One thing is certain; The String Cheese Incident has found yet another way to bring their music to life with novelty and tact. The On the Road collection, started in 2002, embraces the vision of what SCI extraordinarily brings to the stage. They have pushed the boundaries to create a collection of their most innovative live performances. On November 9, 2010 SCI introduced a spin off of their On the Road series called “Rhythm of the Road” which releases archival shows that have been remastered. Their first release was from a show held at the historical Tabernacle. Incident in Atlanta showcases a combination of groundbreaking originals and unique covers.
“Smile” as an opener sweeps you up with its’ soul hitting melodies. One of the many qualities that cheese exudes is their ability to pull the audience in early during their performance, while delivering pleasant thoughts of what lies ahead. Other highlights from the first disk include a fan-favorite “Joyful Sound” which is remarkably followed by the “Luckie Street Jam”, into “The Orange Blossom Special”, that features Tony Furtado on the banjo. As the set nears closure with Pygmy Pony’s smooth Latin rhythm they really draw upon the audience’s attention when they ease into Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”.
When you can look at a set list and see several of these symbols, (>), the music has really taken you on a journey. A journey that weaves in and out of jams that have little or no break between new songs. The set takes you on a ride during the instrumental song “Impressions” and segues into “The Glory Chord Jam”; a jam in which the listener is reeled into a timeless lap through the sounds of the acoustic guitar and mandolin. It forces the listener to perceive multiple attributes as the synthie symbols and off rhythm piano form an overall contour for the improvisational jam. The continuity of building at the end of this spacious jam renders a feeling of freedom and beauty in the quality of music delivered.
Just when the audience feels a break in this musical journey the band segues into yet another harmonious melody that offers new dimensions through Tony Furtado’s banjo. This Peter Rowen original called, “Midnight Moonlight” continues to build, combining the authentic bluegrass sounds of the banjo, acoustic guitar, and mandolin. As this set or journey rather, comes to an end, the band polishes it off with “This Must be the Place (a Naivé Melody)” by The Talking Heads into another fan favorite original, “Miss Brown’s Teahouse.”
By the third set a listener can only begin to reflect on what the experience of this show entailed. As Nershi strikes the crowd with a smokey intro to “Wake Up” the excitement reaches a utopia. “Wake Up” showcases Bill Nershi’s strong ability as a songwriter and a lyricist. The well versed and metaphorical lyrics allow the listener to embrace the strong message of how we as humans can lose sight of ourselves. I feel the song reached its full potential when it was re-recorded with Nershi on electric guitar on the “Untying the Not” album. Within the final songs of the set, the band graces the audience with a more lax but refreshing amount of bluegrass songs. The set closes with Peter Gabriel’s “Shankin the Tree.”
SCI, who were once described as a jazzlatintino afrofunkadelic bluegrass band, continues to reach a multitude of heights with their music. In 2007 they decided to pursue other musical interests outside the band and take a break as The String Cheese Incident. Knowing, loving and respecting what this band creates on the stage they still continue to come together and bring light to some of their favorite venues including the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison Colorado and Horning’s Hideout in North Plains Oregon. The Archival series really opens the door for the band and its listeners. For the band I see a way to keep alive and remind fans where their music was deeply rooted, and for their devoted fans it is yet another innovative way to appreciate their music. It’s always inspiring to see what lies ahead in the future for this unique and diverse band. After all, between piano, accordion, mandolin, violin, bass, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, drums and percussion, it’s undeniable that SCI creates a carnival of music on and off the stage. To download or purchase incident in Atlanta visit www.stringcheeseincident.com
Written by Marcella Neff