Keller Williams has been called guitar’s mad-scientist, a one-man-band for the new millennium and dozens of other clever sobriquets dreamed up by fans and music journalists trying to get a handle on his uplifting and ever-shifting style of music. Williams is considered by some but not by himself, to be a master of the acoustic guitar, known for his ability to solo over layers of spontaneously created loops. He is a generous performer who plays down to earth acoustic music that defies any effort to find a convenient pigeonhole. Keller Williams’ new album DREAM, which features a DREAM team of guest musicians, has inspired the usually one-man-band to hit the road with, you guessed it, a DREAM live band.
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Try as they might, there was no way the parking attendants were going to hurry anyone out of Red Rocksâ€™ parking lot the night Bill Nershi departed the String Cheese Incident.Â Elated yet tranquil, the audience had been through such an emotional peak that evening, it was simply impossible to leave at a momentâ€™s notice.
If the parking attendants had been there to witness what the SCI community had just experienced, then perhaps they would understand.
Maybe they would understand if they knew about the giant octopus squirming above the amphitheater during the opening acoustic set.
Or maybe the fan-orchestrated slideshow the band watched throughout â€œRhum Nâ€™ Zoucâ€ would make them smile.
Maybe the fans could have mentioned Keller Williamsâ€™ hula-hooping his way to center stage, or the second encore for which the crowd faithfully pleaded, welcoming â€œTexasâ€ to the historical footnotes as the last song The Incident ever played.
Or perhaps the parking attendants would have understood things on a more personal level, a more emotional level.Â Because, more than anything else on August 12th, each and every fan attending String Cheese Incident’s final show, the final “Incident,” got peace of mind.Â They got the closure they’ve long since awaited.
The finality of Cheese didnâ€™t really register until the start of the third set at Red Rocks.Â Granted, the audience knew this was the last time SCI was going to be playing together for the foreseeable future, but when creatures with eight tentacles are floating overhead, the mind really isnâ€™t in touch with any sort of â€œreality.â€
The party continued throughout the second set, especially when Keller Williams shared The Best Feeling In The World.Â The amphitheater was bursting with so much excitement; Keller postponed his vocal delivery, causing the crowd to erupt with even more euphoria.Â It was like 9,000 kindergarteners had been told that recess was extended fifteen minutes!
But by the time the third set started, the end was apparent, and String Cheese Incident knew it too.Â They had no reservations about making the message clear either.Â The lyrical content of songs like â€œRestless Wind,â€ â€œLooking Glass,â€ â€œRhythm of the Road,â€ and â€œShineâ€ took on deeper meaning, each with purposeful intent.
There was no denying the truth anymore.Â And if somehow the message wasnâ€™t getting through, the music was just as reflective of the sentiments that evening.
The band extended the jam in â€œShineâ€ just a little further than one of them originally intended, pulling Michael Kangâ€™s leading mandolin back into the melee before they all ransacked the climax together.
Afterwards, there were tears.
For those still unphased, an incredibly intimate jam out of Pink Floydâ€™s â€œFearlessâ€ occurred during the first encore, a jam so delicate it surely woke up anyone who was not conscious of Cheeseâ€™s waning mortality.Â The train was pulling out of the station, and the band wanted us all aboard for the finale.
â€œGood Times Around the Bendâ€ could not have been a more appropriate choice for closing out SCItâ€™s career.Â â€œThe roller coaster has got to roll to the bottom if you want to climb to the top again.â€Â Even in the face of overwhelming reality, The String Cheese Incident had taken everyone to the top again, however bittersweet this last trip had been.
And now, looking back up at an amphitheater whose lights had been turned off, the SCI community realized that it got what it wanted.
They had closure.
So perhaps the best thing would have been to tell those parking attendants that one of the most beloved bands in America had just closed their last show with unparalleled style and grace.
That the catharsis everyone experienced during the last two hours was still running strong, and that the calm, peaceful mood in the air was a fleeting experience, and that nobody wanted to let go anytime soon, heartbreaking as it was to hold on.
Hopefully they would understand.
Set 1: Lester Had a Coconut, Long Journey Home, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Walls of Time, Panama Red, Hobo Song, Stingray
Set 2: One Step Closer > Rhum n’ Zouc, Sirens, Come as You Are, Indian Creek, Best Feeling* > Fuel for the Road*, Way Back Home
Set 3:Â Restless Wind, Piece of Mine, Looking Glass > Drifting, Rain, Rhythm of the Road > Bumpin’ Reel > Shine
Encore:Â Fearless, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Good Time Round the Bend
Encore 2: Texas
* w/ Keller Williams
After August 12, 2007, the String Cheese Incident (SCI), a beloved band 15 years in the making, will be no more.Â But before that fateful day arrives, SCI will give many concerts in some of their favorite and most frequented venues across the United States.
Fresh off the plane after performing at the 10,000 Lakes Festival as the replacement act for scheduled headliner Trey Anastasio, SCI performed two shows at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre.Â Nestled into the lush green hillside of the University of California – Berkeley campus, the venue known locally as the Greek Theatre gives off a warm, welcoming energy to all who enter her gates.Â Tall, venerable eucalyptus and pine trees surround the venue, which dates to 1903 and some college kids are even lucky enough to have a view inside from their dormitories.
