The String Cheese Incident

On the Road: 04-06-02 Austin, TX

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The final night of three in the String Cheese Incident's Austin run to open their tour is the coming together of all the parts revealed in glimmers in the first two. After an intro by a local food bank and a dumb run through of some of the stage dialogue from the original Woodstock, the band gets down to business with a sublime, nearly transcendent set. From the gorgeous guitaristry of Bill Nershi that commences "100 Year War" highlighting the lilting country overtones underscored by pastoral soundscapes provided by keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth and mandolin and fiddle player Michael Kang, the tune splits itself wide, becoming an exercise in both open country joy and jazzy intermodulation before turning into a Latin screamer called "MLT." Nershi's playing here is fiery, harsh, distorted, and always on the money. Hollingsworth provides dynamic counterpoint, and the rest of band leaves them to it, engaging in subtle but intricate rhythmic interplay of their own. Given the high mark the set opened with, one would expect a letdown somewhere along the way, but this is simply not the case, especially on the trilogy "Way Back Home," "Joyful Sound," and "Cedar Laurels" that close disc two. Here, each musician is engaged in a mode of concentration that keeps the audience close for support, but at the same time holds only the music and the idiosyncratic system of communication that SCI has developed at the fore. Disc three is the longest of the set, and commences with "Windy Mountain" before careening seamlessly through rock, jazz, blues, reggae, funk, soul, and bluegrass on "Freedom Jazz Dance," "Land's End," and "Way back Home," wrapping up the night with "Miss Brown's Home." What transpires on disc three is a miracle in this day and age, even among the super proficient jam bands. Bottom line is, as displayed here, this tour, like so many others, was not merely about going out and playing the best set possible, it was about the soul of the musical machine, the apparatus that invisibly exists between members to allow such an amalgam of tight songwriting, arranging, and,above all, inspired improvisation to exist at all.

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