On October 16th, living guitar legend Steve Kimock put on a stellar performance at The Blockley in Philadelphia, PA. Opening for Kimock and his band was American Babies, a more contemporary jam band with both blues and folk roots, in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Steve Kimock and Friends has a diverse repertoire that spans from reggae and world music to progressive rock and blues. Kimock, himself, has been coined the “Guitar Monk” by Relix magazine because of his amazing ability to rock out like few people can. Kimock is a master of improvisation and listening to him play is like listening to Jerry Garcia’s protege. He pushes the envelope of experimental jam psychedelic boogie, gypsy Prog-Rock, and traditional American/World-fusion, to make beautiful music. The Guitar Monk, earned this nickname not only because of his incredible skills on both the electric and acoustic guitar, but also his ability to play lap and steel guitars with skillful fluidity and comfort. After nearly four decades in the industry, Kimock is nothing short of a legend. No genre, no musical boundaries have defined him — he has the ability to turn anything he touches into gold, seen through the various incarnations and projects he has done over the years. Kimock has always stays true to his roots. Appropriating an amalgamation of influences, stretching across a variety of genres and musical styles, by offering a seemingly effortless combination of musical diversity with a collection world class musicians with whome he shares the stage.
Tom Hamilton, also known as the front man of Brothers Past –an electronic jam fusion band which earned much attention in the early 2000’s- is the frontman, lead guitarist, and lead vocalist of American Babies. With Grateful Dead, Mo-town, and Outlaw country influence, Tom assembled a group of musicians to play music more focused on returning to the roots of rock and roll, and letting room for improvisation come naturally. Tom explains his approach with the American Babies:
“Musically, I wanted to get back to the basics. Get the song right, first. Then worry about the live show and how the music opens up from there.”
On Wednesday, October 16th, Steve Kimock and Friends came to The Blockley for perhaps the funkiest and grooviest night of music The Blockley has seen this Fall. Kimock was accompanied by his son, drummer John Kimock, bassist Ron Johnson, and on keys the famous Bernie Worrell of the Talking Heads and Parliament Funkadelic.
The show started out with a seemingly fitting “Philadelphia Mambo” after S. Kimock personally welcomed everyone to the show. He then cracked a joke or two and explained that, because he was in Philly, the band would now start with “Philadelphia Mambo.” You could truly feel the warmth in his voice and the intimate relationship he has with his fans.
Next up, was an untitled, new song, which started out with a very mellow feel. You could tell everyone in the band was trying to get adjusted. After the new song, the crowd could tell that the band was locked in and ready to bring the funk. Kimock’s nonchalant demeanor and energy on stage is always contagious when he performs. It seemed as though the entire venue was extremely relaxed, ready for a night of some quality music from a music legend.
“Tastes Like Chicken” (TLC) was up next, followed by “Hey Man” and “There’s Gonna Be Butter.” All of these songs offered a relaxed vibe with copious space for steve to explore his improvisational skills. Set One was a bit more relaxed than Set Two as the band tried to find their groove, and boy did they find it! Set One ended with a beautifully executed “Scarlet Begonias” cover featuring Tom Hamilton from American Babies on guitar and vocals. “Scarlet” had some serious peaks and Hamilton was definitely not afraid to take charge with the vocals. I was really happy to see one of my favorite local musicians share the stage with a local guitar legend.
Set Two offered a lot more energy and funk as well as some more flexibility in the exploration of Kimock’s improvisation. The set opened with some great slide action, getting particularly dreamy towards the end of the jam. The jam was flawless and the slide added just the right amount of blues to a more upbeat and blissful first jam. The slide also perpetuated the seemingly endless variety 0f tones, soundscapes, and dimensions Kimock creates.
Camille Armstrong was then invited to the stage, where she played assorted percussion and contributed extremely soulful vocals for the rest of the night. She immediately asked everyone ,“You got your dancing shoes on?” Armstrong and the band started with “Red Hot Mama,” which was full of funk and soul, and quickly the rest of the night became an entirely funk-fused jam. “Red Hot Mama” allowed Armstrong to really wow the crowd with her powerful, soulful voice. Worell joined in on the chorus, making the song extra funky and leading up nicely to his amazing keyboard solo.
“Many Rivers To Cross” is a beautiful blues ballad jam with a very mellow, slow dance feel to it. This song allowed Kimock to really express his beautiful bluesy twang. Bernie took a nice keyboard solo and everyone could feel the energy in the room. Camille went from humming the song to belting out some extremely powerful and soulful vocals. Camille was certainly in spotlight during this song.
The band was on point. Worell offered vocals like only he can, Kimock provided a dreamy soundscape, and Armstrong’s voice complimented Worell’s perfectly. Everything just seemed to click during this tiny show at The Blockley.
Kimock really took every song during this show to the next level and added a new element of both funk and completely bizarre but intricately developed sounds. See a little bit of this for yourself, and then check out the setlist below!
SETLIST AT THE BLOCKLEY
Tastes Like Chicken (TLC)
There’s Gonna Be Butter
Scarlet Begonias w/ guest Tim Hamilton on guitar/vocals
Stella Blue Jam
Red Hot Mama w/Guest Sim Cain on drums
Many Rivers To Cross
Take Me To The River