String Cheese Incident, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles- 10/31
*Sex, Live Music and Videotape: the String Cheese Incident Transforms the
Shrine into the Acadamummy Awards*
The String Cheese Incident (SCI) brought its traveling circus to Los Angeles
to spend Hullaween 2002 at the Shrine Auditorium. Billed as the Acadamummy
Awards, the night merged two events, Halloween and The Academy Awards, which
Los Angeles celebrates with a passion.
Fans were able to arrive in limousines and walk down the red carpet, or
simply arrive in any manner they pleased, and walk down the red carpet. A
Joan Rivers look-a-like (or was that her?) was on-hand to comment on guest's
costumes and photographers snapped away, taking pictures for the evening's
best costume contest. Searchlights scanned the clouds, and a small police
presence kept an amused eye on the proceedings.
Like most SCI shows, the crowd lingered outside until show time, selling
various hemp bracelets, glass pipes and beads, tie dyed t-shirts, and
crystals. I'm not sure if anyone took up the offer of a ticket for a large
crystal that one of the kids was suggesting. When he asked me, I replied
that I wasn't sure what I would do with a baseball sized crystal during the
show, and that I didn't think I would even be allowed to enter with such an
Nearly the entire crowd was dressed up for the night. I saw several Hunter
S. Thompson's (always a great outfit) and the mood was definitely gonzo.
Strolling down the red carpet, Joan Rivers recognized 'Janis Joplin and her
date.' I never banked on anyone thinking I was actually Jim Morrison, but
it was cool that the Janis outfit was effective. The only accessories we
had that we don't usually wear to shows were oversized sunglasses.
After opening with Desert Dawn, a new song by Michael Kang, the band played
the instrumental Mauna Bowa and set the tone for a strong night of music.
The strong opening set closed with a beautiful Little Hands that segued into
an extended jam that became Miss Brown's Teahouse. Sung by guitarist Billy
Nershi, this song was a perfect choice for Hullaween in Los Angeles. A tale
of tropical decadence, the song includes lyrics that personify both the
feeling of 'anything goes' present at SCI shows, as well as the possibility
of making new friends on tour.
The Shrine is an awesome venue. Even the fact that the place was cluttered
with seats didn't matter, as the crowd grooved and shimmied to SCI's
rhythmic space-grass. The floor of course was where everyone wanted to be,
but the balcony was the place to be, as it rocked right along with the crowd
and offered the best viewpoints of the action on stage.
Anticipation was high for the SCI's planned 'dead rock star' set of
classics. Before that, the night's master of ceremonies, Rod Roddy, voice
of The Price is Right, introduced the two finalists for "Best short video
featuring the music of the String Cheese Incident." The first video
featured a man wearing a white T-shirt with the slogan "Clear Channel Rules"
opening a refrigerator and grabbing the guys in the band, who happened to be
depicted as five sticks of string cheese. After munching all five heads in
one bite, the protagonists has an alienesque inner body experience and ends
up on his back in the kitchen, our five heroes dancing their way out of his
stomach. If the desired message was death to Clear Channel, I applaud the
production, but as a short video, it was average.
The next video, directed by a fan named Stefan, was nothing short of
brilliant. A maniacal hulaslasher is terrorizing NYC, armed with a
knife-equipped hoop. Excellent hooping, combined with a trancey SCI score
accompanied several well-shot murder scenes. The first is the familiar
shower scene from Psycho, but when the curtain is pulled, we see two girls
getting wet and wild. Who says SCI doesn't have sex appeal?
Another impressive scene was reminiscent of the part in American Psycho when
the lead character tosses a chain saw down a staircase, impaling a hooker.
This time, a couple thinks they have escaped the hulaslasher when they enter
their apartment and run down some stairs. The killer sends two hoops
rolling right behind them though, and they are mowed down before they reach
the bottom. As violent as this all sounds, it was all in good fun, and the
surprise ending was perfect.
After presenting the award for best video to Stefan, Rod Roddy announced
that the group of fans dressed as Oompa Loompa's had won best group costume
and that 'Evel Knievel' had won best individual costume. All the winners
were presented with Oscar shaped statuettes.
The dead rock star band came out next, introduced by Roddy as being
"resuscitated by a team of expert surgeon's in Paris, London, Seattle and
Austin." The crowd roared as Keith (Stevie Ray Vaughn), Kang (Jimi
Hendrix), Kyle (Kurt Cobain) and Travis (Freddy Mercury) walked onto the
stage. As the beat to LA Woman began, Roddy introduced, "From Los Angeles,
California, Jim Morrison" and Billy staggered out, a bottle of Jack Daniels
in his hand.
The last time String Cheese played L.A., they had teased this song, so it
wasn't a huge surprise, but this time Nershi was free to simply sing the
song, and he belted out a great rendition. Kyle absolutely nailed the
keyboards and the band segued in and out of The End as well.
As each member took his turn singing, Roddy presented each with an award.
Stevie Ray Vaughn was up next, and got the "exploding helicopter award"
before turning in a straight ahead rockin' Tightrope. Kurt Cobain was next,
with a surprisingly melodic Smells Like Teen Spirit. Kyle strummed an
unplugged Stratocaster for this song, and in his blond wig, striped shirt
and faded blue jeans, staggered around the stage like he was in an opiate
induced stupor. Jimi Hendrix picked up the Strat next, plugged it in and
blew the roof off the Shrine with a ripping Fire into Voodoo Chile that
climaxed with Kang emphatically smashing the guitar. That's right, a
'jamband' guitarist destroyed a guitar on stage and the tapes of this show will
prove that Michael Kang can indeed tear it up onthe instrument. As tight
as the Hendrix segment was, Freddie Mercury came out and stole the show. We
Are the Champions is not an easy song to sing, but Michael Travis nailed it.
His stage presence was great, he strutted back and forth, and the entire
crowd helped him sing the chorus.
Covering another band on Halloween may not be a new idea, but SCI took the
concept and added its spin, making the evening unique and exciting to
everyone in attendance.
The third set was vintage cheese that the crowd ate up. Keeping with the
theme of having the past, present and future jumbled into one incident,
Rollover opened the set. This song talks about cataclysmic geologic change
that has happened before and will happen again. There was no breaks between
songs, only segues as the band played Don't Say, Hotel Window, (with some
definite teases of You Can't Always Get What You Want by the Stones, playing
a few miles away at Staples Center) White Freightliner Blues and Howard
before a triumphant return to Rollover filled the room with a familiar
energy that SCI always manages to summon for their special shows.
Before the encore, Michael Kang thanked the crowd for making the night so
fun, and invited everyone to the band' next two shows in Vegas. The crowd's
response indicated that many were making the trip.
Without any mention of the tour or show in the mainstream press, rock or
otherwise, and without any radio play, much less a video, SCI has carved out
a niche out West that won't die out when Phish comes back. It's not a
matter of fans liking a certain band more than another band; it's simply
that a few thousand music lovers feel at home on the road, with their
friends The String Cheese Incident.