The String Cheese Incident / The Disco Biscuits, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA – 10/29-30
Photos by Brian Spady
One night after the Disco Biscuits played at Norfolk, Virginia’s NorVa Theatre, they joined the recently reunited String Cheese Incident at Hampton, Virginia’s Hampton Coliseum for SCI’s annual Hulaween Incident; this is the first time either band had played in Hampton, Virginia, let alone this legendary location. Although the Disco Biscuits only played one set at The Hampton Coliseum, SCI would go on to play 5 sets over the two-night run (their final shows slated for 2010). Before getting into the particulars of Hulaween 2010, it is necessary to comment on the venue, a place dear to the heart of eastern Virginia natives and rock/jam fans alike.
For me, coming to this venue is akin to coming home; it’s the kind of place where I am confronted with ghosts everywhere I look. Being a Hampton Roads native, this is where I saw the circus, the Ice Capades, and monster truck rallies as a child – mid and late 1980s. It also served me through my college years, bringing The Other Ones and Phish ( Hampton Comes Alive was recorded here) my way. Now, the Disco Biscuits and String Cheese Incident have helped create some adult memories. That said, the Coliseum’s history is much more musically relevant than simply my own encounters, having hosted The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, the list continues…
The venue looks very much like a U.F.O. on steroids, at least what I imagine one might look like, so it has garnered the nickname of “The Mothership.” A more accurate description (one that might help you better visualize) would be that the venue looks like an insanely gigantic coffee filter. All of that aside, this is a venue that has hosted many hours of great music through the years, even if it is currently generally relegated to shows like The Ringling Brothers’ Circus and more monster truck rallies, as most groups make stops at modern and conveniently-located (when long tours are considered) venues in Richmond, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake, Virginia. Any time a band decides to call The Mothership its home for a night or two, I cannot help but to get excited for the chance to meet again.
Back to the main event… as various costumed creatures (a great Mad Hatter, the entire Ghost Busters team, the Burger King himself) mingled on the Coliseum’s floor, The Disco Biscuits took the stage for the opening set of this year’s Hulaween, and I was a little taken aback by their show of testosterone. I have enjoyed the Biscuits over the years but tonight their approach was a bit too brazen for my tastes. Not to say they played badly, but I didn’t expect the show of force as they tore through Astronaut” > “Spacebirdmatingcall” > “Astronaut.” Their seemingly short set (even with my complaints, I could have gone for more…) concluded with “Little Shimmy in a Conga Line” > “Basis for a Day,” as the saloon inspired keys sedated the vibe before kicking the band back into overdrive. In the crowd, we were tossing around the idea of a Cheese Biscuit crossover, but it never baked up for us.
The rest of the two-night run would belong to the String Cheese Incident. SCI pulled out some of their choicest tracks through the first night’s remaining two sets. They began with a bit of foreshadowing by playing Keller Williams’ “Best Feeling,” and I was delighted to be able to catch a breath and vibe through the reggae tangents. “Best Feeling” located “Texas,” a song celebrated by the crowd, before linking up with “Daryl.” In a nod to the venue’s nickname, Bill Nershi said, “we’re going to get this spaceship off the ground tonight!” Maybe the place didn’t actually take off on the first night, but I’m pretty certain it did lift at least a couple of inches off of the ground during the second night (maybe it was more, but I’ll get to that…). The first set ended with a steaming rendition of “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” > “L’il Liza Jane” > “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” that deserves a listen if you stumble across a recording.
Night one’s final set was equally great, but I found myself tangentially wondering what they would pull from their bag to entertain us with on night two. Set two uncovered the crowd-pleasing, down home bluegrass romp of “Rollin’ in my Sweet Baby’s Arms” before showcasing Hollinsworth’s own “Way That it Goes.” The most memorable moment of the evening (if not the most impressive musical number) came during the second song of the encore, “Jellyfish.” SCI drummer Michael Travis appeared in the guise of Van Halen’s spandex stretching front man, David Lee Roth, complete with a gloriously entrancing blond wig. Travis was full of energy as he leapt into the air and let out massive kicks through SCI’s rendition of “Jump.” If anyone was tired at the end of the night’s festivities, “Jump” certainly woke them up and sent them home smiling.