Wednesday night's String Cheese Incident show was best summed up by Michael Kang, hollering in the second set over the fireworks exploding over Lake Michigan. "Let's all celebrate the longest day of the year! Happy summer solstice, everybody!" The band played like it was the longest night of the year, too, celebrating the warm summer evening with two sets of completely barefoot music, lasting from shortly after six until near ten o'clock.

Wednesday's show at the Skyline Stage, part of Chicago's Navy Pier, was the first of four SCI shows in the Midwest. Thursday they play another sold out show at Navy Pier, and then on Friday and Saturday they are hosting a campout at Devil's Head Resort in Wisconsin, about 45 minutes north of Madison. Saturday guests Moon Gypsies and Natty Nation will play, as well as two full SCI sets in the evening.

The fireworks that light up Navy Pier every Wednesday and Saturday night in the summer lit up the sky, but the band kept the music burning and the crowd spinning in the aisles. Michael Travis laid down groove after groove on drums and hand percussion, and the rest of the band added rich, swirling layers of mandolin, guitar, and organ on top.

The show contained songs from three SCI albums, spanning their broad repertoire of afro-pop, Latin, calypso, and straight-ahead grooves. Among the many highlights was the light and breezy "100 Year Flood," featuring a swooping Michael Kang electric violin solo that soared over the crowd like every long smooth note he played. Travis and Kang traded fours during one of the band's many swooping, drawn out instrumental jams, as did Kyle Hollingsworth on the keys and acoustic guitar player Billy Nershi.

The second set started with bassist Keith Moseley welcoming the cheering fans to the first night of summer tour, after a couple shows at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington earlier this month, and their third "International Incident" held last month in Costa Rica. The set kicked off with "Lonesome Fiddle Blues," a long instrumental journey marked with light cymbals, bouncy rhythms, and a gentle rolling melody that floated in the lakefront breeze. The intensity of every jam built up and came back, and it was hard to tell where one song ended and the next began. "Climb" was another highlight, with the vocal harmonies floating on a slow hypnotic groove that built gradually to a speedy frenzy. The Chicago sky was lit up by fireworks right at the song's peak, and while some gleeful fans ran out to the terrace to dance under the exploding sky, String Cheese answered with a dizzy version of "Smile" to end the set.

The encore began with Michael Travis throwing out a dedication to the fairer half of the crowd. "I just want to thank women," he announced from the edge of the stage. "It's your grace and wisdom that's gonna get us through this. All you men--watch the women!" The crowd agreed and the band answered backwith a beautiful version of Peter Gabriel's "Shaking the Tree," including a random verse of "Like a Rolling Stone," tucked into the middle for good measure, before sending the crowd back out onto the pier. "See you tomorrow!" hollered Moseley. It's gonna be a great summer...

Susie Ochs
JamBase Chicago Correspondent

[Published on: 6/22/00]

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