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Estradasphere rockin'--and splitting their pants--on the road

South by SC

After winning two (count 'em, two) Goldies awards, local faves Estradasphere (who perform at the Catalyst on April 17) also had the honor last week of performing at South by Southwest, Austin's notorious five-day live music extravaganza. While deep in the heart of Texas, they also toured around that behemoth of a state, spending time at BYOB venues with coked-up bar staff (relatives of the president, perhaps?), blowing off toll booths with the natives, throwing flying elbows and body slams at their shows and even spending a night in GWB's hometown of Midland. The band's manager, Poco Marshall, said they delivered 40 minutes of the most powerful music he's seen in a while to a capacity crowd of fans at SXSW. Here's what the finale looks like in the tour diary: "At the end of the set, during 'Bodyslam,' John [Whooley] stripped down to the wrestling suit that he was wearing underneath his clothes, and walked on top of the crowd while singing the song. Very impressive! MTV 2 filmed the entire set, and used a clip as a promo piece for SXSW. A strong showing for the band at SXSW." Congratulations, boys!

The Psychedelic Energizer Bunny

By the looks of things--what with all the Oriental rugs and pretty floral arrangements decorating the stage at the Catalyst last Thursday--you'd think that the Dalai Lama was going to show up ... right after he ate a sheet of acid. Because yeah, there was also that whole psychedelic melting-globule projection stuff going on behind the stage, and a marathon four hours of psychedelic rock from the stupendously talented Steve Kimock Band.

A man of few words onstage, Kimock focuses instead on An Endless String of Improvised Phrases that he peels, like so many lotus blossoms, effortlessly from his many guitars. Legend has it that Kimock's high school principal allowed him to play in the breezeway at school in a desperate attempt to get young Stevie to come to school at all. I don't doubt for a second the claim that he played all the day long, eight hours at a stretch, honing his concentration so that he might meld his emotions with His Guitar-Playing Fingertips.

What's amazing is Kimock's ability to riff around on a single theme for as long as he wants without ever repeating a phrase. Or, well, it's a blessing and a curse. To the untrained, un-Kimock-familiar ear, a lot of the music starts to sound the same after a while: lengthy psychedelic jams with varying degrees of funk, rock, jazz and Garcia-esque envelope-filtered ditties. Sometimes they'd slow it down to a state of blissful relaxation, sometimes they'd speed it up to a shattering crescendo, often resetting the jam with an epic synchronized exclamation, like (bear with me here, I promise to hardly ever try this again ... ) "Dahhh dun, DAHHHHH" that made me realize that contemporary rockers like Dave Matthews and David Gray get a lot of their ideas from Kimock's songs. He played two hours' worth, took a 40-minute break, and then went on for another two hours until he was forced to quit due to city noise restrictions, but I'll be damned if he wasn't ready to go on until every last person's LSD wore off or the sun came up, whichever came first.

Upcoming

In what may quite possibly the greatest match-up of local country and bluegrass Ever, bluegrass badasses Strungover! and indie-alt-country superstars The Devil Makes Three will be at 120 Union on April 19 at 8pm for a mere $5.

Mike Connor

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From the April 16-23, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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