Upon entering the classic Roman outdoor amphitheatre mid-afternoon on Saturday, July 21, concert attendees noticed the unique open-air loading and equipment area on stage, the large combined capacity (8,500) of the floor, as well as seating and grass sections.Â Opening acts the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) were allowed rather long sets, filling in the floor area with their fans.
As SCI took the stage, an ethereal glow enveloped the area as the sun passed behind the columned background of the stage.Â Thousands of ecstatic, colorful Cheese fans gave a loud welcome to the band as they began to play the jubilant Jean-Luc Ponty song “Mouna Bowa.”Â The song was a perfect opener for the evening, complementing the ideal temperate climate and lighthearted energy of the crowd.
Bringing out the Stevie Wonder classic “I Wish,” SCI elevated the energy into a groove only a Stevie song could inspire.Â Moving into bluegrass, Billy Nershi led the band with crisp, quick vocals on “Love is Like a Train” with Kyle Hollingsworth pounding out some saloon-inspired piano.
The very elegant Latin jazz influenced Hollingsworth song “MLT” was absolutely flawless (even with Nershi grinding the air with his hips) making the crowd focus on the quality musicianship of the band.Â Giving Cheese fans a (figurative) dose of ecstasy, SCI played a ridiculously fast-paced version of the traditional bluegrass song “I Know You Rider” with percussionist Jason Hann playing a washboard, into Bob Marleyâ€™s “Stir it Up” and back into “I Know You Rider” to close the first set.
Unfortunately during the second set some audio-related problems could be heard randomly through the speakers, but by the end the problem had been resolved.Â The first highlight of the second set came during “Desert Dawn” when Aron Magner and Jon Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits joined SCI, adding electronica and distortion elements into the mix of the 15-minute version of the song.
The second highlight came with fan favorite “Way Back Home” into the instrumental “Birdland,” which displayed Hollingsworthâ€™s abilities on keys, Keith Moseleyâ€™s steady funky bass rhythms, and Michael Travisâ€™ perfect time on drums.
Up on the highest level of the amphitheatre – the grass area – another world opened up to fans.Â Backlit by the silver shining crescent moon, dozens of hula hoopers displayed their graceful dance.Â The band played tribute to their friend and sometimes musical guest Keller Williams with a solid performance of “Best Feeling,” which blended back into “Way Back Home.”
During both sets, Hann was all smiles, bursting with positive energy and making a real connection with the crowd.Â SCI ended the show with the fan favorite “Search” displaying Michael Kangâ€™s mastery of the violin.Â The crowd couldnâ€™t have been more satisfied, giving loud applause and shouts of approval, but then again, most in attendance were also looking forward to the next show.
Showtime on Sunday, July 22, was much earlier with the contemporary bluegrass group Hot Buttered Rum String Band (HBRSB) taking the first opening slot around noon.Â Nershi came on stage with his acoustic guitar for the bandâ€™s final two songs, “Honkeytonk Tequilia” and “Cumberland Blues.”
The floor area filled as the seasoned second opener, Railroad Earth (RRE), took the stage following HBRSB.Â The band, with their heartfelt lyrics and delicate bluegrass sound, always touches audience members in a rather unusual way.Â Nershi, on his electric guitar, joined RRE on their last song, “Mourning Flies.”
The sun was high and the air was hot as SCI took the stage on Sunday afternoon.Â The energy of the crowd and band was intense and quite different than on the previous evening.Â Murmurs of hope for a bluegrass-focused show could be heard amongst the crowd.Â SCI opened with the mellow “Shine,” allowing the crowd and the guys a chance to ease into the glorious day.
Cheese fans were treated to some of their favorites such as “Jellyfish,” “Black Clouds,” and “Farther” during the sets.Â Throughout the show, SCI invited members of the opening bands and later the entire bands up to share the stage with them, heightening the onstage energy to a level most in the crowd had never experienced before.
Watching each band memberâ€™s mutual adoration and appreciation of one anotherâ€™s talents was almost enough to make onlookers tear-up.Â The culmination of the show and various collaborations came at the end of the second set when SCI announced that they were going to have â€œA Hot Buttered Railroad Incident.â€
SCI couldnâ€™t figure out where HBRSB members had disappeared to saying, â€œNo, itâ€™s the Hot Buttered Guys who are all drugged out and wasted.â€Â Once they emerged, the never-before-seen Incident played a bluegrass version of the classic Christian tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast” about which Nershi commented, â€œThis is what you call a cluster pluck.â€Â The intense breakdown jam at the end was too fast to keep up with dancing.
The Incident went right into The Carter Family tune “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”Â With so many people onstage, Nershi or Kang signaled to the individual musicians for their solo parts.Â The multi-vocal harmonies and insane interweaving of instruments proved that a huge group of immensely talented musicians can come together with precision.Â SCI thanked the other bands and played “Smile” as the second encore of the show.
