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Monday, April 28

Review and Photos: The String Cheese Incident - April 25th, 2014 - The Fox Theater - Oakland, CA

The hype has been building everywhere about what The String Cheese Incident has been up to. After an epic Halloween and New Years Run, they took to the Mayan Riviera for an International Incident all while spilling the beans on their new album, which comes out tomorrow. Being their first studio album in 9 years there's no wonder the excitement was high and even though most all material from Song In My Head has been previously played at one show or another it still shows the growth of a band with a new found direction. With this album, the direction was that of producer Jerry Harrison. (Talking Heads).
 The Friday night show was the 2nd in a three night run but they had played earlier on Thursday at Amoeba Records in San Francisco so it was sorta like a four show run in the Bay Area. The energy inside the beautifully ornate Fox Theater was high and the fans were noticeable cheerful per the usual before the lights went down and this band of brothers with roots that really run deep jumped quickly into their bluegrass-Americana tune "Dudley's Kitchen". A great opener which seamlessly melted into a the calypso themed "Search". The room was lit up with a bouncing light show that twirled in rhythm to the beats and as the crowd followed in String Cheese Fashion! "Exodus" was slowed down a bit with an extended intro and outro with heavy reggae beats throughout, it was shaping up to be an in your face amazing first set. With Kang on the violin playing back and forth with Nershi there was a feeling of purpose behind the music the type that your body cant find a reason not to move to it.
The set moved forward with with the first song off of the new album, the well played "Betray The Dark" with Kang leading the way on vocals and electric guitar it opened the door to the spectacular end run of the opening set that including non-stop jamming from "Lonesome Road Blues", "You've Got The World", "Freedom Jazz Dance" and "Sweet Melinda > So Far From Home". The jamming was tight between members and the set while exceptionally long felt as if it passed in mere minutes. The highlight coming somewhere between "You've Got The World" and "Freedom Jazz Dance" when the drums and bass led the way and the tenderness of the beats bomb blasting the room overstepped into another world of pure electronic psychedelia.
The second set was where the real nectar of this great performance was to be found. Jerry Harrison came out with the band, as he had done previously at the Greek Theater not too far from here in July 2012. The "Rev It Up" they played was electric with illumination as the entire crowd was doused with strobe lights and twirling colors of every imaginable rainbow.
The kept the segue going playing "Beautiful and "Sand Dollar", the later of which built slowly out of the jam ending to "Beautiful". With a rolling feeling coursing through the crowd now the shared energy was that of satisfaction, and the music being made from the beautiful stage, bookended by it's Golden Buddhas, was that of purity, it was a moment to exhale and take in Kyle Hollingsworth's as he owned the keyboard, moving from one end ot the other sprinkling the air with chords of joy.
Next up was fan favorite "Rosie", which is also on the new album and again Harrison joined the band for the song as they took the second set into the ethers of a whole new realm. "Love Is Like A Train" and then a totally blissed out "Sirens > Desert Dawn" And then it was time for the high-light of the second set as Harrison came back up in the middle of this four song jam as they eased into the oft covered "This Must Be The Place" (Naive Melody), of course by the Talking Heads.
 On guitar with Kang, Nershi and Harrison running up the middle of the stage this up song took on a direction of it's own as they played together as a team who had been comfortably at each other's sides for years. It wound down, by seguing back into "Desert Dawn" leaving the room full of cheers and the smiling sextet of 21 years abundantly excited by the nights show.  The Buddhas would agree.
The direction that The String Cheese Incident is taking now is one that in theory they've always took and that's doing something new but keeping the good and the old ready at their side to intertwine when needed. They are taking off on a new journey, one where they are clearly content with their music and happy to share it at a new level one that will only write another chapter, an even grander one in the book that makes up this always fun, incredibly talented band's repertoire.
Words: Sammy Martin
Photos: Jason Charme
 ©Grateful Music LLC