West Coast fans of the String Cheese Incident received quite the gift of a three-night run at the increasingly popular Oakland venue, The Fox Theater. While JazzFest pulled some Bay Area music fans down south to New Orleans, many rabid SCI fans were chomping at the bit for an intimate run of shows in a region known for colorful performances and eclectic crowds. Friday’s show demonstrated to a capacity crowd that String Cheese still want to melt some faces, create some new music and generally have a good time with their devoted army.
After rather strong reports of Thursday’s show being above average for the beginning of a 3-night romp, expectations for the second night were understandably high. “Dudley’s Kitchen” opened the show to a gleeful response before heading into “Search”. Michael Kang’s mandolin playing left a little to be desired, but made up for it once he grabbed his fiddle in the second half. As the energy rose in the room a quick segue led into the Bob Marley classic, “Exodus”. The first set also saw the debut of the new Kang song, “You’ve Got the World”, and though it was a decent tune, it began to throw off the flow to this set just a small amount. “Freedom Jazz Dance” was featured before the set wrapped up with “Sweet Melinda” into “Far From Home”. Each member was well represented in this first suite of songs, and they seemed to be be enjoying themselves; as demonstrated through some feverish pogoing from singer/guitarist, Billy Nershi.
Jerry Harrison, from Talking Heads and Modern Lovers fame, was bound to show up at one of these shows as he produced SCI’s latest release, Song In My Head. Well, the second set featured the legendary musician more than once, including opening the set with his 1980’s solo classic, “Rev It Up”. Harrison’s voice cut through the other members in an impressive way, and seemed to elevate the playing of everyone on stage. New track “Beautiful” was debuted to mixed reviews, but in the end is a stellar, upbeat tune that the majority of hardcore fans may come to embrace.
Another longtime spotlight song came in the form of “Sand Dollar”, which demonstrated some patience in their improvised segue into “Rosie” that featured the return of Harrison. A rather impressive suite of tunes closed out the set. “Desert Dawn” led into the final appearance by Jerry as he joined in on Talking Heads, and SCI, stalwart, “Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)”. Cheese generally knocks this song out of the park, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have an original member anchoring the vocals and tagging up with Kyle Hollingsworth for a barrage of kets and synths. The show wasn’t done there as “Desert Dawn” re-appeared and led to one more joyous uproar before wrapping up the second set.
“Black Clouds” was featured as the encore to the delight of the throngs of attentive fans, and Friday closed out in solid form. Though the String Cheese Incident may not do it for everyone, it is truly hard to deny yourself of the good time that their shows bring.