The String Cheese Incident brought their traveling circus into the beautiful wooded confines of Central Park on Friday night creating a musical frenzy in the heart of the city. Afterwards this island of celebration in the heart of Central Park finished, hordes of smiling people spread throughout the city searching for their fill in late night celebrations.

You couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day, 80 degree temperatures and nothing but sunshine. SCI started promptly at 7pm with a tremendous version of the jazz standard "Birdland," an appropriate opener in NYC. With various musically diverse sections within this song, SCI chose an opener that emulates many of their musical tastes i.e. jazz, bluegrass, funk, and rock, not to mention the blistering peak at the end of the song. "Birdland" has it all. And the NYC crowd seemed really open to let SCI show them what they got. There were some small miscues during some structural parts of the song, but the raw intensity during the peak washed away any doubt. After taking us through this musical ride they settled back into the funk groove of "Miss Brown's Tea House." They just let it roll, catching a deep groove, and riding it out. "Miss Browns" stretched out into funkspace, and was well received by the NY crowd.

After that two song marathon, both the band and the crowd needed to catch their collective breath. "Suntan" followed and was well received, as it was a beautiful sunny day. As usual the song just floated and danced its way through the composition, nothing too complicated or too intense, just a feel good catch your breath song. Followed by one of the more catchy tunes in SCI's repertoire, "Turn this Around," which had some nice jamming and good energy.

Pedal steel maestro Robert Randolph was introduced to his hometown crowd to a warm welcome. Unfortunately his levels in the mix were low, and he was barely audible toward the back of the venue. I moved up to see the action up close, and the sound from the monitors made up for the low levels through the speakers. "Sing a New Song" began this collaborative mayhem, and the sight of these musicians together on stage was almost surreal. There were a few solos traded back and forth between Kang, Nershi and Randolph which was good, but seemed a little constricted. Kyle got in the mix, and the song really began to take flight. Soon they melded into the sweet set closer "Orange Blossom Special," where the energy exploded. Nothing like the combination of Kang's fiddlin' with the screaming licks from the pedal steel of Randolph. This was really hot, and worked the NY crowd into collective insanity. A short 20 minute set break gave us little time to hydrate, rest, and socialize, but who can complain?

The second set began with a surprising choice, "Missin' Me." They jammed it out and took it farther into space than I knew it could travel. Slowly Jean Luc Ponte's beautiful piece "Mauna Boa" emerged, and smiles could be seen throughout the crowd. "Barstool" followed, and it seemed to be odd placement of this short jumpin' tune. "Joyful Sound" was next in this barrage of oddly placed early second set tunes. A reggae groove began to emerge from the darkness, and "Stop that Train" appeared out of nowhere. Absolutely amazing! The song was well played, but the jam out of the end really went into the realm of craziness. When the familiar notes of "Lands End" began, the crowd erupted, and SCI launched into the best jam of the second set. On and on the peak jam at the end of "Lands End" soared. As in the peak of the "Birdland," this jam took the notion of tension and release to insane heights. "Smile" followed, which seemed to begin with a little confusion. I thought I heard a slight move toward "Restless Wind," but "Smile" eventually won out. A great choice of a closer to a great show. An encore of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" brought out Robert Randolph for a second go round. This time he was fully in the mix, and with a little coaxing of Nershi, Randolph ripped up an amazing solo, showcasing his skill on the steel. A perfect way to put a cherry on this sweet night of cheese.

The early curfew set up a few options for a late night festivities around town. There were a few choices, but DJ Harry with Kyle and friends at the Chelsea Pier seemed to be the clear choice. We arrived at the Pier around 11pm, and as we were waiting in line to get in, Kyle walked in and we knew the party was on. It was a festive atmosphere in this perfect venue sitting right on the Hudson River. Kyle played with the opening DJ for a little while... nothing too crazy more or less just textural fills. Soon DJ Harry took over the turntables, and there was also a drummer as well. It seemed to take a while for these musicians to lock up. After about 20 minutes of feeling each other out, the groove began and the combination of man and machine seemed to finally feed off of each other. Once connected with one another the grooves flowed and the place was hoppin'. This continued till 2am with a full dance party atmosphere in effect. Kyle stealthily slid off stage, and DJ Harry began to open up his bag of cheese remixes. "MLT," "Texas," and a few others took us into the night and sent us off exhausted and fulfilled with an amazing night of music in the city that never sleeps.

Jason Gershuny
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 7/22/01]

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