Kimock’s appearance at Higher Ground on June 11th, the final date of the quartet’s early summer tour, unfolded slowly and surely, much like the bandleader/guitarist’s solos. Upon the doors opening, unobtrusive but nonetheless evocative instrumental music a la Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way floated from the venue’s PA over rows of chairs set up on a customarily empty floor and, as more and more people found their way in, those seats filled as did, shortly into the set, the open spaces on either side of the room.
The progression was as subtly startling as the music coming from the quartet on stage. Early concentration on songs sung by Leslie Mendelson, such as”Careless Love” from the forthcoming Kimock album due in the fall, allowed the band to get their bearings, setting a suitably relaxed, positive tone that pervaded the whole show as it began with Bruce Cockburn’s “Joy Will Find A Way (A Song About Dying).”
As with most of the performance, though, the careful unwinding of long melody lines curling from Kimock’s’ various guitars—National steel, Fender and hollow-body acoustics with electric pickups—retained ballast from John Kimock’s snappy but always authoritative drumming. That pairing allowed bassist Bobby Vega to move around rather than worry about keeping the bottom stable, assumption of a role especially valuable when an interval that sounding like nothing so much as the circuitous intro to the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star” crystallized into that iconic band’s “Crazy Fingers.” Here, as usual throughout the evening, Mendelson’s subdued and deceptively potent vocals not only enunciated Robert Hunter’s well-wrought lyrics, but, in a sense, morphed into the sonic counterpart of his imagery.
Ending the first set with a number so well-received that more and more dancers moved to the front of the stage was just one smart move in a two-part performance with its own almost indiscernible logic. In much the same way, to have Kimock invite guests to sit in early in the second set allowed the ballroom population to grow even further towards the front of the room: the ensuing low-key presence of Pappy from Cabinet and Kat Wright (of Burlington’s Indomitable Soul Band) added novelty that allowed the audience to re-focus its attention.
Which was necessary, since the remainder of the show was a largely instrumental expedition in which Steve Kimock ultimately demonstrated what a brilliant guitarist he is: as he so wisely concluded the first segment with more conventional playing, his use of a slide provided stark relief to his earlier elliptical approach, especially when he proffered more pronounced chording behind Mendelson’s own rhythm guitar.
The genial woman had moved from her position at electric piano at this point, a shift that not only highlighted the deceptive musicality of Kimock as an ensemble, but clarified how the leader’s disarming spoken intro, roughly three-hours prior, had set into motion the creation of an atmosphere as informal and friendly as an impromptu jam in someone’s living room. No wonder the full moon outside the venue shone with such a glow as warm as the air this early summer night.
Photos courtesy of Ross Mickel/Bootleggers Beware Photography