The String Cheese Incident

On the Road: 04-04-02 Austin, TX

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Boulder's phenomenal String Cheese Incident 2002 tour documentation project is ambitious: It encompasses at least<\it> 19 multiple CDs documenting a tour that began a few months before the first of these sets was issued! This is the first date that was recorded on that tour. The packaging is spare, but hardly bare bones; the pricing is discount; and the sound quality is phenomenal. What's more, the band has, unlike their pals Phish, done this out of their own pockets without the backing or promotional budget of a major label. The music performed here -- unedited or doctored in any way -- is nothing short of awe-inspiring on most of these dates. A notable thing in the package is that this set is a double- and not a triple-disc. The price was adjusted accordingly -- all of these are very inexpensive -- but there is no sacrifice in musical quality whatsoever. Musically, the Austin date -- this being the first of three shows recorded in that town -- was uniquely characterized by the lack of covers the band did. They stuck mainly to their own material, and, as a result, the improvisational communication and quality was high right from the git. Beginning with Kyle Hollingsworth's "Dirk," the tune left its skeleton within three minutes and opened up into a driving, searing workout between guitarist Bill Nershi and bassist Keith Moselely, and Hollingsworth with drummer Michael Travis double- and triple-timing the trio to push them further out onto that limb. The tracks are shorter in this set, and feature well-known staples such as Moseley's "Resume Man" and Nershi's "Outside Inside," as well as a two-part stellar cover of Vassar Clements' "Lonesome Fiddle Blues." Disc two has the band at their most playful and adventurous; it kicks off with the spaced-out funky swagger of "Jellyfish" and moves through the driving rocker "Turn This Around" before slipping off into the acoustic guitar and percussion-propelled Cuban jazz shimmer of "Buggin' Out." The band's intensity grows on both "Rhythm of the Road," with its stunning bassline and six-string interlocutions, and the phenomenal open ride through "Restless Wind," one of band's most satisfying live tracks. The set ends not with an SCI gem, but with an amazing cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" with actor and Tenacious D frontman Jack Black on vocals. Sure, it's more than musically competent; it's deeply satisfying, the way the keyboards, bass, and guitars stitch around each other in the middle eight, but Black sings the tune as if he means it! He turns what could have been a parody ending of a great gig into a wondrous surprise party.

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