Please help us in welcoming Lewis Tezak, Jr. a freelance photographer from Niagara Falls, NY and the review writer, Tyler Hypnarowski. -ed.
Wednesday evening at the iconic Tralf in Buffalo’s theatre district, a modern day “supergroup” entertained a crowd which to my eyes appeared to include about 250 attendees. This assembly of all-star musicians was not CSN&Y, Blind Faith, or the Travelling Wilburys. In fact, it is safe to assume that most music fans have likely never heard of any of the four musicians who make up Steve Kimock and Friends. The band is fronted by Steve Kimock, the Pennsylvania born guitar guru who started to gain a following in the early 80’s when he co-founded the Bay Area rock band Zero. Since then, Kimock has played in bands with all four surviving members of the Grateful Dead both individually and collectively, including a stint with Bob Weir’s RatDog in 2007, while still maintaining his own musical identity with solo gigs and tours.
Just as accomplished a musician, the group’s keyboard player Bernie Worrell is a well respected founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic who later toured and recorded with the Talking Heads through much of their prime years. Playing bass was former Black Crowes and Government Mule bassist, Andy Hess. Holding down the drum kit was Wally Ingram, a musician with a very impressive resume that includes being a member of Timbuk3, and bragging rights for making music with names such as Eric Burdon, Bruce Hornsby, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal and many others.
The mood of the evening was set upon walking into the Tralf, with candle-lit tables sprawled across the normally wide open floor. The crowd, which was filled with Grateful Dead t-shirts and jam fans, did not seem to mind that these tables were in the way of what many of them were originally hoping was their groove space and dance floor. The expected festival like atmosphere was instead welcomingly replaced by a low-key ambience that almost resembled an old school jazz bar or speakeasy. From the opening guitar licks that started around 9:15 to the final goodbyes just after 12:30am, all eyes and ears inside the Tralf were fixated upon the stage where the band played instrumental (although Worrell took vocals on a few tunes,) improv-heavy songs which featured shades of reggae, blues-rock, jazz and psychedelia.
With his name atop the bill, Kimock journeyed the music through soaring climatic heights as well as softer, ambient grooves with songs such as A New Africa, Crazy Engine, Tangled Hangers and In Reply, the latter of which is a rare gem and was much appreciated by the diehard Kimock fans in attendance. Although he is the de facto leader of the group and did all the talking to talking with the crowd, Kimock left ample opportunity for his friends to shine. As mentioned, Worrell sang vocals on a few songs as well as induced his funky organ sound into the music and took a few blazing solos. Ingram kept the beat all night and his performance was highlighted by a two or three minute drum solo during the second set. Andy Hess, just like his days playing alongside Warren Haynes in Government Mule, kept it simple yet still managed to make himself perhaps the most noticeable player on stage at some points of the evening. Hess is arguably rock’s unsung hero of the bass guitar of the last decade, and he only continued that reputation at the Tralf.
So while none of these guys are household names or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (Okay, well Bernie is,) fans of this music certainly know who they are and appreciate their talents. Collectively, this “supergroup” is about as tight of a four-piece rock and roll band you will find these days. You would be hard pressed to come across anyone from Wednesday’s crowd who would disagree with that statement…
May 16th 2012 – The Tralf – Buffalo, NY
Nana’s Chalk Pipe
54-46 (Was MY Number)
A New Africa
You Can’t Do That ->
Super Stupid ->
You Can’t Do That
Five B4 Funk (with raga intro)
Long Form Part Four (with Love Supreme tease and drum solo)
Tongue n Groove
Red Hot Mama