Rat-a-tat: Drummer makes the show

The Steve Kimock Band
Starr Hill Music Hall
Sunday, November 7

Sunday shows at Starr Hill always start earlier than usual. In the past I've sometimes forgotten that. I usually arrive an hour late, missing the first act, or showing up just as the main act is finishing their first set.

But I made a point to arrive at Starr Hill early to see Steve Kimock. Apparently I was one of about only 10 people who remembered about the early show time, because upon my arrival the venue was nearly empty.

I caught word that the band was going to postpone the start of the show for an hour to allow more people to show up. I skirted downstairs to check more Sunday football on the high definition television in the restaurant. HDTV is quite a phenomenon. I tend to be a skeptic about a lot of technological advancements, but after watching one quarter of the Baltimore game on that television, I became a true believer. Sure, the gizmo probably cost about a grand more than the one I have at home, but the money definitely made a difference. I'm not even a Ravens fan, but I enjoyed the game because it looked so good.

The clock crept around to 9:45. I was just getting restless when the band came strolling out of the back. By this time the venue had filled to maybe half capacity. Without saying a word, Steve Kimock sat down to his lap steel guitar and slid out a few crisp-sounding notes to introduce the first song, a mid-tempo Americana piece that brought almost everyone to the front of the room.

Right away, I noticed something different about Steve Kimock and his band– not so much in their appearance, but in the way they sounded. Every note was audible and defined. The bass was booming but not overpowering. The drums sounded nothing short of phenomenal. The toms rang out like cannons and the kick drum sounded like the battering ram connecting with the gates of Mordor in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Massive.

I asked my buddy, who's house soundman for Starr Hill, what the deal was with the awesome audio. He quickly pointed out the gear the band was using and noted that it was nothing but the best. The drums were studio customs and the amps, as well as the guitars and basses, top of the line.

"When bands like this come through, it makes me feel good about the system in here. These guys just have the best stuff and they know how to use it. It makes doing sound easy," he said, nodding to a hypnotic calypso groove.

Steve Kimock seemed to be in another world as he performed. His eyes almost never looked past the invisible wall between the audience and the stage. As a matter of fact, he glanced up at his bandmates only to signal changes, all the time with his lids half closed, watching his own fingers dance over the strings in perfect time with the rhythm guitarist. He was either bored or possessed. I couldn't tell.

Whatever, he sounded good. The highlight of the evening had to be the drummer. He couldn't have been more than four feet tall when he stood up, but when he sat down at that massive kit he played like a seven-footer. He was the big man in the game. His fills were big, his rhythms complex. I'm temped to say he would give Stanton Moore of Galactic a run for his money. At the end of the night, for me, it was all about him.

Yeah, Kimock and company can string together some sweet melodies and sharp funk syncopations, but the drummer really stole the show.

There were moments when the band got a little too down-tempo and nearly put me to sleep. Then again, I was already tired. Nevertheless, the Steve Kimock Band really rocked the house. There have been few bands in Starr Hill with such impressive sound quality. They were equal parts incredible players and top-o-da-line gear.

It was like the HDTV downstairs: so crisp I had to keep watching.

The Steve Kimock Band