Bay Area Scene: Steve Kimock
Steve Kimock’s Crazy Engine
Santa Cruz CA
Earth Day 4/22/10
Many will tell you that Steve Kimock is “a genius that never really made it big for whatever reason,” I always believed this to be a misnomer simply attached to the idea of “commercial success.” In fact he is the perfect example of a musician doing it for the music and for his own personal growth, not a magazine cover. He has never stood still for very long; crossing all genres on a never ending journey for enlightenment. Bringing together all kinds of musicians for his almost infinite side projects, he has created some of the most deeply enigmatic music ever witnessed by the jam scene. His latest project with veteran organ wrangler Melvin Seals has proven to be one of his most innovative and well received. With his son John Morgan Kimock on drums and the creative and experienced Trevor Exter on bass, this project was one full of potential since inception; which lately has blossomed into one of the best small stage shows on the scene.
Bringing the show to Santa Cruz for Earth Day was guaranteed to be one hell of a shindig, as people around here really like to get down and thank Mother Earth! In Santa Cruz most of the best small national acts come through Moe’s Alley; a little bar across from the hospital and toy’s r’ us, far from the boardwalk, downtown and any other tourist trap. For this reason it is a revered local spot and has been home to many fine acts throughout the years. It is important that it be noted this is more of a bar with a stage than a stage with a bar, as evidenced by the mini electric organ that they brought in for Melvin; and I know from personal experience how difficult it is to separate Melvin from his B-3. Not to mention having more than 2 bartenders with almost 300 people packing the place, should be a no brainer but I guess not tonight.
The first thing I noticed after grabbing a drink, was the variety of folks milling about the place. I’ve been to a few shows at Moe’s and I found this to be the most varied group so far. It never cease’s to amaze me the incredible amount of diversity, openness and kindness that seems to beam from almost every crowd in the Bay Area especially Santa Cruz; not to say this isn’t felt elsewhere, it just seems to be so much stronger on average than much of the experience I’ve had in the Northeast. Kimock having been a Bay Area local since the 70’s knew that his Crazy Engine was not about to disappoint the hometown crowd. He came right out the gate with some amazing high energy licks, I knew from the very moment he played the first note that this was going to be one of “those” Kimock shows. Immediately the crowd erupted into fervor, as I panned the room I could see the week’s troubles melting off of everyone’s face as the ecstasy and excitement of the night gripped their hips and feet. The bluesy twang that Kimock belts out is unmistakable and unparalleled; the peaks and valleys this man DRIVES you through are his catalyst to the groove that he has been perfecting throughout his journey. I have been witness to what some would call a Kimock lullaby set, and this was definitely not one of those sets. From beginning to end there was an energy that did not falter, maybe changed direction for a second but never once slowed down or let up. After getting the crowd riled up they slammed it into full gear with Melvin playing more than “just the tastiest little stuff,” reaching deep to bring out that soulful old school style that’s been such a part of him since he first laid his fingers on keys. Something about Melvin belting out those organ sounds with such feeling, happiness and enthusiasm almost brought tears to my eyes. Kimock was no slouch as he changed things up a bit in response to Melvin’s wildness; slipping into a jazzier form as he laid down some fiery licks more reminiscent of The Weather Report and John McLaughlin than classic Kimock.
Towards the end of a blistering set I managed to pull myself away from the stage for a minute to mingle with some of the locals outside on the patio to see what everyone had been up to for Earth Day and catch some fresh air. After a few more drinks and some interesting stories I ran back up to the stage as the second set started after what was a negligible break and continued running around until I was just about hitting every inch of that dance floor. At one point our section of the crowd all joined in a group wook out that came to be described as the hippie hoorah (we have some really corny people around here.) This connection between a band and its audience is one of the most important aspects of the scene; without it an amazing band can seem flat and a mediocre band can seem downright unlistenable. These guys had that connection in abundance and we were ready to give it up, soaking in every funky blues riff, every slide, every soulful roll of the organ and skilled punch of the bass from Trever with J.M. Kimock on drums driving the band forward as only a son and prodigy together can. The looks that Steve will give you during a show are unmistakable and the smiles from Melvin will light up even the darkest bar; my personal favorite is the fuzzy "o" face Kimock makes when he’s peaking into some truly soul wrenching slide solo.
There were die hard Kimock fans and those that had never even heard of him or Melvin. Regardless everyone, and I do mean everyone was beaming by the end, the cat calls, whistles and all around absurd amount of energy buzzing from the audience yielded an excellent "3 More Days" cover belted out impressively by Trevor Exter which led into a fifteen minute jam fest encore that spun myself and the crowd into an absolute musical explosion. This was the best show I have seen at Moe’s Alley and certainly one of the top five Kimock shows I have ever witnessed, my only regret is not gathering together enough from the crowd for a third set!
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