String Cheese Incident, Nautica Pavilion, Cleveland, 7/14
Upon arriving at the newly renovated Nautica Pavilion (formerly Nautica Stage) I instantly noticed the members of String Cheese playing acoustically in the parking lot beside a peaceful looking purple tour bus. After investigating the pre-show parking lot playing I quickly realized that a bonus acoustic set was not materializing, but rather a music video of the Cheese was being made. About 50 people watched as the band was videotaped playing’ (lip syncing) a bluegrass tune by a funny looking character in a golf cart. They did several takes of the song as the director’ drove around in circles catching all of the staged magic. This was a unique and strange site to see in the lot and it acted as a humorous start to an exciting day of music.
About an hour after the odd video shoot I could hear the familiar sounds of the Cheese coming from inside the venue. A mid-afternoon sound check was an added bonus to the hot and steamy Cleveland day. I found a cool place in the shade and listened to the sounds of “These Waves” slither out of the pseudo-futuristic Nautica Pavilion. After the sound check concluded I continued with the my pre-concert rituals and routines and after a few hours the sweet sounds of the show opening “Cedar Laurels” moved my mind and body into the String Cheese universe.
For the first set I was positioned directly in front of Kang only one person away from the stage. From that spot I could see, hear, and feel all of the energy that was bouncing back and forth between the excited crowd and energized band. After a melodic and extended version of “Cedar Laurels” the band broke into the aggressive “Sing a New Song”. The explosive jam out of “Sing a New Song” led the band to a relaxed and loose jam that finished with Kyle and Travis leaving the stage and Kang, Bill, and Keith playing an acoustic version of the bluegrass instrumental “Wheel Hoss”. This segue from intense electric rock to loose acoustic bluegrass was very intricate and enjoyable. When “Wheel Hoss” finished, Travis and Kyle returned and String Cheese ended their first set with an inspired combination of songs.
Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” started the set ending jamfest. Kyle Hollingsworth’s keyboards were stellar on this version of Hancock’s funky jazz opus. The funk stylings and thick repetitive bass line of “Chameleon” led the band into another song that Kyle really shined on, “Don’t Say”. The jam out of “Don’t Say” resulted in an excited version of the crowd favorite “Black Clouds”. Overall it was a very good opening set filled with loose improvisations and tight funk jams.
After a thirty-minute break the reggae rhythms of “Shantytown” began the second set of String Cheese’s Cleveland dance party. The crowd boogied and swayed as the choppy reggae beats flowed and floated there way into the jazz sounds of “Birdland”. The transition between the two songs was seamless and the crowd applauded as the music hovered around the pavilion’s circus tent styled frame. The groove continued with the brand new dirty’ funk number “The Crusade”. Once again Kyle’s keyboards captivated the audience. “The Crusade” was an evil sounding song that provided an excellent catalyst for the Cheese to really jam and improvise. Hopefully this new song will continue to grow and become even nastier.
The show continued with the smooth melodies of “Emma’s Dream” and then the group concluded their Nautica Incident with Paul Simon’s powerhouse song “Under African Skies” and a rousing version of their ode to the touring lifestyle “On The Road”. During the latter tune, Michael Kang’s electric mandolin came to the fore during this climax.
After some loud applause the Cheese came back onstage to finish the night off with one final tune. During “White Freightliner” Bill, Kang, and Kyle each took a turn at soloing over the song’s melody as the rest of the band pumped out solid rhythms. Thus ended a fine evening during which the band balanced improvisational jams both loose and tight, yielding a fine performance in the city that Rock n’ Roll calls home.