Tuesday April 16, 2002
By Cory Tressler
in Columbus are usually a lot like Mondays. The weekend is still an
eternity away and most people are settling into their normal workweek
routine. Like all Columbus-ites I am no different, by Tuesday my weekend
hangover is gone and my mind has returned to its normal worker droid
position. But every once in a great while, a Tuesday will come along
and give my week a giant kick in the ass. Tuesday April 16th was one
of those days.
who has ever been to Columbus knows of the unpredictability, and usual
crappyness, of the local weather. Columbus is famous for it's 250
or so days of rain, snain, snow, or mostly cloudy skies. Columbus
has great weather for people who enjoy sleeping or who are allergic
to the sun. But April 16th was far from your prototypical Columbus
day, 86 degrees and sunny by 1:00pm.
This amazing weather was a great start to a Tuesday that I already
had high hopes for. The String Cheese Incident had made their annual
pilgrimage to Columbus, and like always I would be in attendance.
The String Cheese Incident is a music smorgasbord of style and originality.
Their music dives into every region of the music spectrum, and at
any moment they could switch gears and jump into another direction.
Their improvisational music brings flocks of fans with them everywhere
they go, and this year's Columbus Incident was no different.
A few thousand concertgoers jiggled their way into Veteran's Memorial
for a night of dancing that would surpass the beauty of the remarkable
spring day. String Cheese began their set with a mix of bluegrass
and a mix of funk. A firey rendition of the traditional folk song
Midnight Moonlight gave the excited crowd a chance to loosen their
legs up for the long night. Bill Nershi, who plays acoustic Rhythm
and Lead guitar, sang the rising chorus while Michael Travis pounded
out the rhythms on his drums. Michael Travis is like no other drummer
I have ever seen before. His outward appearance is very similar to
Animal from Jim Henson's Muppets. (Animal is the Muppet that, coincidentally,
played drums for the Muppets Rock 'n' Roll Band.) Michael Travis'
drum set includes the standard assortment of cymbals, snare, bass
drum, and some tom-tom's, but it also includes an array of bongos
and other percussion instruments. Because of this expanded drum arrangement,
Travis is able to hold down the time with his left hand and legs by
using the standard part of his drum kit, while at the same time adding
calypso, Latin, and flamingo rhythms with his right hand and the extra
percussion instruments. It is really wild to see and hear him play
this way, he is constantly moving and the sounds are just coming out
of him like crazy.
Midnight Moonlight was followed by the original Cheese funk song,
SKAT. The bass playing of Keith Mosely was fantastic throughout this
extremely funky song. Mosely's playing was consistent throughout the
evening, but during the funkier tunes his playing really seemed to
jump up a notch, this added bass funk gave the entire band the energy
to stretch and jam things out. An instrumental jazz/funk/rock version
of The Beatles Taxman came next. This was an obvious nod to Uncle
Sam and the IRS, being that the day before had been the dreaded tax
day for all Americans. This Taxman was very different from George
Harrison's three-minute pop song, String Cheese dove into the basic
theme and melody of the song and then expanded and explored all the
musical possibilities that laid within the basic framework. The electric
mandolin playing of Michael Kang was extra crisp and inspired. This
jam led the band into another one of their funkier songs, Born on
the Wrong Planet. This song combines all the elements of String Cheese,
giving the crowd an up-tempo funk odyssey to groove along with. The
instrumental jam that came out of Born on the Wrong Planet went on
for about ten minutes and this allowed Kyle Hollingsworth to set fire
to his keyboards. Kyle's chopping organ and tickling synthesizer caused
the entire crowd to vibrate with every note. The Cheese closed their
set with the mellow and jazzy Drifting, allowing the crowd to catch
their breath after a set full of high paced dancing.
String Cheese took the stage for their second set and I could immediately
sense that something special was about to happen. The stage lights
burned their glowing redness upon the stage and a hush came over the
crowd. It was one of those quintessential Rock Concert moments, when
the crowd can feel the band's energy and the band can feel the crowd's
anticipation. Then suddenly, Michael Travis started the familiar rhythm
intro to Led Zeppelin's Ramble On. The crowd irrupted with appreciation
and the Cheese rocked out on Zeppelin's classic tune. Michael Kang
played a wild and raunchy solo on his electric mandolin while the
rest of the Cheese pumped out the backing rhythms. An extremely well
done version of a hard to cover Zeppelin song. The Ramble On jam led
the band into Yo Se. I had never heard this unusually titled song,
but I can't wait to hear it again. Latin/African styled beats gave
this song an instantly accessible and danceable feel. The rest of
String Cheese's set continued to build. They used slower country-esqe
songs to cool the crowd off and more intense jazzy numbers to pump
them back up again. The set reached a climax with the long and rocked
out original, Sing a New Song. The Cheese gathered all of the momentum
that it had been building throughout the night and exploded during
this final tune. Interplayed solos and rhythms bounced around the
over-spacious Vet's Memorial. The band constructed one last musical
climax and then left the stage amidst screams, whistles, and applause
from everyone in the crowd.
The Cheese came back on stage and gave the Columbus crowd one last
song. Round the Wheel capped off a night filled with great emotion.
Virtually every style of music known to man was present at one point
in String Cheese's concert. No style was left untouched and no one
in attendance left unsatisfied. After finishing Round the Wheel, each
member of the band acknowledged the appreciative audience and then
Michael Kang walked up to the microphone and calmly stated, "Not
bad for a Tuesday night." Not bad, not bad at all.