Another weekend of Incidents has come and gone, and it’s still the friendliest group of freaks I’ve witnessed. This time the setting was The Backyard – a spectacular little outdoor venue nestled in the hill country west of Austin, TX. Located about half an hour outside of town and even closer to beautiful Lake Travis, the Backyard is engrossed in natural beauty. The venue itself is wide open, surrounded by and dotted with trees and has been redone in recent years to include a flat surface in front of the stage and a wooden deck towards the back. The walk from the parking lot to the venue was reminiscent of old summer camp hikes from the cabin to the mess hall.
The first two nights of the weekend, and also the Cheese’s Spring Tour, felt special but lacked the mind-bending explosiveness many have rightfully come to expect from this band. The first night was a
special occasion because the band was back on tour again after a harrowing four-week break. How fans were able to endure such a long hiatus, I have no idea. The setting was majestic and everybody was
obviously happy to be there. It was a dreary day, but with two more days to follow everybody knew the clouds would break up eventually. Highlights included the feel-good ‘Na Na Na-ing’of “Joyful Sound” into a rocking Dylan’s “Tom Thumb’s Blues” into “On the Road” to close the first set.
The second night was fun because it wasn’t the last. Fans welcomed the opportunity to ‘go all out’ knowing that no matter what, 24 hours from then they would be back in the same spot with the same friends doing the exact same thing. “Little Hands” stopped everyone in
their tracks and led into the always enlightening “Smile” to close the first set. “Crosstown Traffic,” the first half of an encore that also included “Long Gone,” stood out in the minds of many. But it was
still pretty cloudy.
Saturday morning, Austinites awoke to a beautiful Spring day, and there aren’t many places that get Spring days like Austin, Texas. ‘Heads’ spent the day relaxing at the lake, Bar-B-Q-ing by the pool, or wading at Barton Springs or somewhere else along the
greenbelt. When the time came to head for the venue you just knew something special was in store. The finale, if you will.
By this time everybody knows where the venue is, where their friends prefer to stand, where water bottles are to be refilled, which bar has the shortest lines and which bouncer – the most unobtrusive hands. Everybody recognizes the spider-web t-shirt clad woman flagging cars into the commendable parking lot, and toys spotted the first two days begin reappearing immediately.
Early in the night, the relatively new tune “Inspiration” soothingly set the tone. The second set opened with the addition of Jimmie Vaughan – an Austin icon and a human reminder of the magic little town in which String Cheese had chosen to begin their tour. Jimmie artfully traded guitar licks with Michael Kang and wailed his way through the first two songs of the set, “Boom-Bapa-Boom” and “Black and White.”
The second set ended with a “Land’s End” that transcends explanation. The excitement built as “Turn This Around” slowly and methodically became “Land’s End.” (The magic of the ‘>’). You could actually see and hear small groups here and there identifying the
tune and jumping with excitement as it became clear what was in store. I don’t know how long it lasted, but I know for certain that the last several minutes of the song, the set, and what should have been the weekend were pure bliss. Several thousand ‘kids’ jumping in unison, hands in the air, smiles wrapped around their heads, eyes bursting with pleasure.
The band returned for the encore more quickly than usual and politely asked if the audience would mind them playing an extra set to make up for the set pre-empted by the storm last year at Stubb’s. Apparently the majority of the audience didn’t mind, and the boys began exactly where they had left off last year, with “Jellyfish.”
After the requisite bottle of tequila made its rounds and Bill told his silly story about a girl named ‘Alice,’ the funk got murky. “Midnight Moonlight” followed and after that was a perfectly set “Round the Wheel>Boogie on Reggae Woman>Round the Wheel” to close
the weekend. Dancers shared space, circling each other, moving with energy stored in their reserve tanks. All the while rejoicing to be the lucky recipients of ‘more than they had expected,’ once again.
The overall mood of the entire weekend was joyful. The Cheese brought University of Texas alumni back to their old college town and gave newcomers an excuse to check out this little town about which they’ve been hearing for so long. Everywhere one turned, little
burnt-orange longhorns adorned t-shirts or baseball caps. Groups spoke of how nice it was to be ‘back in Austin’ or how ‘this town really is as cool as I’ve always heard.’
Yes, the Cheese are back on the road, and they haven’t skipped a beat.
JamBase Texas Correspondent
Go See Live Music!
Setlists - from friendsofcheese.com
4/12/01 - The Backyard, Austin, TX
Set 1: Rollover > How Mountain Girls Can Love, Buggin'
Out, Barstool, Way Back Home, Outside Inside > Daryl
Set 2: Best Feeling > Rollover, Let it Go, Indian
Creek, Joyful Sound > Tom Thumb's Blues > Jam¹ > On
Encore: Mouna Bowa, Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms
4/13/01 - The Backyard, Austin, TX
Set 1: Born on the Wrong Planet, Sing a New Song,
SKAT, Up the Canyon, Freedom Jazz Dance, Little Hands
> Jam, Smile
Set 2: Lonesome Fiddle Blues, Cedar > Jam > Sittin' On
Top of the World, MLT, Missin' Me > Jam > Sand Dollar,
Encore: Crosstown Traffic, Long Gone
4/14/01 - The Backyard, Austin, TX
Set 1: Restless Wind, Lost, Inspiration, Hold What
You've Got, Want, Climb > Jam > Rhythm of the Road
Set 2: Boom-Bapa-Boom¹, Black and White¹, Latinissmo,
Take a Little Time, Turn This Around > Jam > Land's
Encore: Jellyfish > Midnight Moonlight, Round the
Wheel > Boogie on Reggae Woman > Round the Wheel
¹ with Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and vocals