K I M O C K, The Chapel, San Francisco: Live Brilliance
Having heard Steve Kimock’s just-released Last Danger Of Frost, I headed over to their show at San Francisco’s hottest venue, The Chapel. I was curious: how would a full band interpret the exquisite storytelling Kimock managed so well in purely instrumental form on the CD? Could the 4-piece combo K I M O C K pull it off live?
Well, yes. They could, and did, with one absolute corker of a show. As it happened, the live show only contained a few tunes from Frost. What the ensemble puts out onstage is a hell of a lot more, and broader, than that.
Kimock knows how to present; there was a flow, a sense of respect for the internal organic logic of how the songs were offered. He began the first set solo, just him with a steel on his lap and a slide ready to go, building an instrumental piece that was as much about him feeling out the acoustics of the room as it was about easing the audience into what was coming. That led into the introduction of keyboard player and singer Leslie Mendelson, and that took things to the next level. Mendelson is a wonderful singer, with a touch on the keyboards that synched with ease into Kimock’s guitar and slide work. Mendelson’s entrance led to a quick story about a lullaby Kimock had written for his two young sons (his “littles”, a phrase which just about killed me), the lovely “Surely This Day”. The song appears as an instrumental on the CD, but the lyrics, simple and sweet, sung in harmony, creates a new thing, a different story. From there, the show went full band and never looked back.
Bassist Bobby Vega is a legend in his own right, and he’s legendary for a reason: he’s one the best bass players alive. Drummer John Morgan Kimock, one of Steve’s older sons, manages to stay tight to the songs’ internal rhythms, even as he clearly show’s that he’s not afraid of his own intuition. Kimock’s compositions tend towards a lot of movement within their structures, and John Morgan never missed a beat or, just as importantly, a pause. There are far too few players who understand the power inherent in those two beats of silence.
They started the full band segment with the old Zero classic, “Tongue ‘N Groove”, and boy howdy, it’s a different animal from the version on Frost. There was a higher energy level here, a stronger pulse – the LP version is warmer, easier, safer. K I M O C K’s live version has the listeners going out of doors into the real world and the weather. It was a standout in an evening full of highlights.
I want to take a moment to talk about Leslie Mendelson, because she was a revelation. They covered a few of her songs, and they all floored me. Two songs, “Careless Love” and “Satellite City”, are band compositions, written together by Leslie and Steve. The killer, for me, was her switching from keys to guitar and fronting the band for “Waiting For A Miracle”. She’s simply excellent up there.
This was a cooker, from moment one. I’m so glad I got to be there for it, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Check for current tour dates, listed below; if K I M O C K is appearing anywhere near you, go. You will be very, very glad you did.
— Deborah Grabien
Tour dates for K I M O C K, Spring 2016:
3/18 Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA
3/19 Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA
3/20 City Winery, New York City
3/23 Stage One, Fairfield, CT
3/24 Bull Run, Shirley, MA
3/25 Levon Helm Studios, Woodstock, NY
3/26 Infinity Hall, Hartford, CT
3/29 The Hamilton, Washington, D.C.
3/30 Opera House Live, Shepherdstown, WV
3/31 Music Box – Cleveland, OH
4/1 Woodlands Tavern, Columbus
4/2 Space, Evanston, IL
4/3 Rex Theatre- Pittsburgh, PA