but I do enjoy Laura's and Rose's work; they've both been Wordplay guests, of course, Rose as recently as November 1st, and Laura was a co-host in the '06-'07 season. Should be well worth the drive down the river.

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Pastures of Plenty ...

no more. Josh Harkinson takes a look at the condition of California's Central Valley, hard hit by both climate change and the Great Recession, over at Mother Jones. Not good times in the Golden State. Do give it a read.


Photo: Dead cows left on the side of the road next to a dairy, by the well-named Ken Light, from the article.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Steve Kimock: Further Adventures

Before this March, it had been over three years since Steve Kimock had hit the road to tour with his own band. Fortunately for those of us who lurk in this part of the world, he closed out the last tour of the Steve Kimock Band in 2006 with a series of gigs in North Carolina, one in Asheville, and the last, a few days later, in Carrboro, only three and a half hours east by interstate. As I mentioned in a post at the time, they were excellent shows.

Since then there have been many sit-ins and one-off gigs, jams and shows in various repeated configurations, more shows, up until the death of horn player Martin Fierro, integral to Zero's sound, with his old band Zero than any time since 1998, and lots of good playing. Very little of it, though, occurred in the context of Kimock's own material, which is, for me, where he best displays his gift for the architecture of sound.

The most interesting of his various recurrent gigs, for me at least, Grateful Dead fan that I am (or was; I have to admit that I've put their work aside for the last few years. So much music to explore, so little time), have been his performances with various former members of that band. He was an integral part of the Rhythm Devils during their tour in the summer and fall of 2006, along with Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mike Gordon, and during the summer and fall of 2007 he toured with Ratdog, Bob Weir's band, filling in for Mark Karan, who was undergoing treatment for cancer. He toured again with Hart in 2008.

Hart appreciated Kimock's strengths as a player, of course; they've played together in various configurations through the years. The context of the Devils, though, with its emphasis on percussion, didn't often give him room to stretch out.

Ratdog proved a more congenial context. In fact, Kimock sometimes transformed that band's sound. Weir said that he found himself astonished five or six times every show, and if you listen to the shows, you'll hear why.

In the summer of 2008, the Mickey Hart Band included more players on strings and keys, and proved a fine context for Kimock's style of extended playing. Their July shows are still worth a listen.

Curiously, before working with these post-Dead bands, Kimock had little relation to the Dead's material. He wasn't a Deadhead; he had his own work to do. And when he helped form Zero, it wasn't to play Dead material. The Zero songbook was much less rooted in Appalachian Americana, more bluesy, and their playing, initially driven by the guitars of Kimock and Quicksilver Messenger Service veteran John Cipollina, sounded very little like the Dead's, even if both groups explored the boundaries of small band improvisation.

During Mark Karan's convalescence, Blair Jackson interviewed him and relayed this recollection at Dead.net:
Kimock's been playing the Dead material now for years, and has played with almost every band that's emerged from the Dead family, from Missing Man Formation, The Other Ones, Phil Lesh and Friends, to the current incarnations of the Rhythm Devils and Ratdog. He may not have been so well versed in the material initially; Mark Karan said awhile back that Kimock often got credit for his work when they were both in The Other Ones.

That tour with The Other Ones went down in 1998. By the next year and the 1999 incarnation of Phil Lesh and Friends, though, there's no disputing that Kimock's playing on Dead classics was magisterial and magnificent. Listen, for instance, to the version of the Dead standard "Terrapin Station" from 10/23/1999 (but give yourself plenty of time, since it's forty-five minutes long - and worth every minute. If you're too busy for the whole song, hang in through the twelve minute mark for an extra-tasty ensemble transition ). The jamming is sharp and tight, and offers a richer development of the song's motifs, especially the later, Terrapin-proper, ones, than any other version I know - including, even, any ever played by the Dead. Paul Barrere (of Little Feat) plays wonderful counterpoint to Kimock's "anti-gravity guitar"- that's Phil's description - and Bill Payne (also of Little Feat) complements the guitars with powerful and tasteful playing on keys.

Still, the material in which Steve Kimock is most at home is his own, and the tour with his new band, Crazy Engine, featuring Melvin Seals on keys, Trevor Exter on bass and vocals, and John Morgan Kimock (Steve's son) on drums, gives those of us who are his fans new cause to rejoice as we prepare for transport on the waves of sound Kimock generates with his guitar.

Steve Kimock and Crazy Engine play the Orange Peel Thursday, November 12. Doors at 8:00, show at 9:00 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door.

The video features a Crazy Engine version of Kimock's composition "A New Africa" from July 25.

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