Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?
You'd think that someone that helps edit a section of this publication would
have it a little more on-the-ball than I regularly do. Despite having two
close friends berate me for the last three years, I still hadn't caught an
Incident (both Seiden and Debisschop were pleased to hear that I had finally
taken the plunge).
Don't get me wrong…it wasn't because I didn't dig their stuff. To the
contrary, I have a handful of shows that are in the regular rotation,
especially 10/6/99 from the Midwest's own Barrymore Theater in Madison. I
loved the vibe, enjoyed the tunes…just really hadn't had the impetus to
set the ball in motion. When I saw SCI was slated to play Veteran's Memorial
here in Columbus, however, I knew that it was time. Though I had never been
there, The Vet is legendary in some circles, specifically for the second set
of the 6/22/94 Phish show. It was with this classic set in mind (and in the
cd player) that I hurried to The Vet after work.
On the drive over, I contemplated the current state of our scene. Phish is
on hiatus with no promise of return (not in the immediate future anyway),
and a handful of acts have managed to separate themselves from the pack for
the attention of the legion of fans that the Popular Rock Band has left in
its wake. String Cheese Incident is undoubtedly the front-runner in this
pursuit. I began thinking that SCI playing The Vet in Columbus was the
completion of a circle that started back in June of 1994 when Phish rolled
through and unknowingly received the torch from the on-their-last-legs
Grateful Dead. Seven years later, it was someone else's turn.
The show itself ranged from stunning to funny to contemplative, sometimes
all three at the same time. I was impressed at the size of the crowd, their
enthusiasm and the familiarity with the material that they possessed. As SCI
weaved from bluegrass to calypso to flat-out free form, it struck me that
they had assembled all of the elements necessary to ascend to the
currently-empty throne: top-notch sound, unique light show (how 'bout those
lasers?), impassioned fans, and most importantly, five guys that can play
the hell out of their instruments. In following them from a distance, I had
already seen that their management was a well-oiled machine, with a great
website and outstanding tour dates.
So it was midway through the first set when I really started to get deep
inside this thing that had been on my mind. Nearly all of the material was
unfamiliar to me, which made things even better, as I was able to be there
and experience the music on unbiased ears. I didn't know if they missed a
change or flubbed a lyric – I only knew that what they were playing was
REALLY good, and that the hype was justified with these guys. I spent the
second set in the balcony, still taking everything in. The band wasn't as
animated I had pictured them in my imagination, and the show wasn't as
upbeat as the Madison show I love, but I didn't care. I fully came to the
conclusion that a torch HAD been passed, albeit without a ceremony or much
In quickly skimming some of the reviews that made their way around the
internet, I found that people were basically positive about the show, and
not slanted to the extremes in either direction. That's when I decided to
skip the "and then they played this, after which they played this followed
by this" review. After all, I gotta think they call these things Incidents
for something heavier than the fact that it goes with the band's name. And
for me, it was…it was something that happened, an occurrence. Sometimes
those things are trivialized with over-analysis.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Definitely not. SCI is not Phish
circa 1994 in any way, shape or form excluding the potential to stay on top
for as long as they want to be. That they are currently the rulers of the
jamband roost seems to be a fact accepted by all but verbalized by very few.
Well, I'm here to say it. Believe what you've heard and read. There's a new
sheriff in town, and his name isn't Reggie Hammond. It's String Cheese