LIVE: Jim “Kimo” West & Stephen Jay @ Colony, 2/28/18
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
While out on tour for “Weird” Al Yankovic’s “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour,” guitarist Jim “Kimo” West and bassist Stephen Jay have been using the off-days for their own “Parallel Universe Tour.” In their “day” job, as part of Weird Al’s band, it’s hard to realize just how outstanding they are musically. In that setting, they not only have to play nearly perfect covers of Al’s spoofs of pop songs, but each is in a completely different style as Al’s reach is quite eclectic. From polka to rap to new wave to whatever, they have to be well versed in it all to make the parodies work as well as they do.
But here was a chance for them to step out from behind and showcase their own musical styles. Fittingly, a day after Weird Al’s first stop in Poughkeepsie, West and Jay made the first stop on the Parallel tour at Colony in nearby Woodstock. As expected, each performed their own sets before combining for a few songs at the end of the evening.
First up, West played a set of his Hawaiian Slack Key guitar. If you haven’t heard of this form, it is basically a set of open tunings that, unlike the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning, form harmonious chord sounds. West is a master at this form. His finger-style guitar playing evoke visions of the Islands, as you can picture sitting on a beach, Mai Tai in hand, listening to the roar of the ocean as the entertainer picks and sings traditional tunes.
Between songs, as he set the guitar in different tunings, he would relate a story behind the coming song, or, slack key guitar in general. Each tuning set the mood and complemented the song perfectly, whether an instrumental or sung. For the last song, West was joined by Jay on bass, which added depth to the music.
After a short break, Jay stepped up to the mic to perform his own original compositions. Not normally known as main accompaniment instrument, the bass is tradionally more of a rhythm instrument that also adds a deeper harmony to others. Jay’s adept playing blended perfectly with his vocals, and it quickly became apparent no other instrument was needed. From standard four-string bass, to eight-string (strung similar to a 12-string guitar where each pair were octaves of each other) to resonator, each added a different sound and feel to match each different song in the mostly soul/funk-style Jay played. West joined in onstage to finish out the evening.
Colony, a newly renovated space whose building dates back to 1929, is a great place to see a show with an upstairs mezzanine seating area that makes for great views from anywhere in the house. Disappointingly, though, there were only about 30 people in a venue that held a couple of hundred just a couple of months before for Reverend Horton Heat. Many of these fans were Weird Al followers who had been to the Poughkeepsie show the night before. Hopefully there were a few who were there to discover two very good musicians who just happen to be in one of the most famous bands around and they tell their friends what a great show they missed.