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Eclectic styles power a tribute

Chris Brokaw performed at a 10th anniversary celebration of Kimchee Records. Chris Brokaw performed at a 10th anniversary celebration of Kimchee Records. (Anthony Saffrey)

CAMBRIDGE -- It wasn't quite a Come reunion, but when Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw worked their guitars into a lather on a ferocious cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" at the Middle East on Friday, it felt awfully close.

That powerful finale to Zedek and her band's -- the ensemble now includes bass alongside electric violin and drums -- already magnificent gypsy blues set capped a spirited night of music honoring the 10th anniversary of Ipswich independent label Kimchee. The celebration continues Friday at T.T. the Bear's Place with another line up of fine, eclectic Kimchee artists, including Chris Colbourn and Hilken Mancini, and 27.

The ever-busy Brokaw, who recently finished up a tour with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley's band, Two Dollar Guitar, also guested with Willard Grant Conspiracy, the Boston-bred Americana outfit, more successful in Europe, whose latest album "Let It Roll" will be released in the United States on Reincarnate Music on Feb. 27. Kimchee had hoped to release the record and stemmed its operations this year in order to be ready and resourceful for such a high-profile release.

Clearly there were no hard feelings. WGC, a sextet led by singer and acoustic guitarist Robert Fisher that includes violin and trumpet alongside guitar, bass, and drums, delivered majestic, sweeping songs that were simultaneously as boundless as the prairie and as intimate as a whisper. "The Ghost of the Girl in the Well" paired dusky mariachi undertones with Fisher's plaintive moans; "The Suffering Song" pinned his embittered, sharp vocal with blazing guitars; and the finale, another peak featuring Brokaw, the new, harder "Let It Roll," ended in a dynamic, expansive jam.

Following that, the Paula Kelley Orchestra -- another band featuring violin and trumpet, but this time for flourishes reminiscent of bittersweet Burt Bacharach epics -- added a sassy set of classic pop. Earlier, Heidi Saperstein and her band, the Snow Leopards, opened with catchy, heavy-riffing rock with an '80s, Pat Benatar-ish sheen.

During his set, Fisher summed up the musical patchwork perfectly: "Let's thank Bob and Andy," he said referring to Kimchee heads Bob Dubrow and Andy Hong, "for creating a label that allows misfits to make records."

Related content:
A decade of independence
Bob Dubrow founded Kimchee Records with Andy Hong in 1996, financing the label's first title with $9,000 in profits from a liquor store Dubrow once owned in Beverly. He can't believe the label has made it this far.
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