The Hippo


May 25, 2020









When: Saturday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth
Tickets: $25 & $35 at

Family jam
Kimock and son anchor eponymous band

By Michael Witthaus

 Over 40 years and a kaleidoscope of genres, Steve Kimock has made a lot of music. He’s played in multiple Grateful Dead-related projects — Jerry Garcia once called him his “favorite unknown guitarist.” Kimock has collaborated with members of Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Phish, and that’s just a short list.

Despite his many and varied musical endeavors, Kimock said in a recent interview that the key is chemistry. That’s why Kimock — his new band — is special. The group includes his son John Mogan Kimock on drums, who wrote or co-wrote six of nine tracks on their debut album, Satellite City.
“Occasionally you get off into some space where it’s all about the music. ...  It has to be in order to work on some level,” the elder Kimock said. “But to get it done turns out to be 99 percent social. It’s really all about the people involved.  Johnny is to me such a unique personality, as a player and a composer. He got started early, and he’s finding himself now.”
Also in the band is bassist Bobby Vega and singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson. Vega and Kimock met in the early 1980s, while Mendelson, who also plays keyboards and guitar, is a recent acquaintance. 
“I’m friends with Bob Weir, who has this terrible habit of calling me to do interesting things at the last possible minute,” he said. “I’d just got off a plane from Japan and I got a call saying, ‘Come to the studio, we’re gonna do a Weir Here.’ Leslie was one of the guests on the show.”
The two hit it off well enough that Kimock invited her to join his band at a San Francisco benefit show the next day. 
“We had an immediate connection,” he said. “We shared a fondness for songcraft and pop music, which isn’t my normal game. I’m a guitar player guy in the jam band thing — that’s the work pigeonhole.”
Kimock’s love for pop music runs deep, however. 
“My formative listening was equal parts pop and quirky,” he said. “My first three albums were Ravi Shankar at Monterey, Sgt. Pepper and Johnny Winter’s Progressive Blues Experiment. That always stuck with me.”
Were it not for a school-age incident, Kimock might have become more than a guitarist. 
“I suffered the indignity of being told that I couldn’t sing by a teacher after I got up in front of the class,” he said. “It froze me for life, so I played the guitar. If I hadn’t had that experience, it might be different.” 
Mendelson and Kimock worked together on the new album’s title track and three other songs, with support from her longtime writing partner, Steve McEwan. 
Having the opportunity to collaborate on songwriting with someone with Mendelson’s depth was a shift from Kimock’s previous album, Last Danger of Frost, which he called “a very psychedelic, left-of-center kind of thing.”
Kimock ended up with several unused ideas after completing the project.
“I was thinking I could take some of them on stage, even though I hadn’t intended to when I made the record,” he said. “I called Johnny ... he’s good with electronics. I said, ‘This is enough of a clean sheet of paper, I should call Leslie.’”
At an upcoming concert at Plymouth’s Flying Monkey, the band will dip into the new disc; the show is billed as an album release party. 
“But not everything,” Kimock said. “I wouldn’t want to play the whole thing every night. Johnny’s got some new stuff, and we’ll do the occasional quirky pop cover.”
Andy Hess will replace Vega for the show. The bass player has a long resume that includes stints with Black Crowes and Gov’t Mule, in addition to playing in bands with Mendelson and both Kimocks. 
“We’ll do some really nice stuff that people haven’t heard much that me, Johnny and Andy have played before,” he said.
Although his Dead affiliation dates back to Donna Godchaux’s late 1970s Heart of Gold, Kimock doesn’t consider himself a member of that family. 
“I’m a peripheral part; I see myself as part of the San Francisco scene,” he said. “But I get the benefit of those guys’ experience ... in a way that’s off the page for most kind of music studies.”
It’s given him a unique education. 
“It wouldn’t matter where you went to try and learn music, you couldn’t know what these guys know,” he said. “I’ve had the benefit of that, for which I’m grateful — no pun intended.”

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