SCI was much more in touch with the crowd on Sunday night.Â Before the second encore, Nershi gazed out at the crowd as the fans stood in disbelief at what they had just been part of and witnessed.Â As the night concluded, the crowd felt overjoyed when he said, â€œYou guys seem to think weâ€™re pretty cool. But â€¦ watching all you guys just let go and dance your asses off, you are the true heroes.â€
Set One: Mouna Bowa, I Wish, Love Is Like A Train, Sometimes A River, Turn This Around, MLT > Drums > Rain > I Know You Rider > Stir It Up > I Know You Rider
Set Two: Eye Know Why > Looking Glass > Desert Dawn*, The Way You Do The Things Yo Do > Way Back Home > Birdland > Best Feeling > Way Back Home
* with Jon Gutwillig and Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits)
Set One: Shine, Little Hands > Dudley’s Kitchen, I’ll Fly Away*, The Walls Of Time*, Black Market > Jellyfish > Black Clouds
Set Two: Piece Of Mine > Bumpin’ Reel, Farther, Long Way To Go^, Sweet Melinda^ > Lovelight Jam > What A Day That Was > It Is What It Is
Encore One: Whiskey Before Breakfast*^ Will The Circle Be Unbroken*^
Encore Two: Smile
* with Hot Buttered Rum String Band
^ with Railroad Earth
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Harmony Park – Summer Sessions
August 8, 1999
Rigor Mortis, Charlie Dozen, Go Go*, Love On The Run, Thrill, Something's Wrong With This Picture**, Doublewide, Sweetback***, Crazyhorse Mongoose, Africa, Bootlegger
* w/ Keith Moseley (String Cheese Incident)
** w/ Rob Dehark (moe.)
*** w/ Warren Haynes on Guitar
This show is still early in Galactic's evolution. They could still be classified as a full on funk band, bringing raw energy and in-your-face grooves every night.
The G-men were part of the Summer Sessions Tour with Gov’t Mule, String Cheese Incident and moe. Throughout the whole tour, jam sessions exploded out of each band's sets. Galactic has always loved a special guest appearance, and this tour fit their loose groove swapping perfectly.
The boys eased out of the gates with "Rigor Mortis." I have always felt that Robert Mecurio has been an unsung hero in this band. He holds it down solidly aside the wildly aggressive Stanton Moore. His groove throughout the opening song blasts the listener upside the head with energy and authority. Also, Jeff Raines was in fine form, playing with a creative fire and an original style.
"Charlie’s Dozen " picks up the pace as Stanton’s aggressive ass-kicking drums begin to take over and Ben Ellman really starts to blow on the saxophone. Ben’s solos take on the life of a painter, slinging paint on a canvas, as he rips up and down the track. He is somewhat reckless and at the same time perfect, filling holes flawlessly with syncopated horn blasts.
Then the guests start to roll out. First up was Keith Moseley from String Cheese Incident, holding it down on the bass for "GoGo." As Moseley and crew walked it out, Rich Vogel reared his head, taking some monstrous solos from behind his Hammond organ. There is no doubt at this point the set would go down as a heavy show for the up-and-coming act from New Orleans.
They immediately dove into a funk-filled "Love on the Run," so provocative it would make a porn star blush. Then Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet stepped to the mic and delivered the goods – no lame shout outs, just rocking vocals and heavy hitting grooves. Mercurio still seemed to be full-on attacking the audience with heavy-handed bass lines, and Vogel, like a master chef, continued to throw spice at the stew with piercing synthesizers and groove laden organ.
Houseman stayed on board for "Thrill." The band then was joined by moe.’s Rob Dehark for "Something’s Wrong with this Picture," which led into a funky "Doublewide." The subtle snake charm of Ellman’s sax crept into the mix as Stanton Moore began the push toward lift off.
Things continued to build then release just before fully exploding, which was a nice change of pace from the full-on ripping the band had displayed thus far. Have no fear, though – they could not contain themselves long, and before "Doublewide" ended and "Sweetback" began, the intensity was back up.
In fact, when Warren Haynes joined the band for "Sweetback," it may very well have been the point of overload.
Wasting no time getting things started, Warren immediately found his place and began riffing some massive teases overtop of the Galactic groove. Blistering slide over top of frantic beats and relentless bass led to a "Third Stone" jam, and possibly even a "Little Drummer Boy" tease thrown in for good measure.
Though there were no special guests left, the show certainly had plenty of life left in it. Raines , positively inspired by Haynes’ performance, riffed hard throughout "Crazyhorse Mongoose," and finished strong with an aggressive "Bootlegger."
This was not the first hot Galactic show, and it certainly was not the last (Galactic still blows it out to this day, though their sound may have drifted from funk toward an experimental groove incorporating electronic elements, hip hop and many other genres and influences). I highly recommend seeking out this tape and listening to it loud. Hell, maybe even your neighbors will like it.
If you like your neighborhood, and do not want to upset your peeps next door, go old school and mail it to somebody.
Thanks for playing!