By Kevin Seaman
Two weekends ago, the hippies of the Northeast flocked all the way uptown to the opulent United Palace Theater for the String Cheese Incidentâ€™s first New York performances since 2007.
The last few years for the band have been relatively quiet tour-wise, but by no means have they been lying dormant. Their last major U.S. Tour took place in 2006 with stops in 40 U.S. cities from June through December including two shows in Anchorage, Alaska as well as a stop mid way through the tour at the Fuji Rock Festival in Nigata, Japan. In July of 2008, all the bandâ€™s members converged with their respective side projectsâ€™ at the Rothbury Music Festival in Rothbury, Michigan. The following year, the band returned to Rothbury to make their second and final appearance of 2009, but it would certainly not be their last dance in the magical â€œSherwood Forest of a Dream.â€ This past summer, String Cheese produced and headlined the first annual Electric Forest Festival at Double JJ Ranch (the old Rothbury site) along with a score of other acts ranging from Dubstep extraordinaire Excision to the likes of Greensky Bluegrass and Lettuce. Much smaller and more intimate than its predecessor, Electric Forest has given new purpose to the band which performed as SCI on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, and throughout the weekend with their respective side projects (Emmit Nershi Band, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, EOTO, etc.)
Since the original Rothbury in â€˜09, live â€œincidentsâ€ have been somewhat few and far between, and are coveted gatherings for Cheese enthusiasts everywhere. The first half of 2011â€™s â€œRoots Run Deepâ€ tour has gotten an overwhelming reaction from the fans, and has left everyone along the way begging for more. Set lists have been incredibly diverse and perfectly packed with just the right type of action that the String Cheese crowd craves. The best part about watching String Cheese is that theyâ€™re energy is more powerful and positive than any band you could ever see. The bandâ€™s visible interconnectedness is unrivaled and unmatched. Although they are most often compared to Phish as being a similar type of cerebrally engaging jam band whose fans have notably high SAT scores, their specific bag of tricks is really quite different, and their songs far less cryptic. Do I dare go as far as to say that either is better than the other? I think not. They both are black belts in the dojo that is the Jam Band Community, and creating the guise of a rivalry would simply be in bad taste.
As usualâ€¦.I digress. I always feel the need to give my readers something more than just a review of an album or a concert. If you know nothing about this band, I like giving you some context so that maybe my article will sway your interests. After all, sharing music is my biggest passion. Againâ€¦I DIGRESS.
The two New York shows were unbelievable. Saturday night more so than Friday, but not by such a margin that would in any way discredit Fridayâ€™s show. When fans first piled in to the incredibly ornate Palace Theater, the crowd energy was electric with excitement, and fans were stunned by the amazingly detailed architecture of the theater. The inside of the building looks like it belongs in the Vatican. This is the type of place that I would feel compelled to do push ups in if I spilled a glass of water. Now that I think about it, String Cheese literally â€œtook us to churchâ€ considering that the Theater is most frequently used as a house of worship. If the shoe fits, right? The only problem with this was that alcohol was not permitted inside the auditorium, and only beer and wine were available outside. This however did not stop anyone from bringing theyâ€™re own, and apparently the management had no intention to since the security check was non-existent. I mean completely non-existent. You could probably have brought in a bongâ€¦or a bomb. But Cheese Heads arenâ€™t in to that type of stuff. By stuff of course, Iâ€™m talking about Bombs, not Bongs. The latter I canâ€™t necessarily speak to. Although the venue was all seats, the crowd didnâ€™t seem affected at all as the isles had tons of room, as did the front of the orchestra section. Notable highlights from Friday night included â€œWay That It Goes>Song In My Head> It Is What It Isâ€ to close the first set, and â€œSirensâ€ and â€œRound The Wheelâ€ in the second set. Saturday night, the band really caught fire from the opening notes of one of their most beloved covers- the Talking Headsâ€™ â€œNaÃ¯ve Medloy (This Must Be The Place).â€ Itâ€™s difficult for me to decide what I feel were the â€œhighlightsâ€ here because quite frankly, it reached a permanent plateau somewhere between life changing and cosmically delicious from the very start. Anyway, my personal favorites of the night were â€œMiss Brownâ€™s Teahouse>Chameleon>Miss Brownâ€™s Teahouseâ€, and â€œColorado Bluebird Sky>Rollover>Colorado Blue Bird Skyâ€ from the first set. From the second set, Iâ€™d have to go withâ€¦..the entire thing. Not a moment was spent any less peaked-ly than the one before it, and it was a truly wild ride straight through to the end. â€œLets Go Outside>Restless Wind>On The Road>Betray the Dark>Drums>Joyful Sound>National Anthem>Bumpinâ€™ Reel>Canâ€™t Stop Nowâ€ is just about as good a set of music as I could ever ask for. Jason Hannâ€™s 8-minute bongo-centered drum solo was one of the most impressive things Iâ€™ve seen in some time, and Radioheadâ€™s â€œNational Anthemâ€ was certainly an entertaining curve ball. Not to mention- my favorite String Cheese tune of all time- Joyful Sound. To me, itâ€™s the definition of a perfect song.
Although I promised not to compare Phish and Cheese, I have no doubt that String Cheese has the best fans of any band on the circuit. Of course you still have swarms of smelly hippies, but at least they arenâ€™t violent, too young to feel comfortable partying around, or irresponsible on the whole. You get a much more mature feel at these shows which is a comforting feeling for us seasoned vets. Simply put, it just feels right. The Cheese Heads are a great gathering of likeminded folks respecting everything and everyone around them, and going out of there way to enhance the next fanâ€™s experience. These guys made for one hell of a weekend, and Iâ€™m prouder than ever to call myself one of emâ€™.
On the whole, this was an incredible weekend of music. String Cheese continues their â€œRoots Run Deepâ€ tour in St. Louis followed by three nights at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. To pick up a digital or CD copy of these or any live â€œIncidentsâ€, visit the bands website at www.StringCheeseIncident.com.