Say Cheese: Western State College 97'
Western State College
Words By J-man
What better way to start a recording than with talk of the band's bus breaking down and the band just barely making the gig? It conjures up images of the band riding "Bussey" through the mountains, in a race to make it to the gig! Sure enough they made it and thankfully so as this show is one of the highlights from 1997.
String Cheese Incident Live at Western State College on February 21, 1997.
Set 1: Come As You Are, Mouna Bowa, Walls of Time, Little Hands > Dudley's Kitchen, Nardis, Rhythm of the Road, Black Clouds, Bigger Isn't Better > Jam > Round the Wheel
Set 2: Texas, Resume Man, Got What He Wanted > Drums¹ > Pirates¹, How Mountain Girls Can Love, Well You Needn't > Jellyfish > Jam > I Know You Rider
The first set begins with a version of "Come As You Are" that eluded to how energetic the show to follow would be. Faces melted from the first song on as Kyle Hollingsworth (Keys) and Michael Kang (Mandolin, Fiddle) took over through some interesting and developed progressions.
"See, we're really a bluegrass band..." Kyle said sarcastically following the intense composition of the opening jam.
"Mouna Bowa" came next and has always been one of my personal favorites. This version exemplifies all of the beauty and potential that the song encompasses. Michael Travis' (Drums, Percussion) work on "Mouna Bowa" is always consistent and uplifting.
"Well this is our first gig in Colorado in a really long time. We've been traveling for a couple of months now. It's good to be home!" Billy said to the crowd genuinely.
1997 marked the first large-scale touring that SCI did. This show reflects the excitement and energy of a true homecoming. "Walls of Time" brought the first bluegrass sounding song of the evening. "Little Hands" followed with beautiful melodies and Kang's flowing vocals. Billy's acoustic picking brightened the track as did Keith Moseley's bass lines. Kang grabbed the fiddle and Kyle came in on piano as "Little Hands" transitioned into "Dudley's Kitchen."
"Dudley's Kitchen" featured some tight drum work from Travis, as the melodies danced between instruments. The song's characteristic melody took off communally and launched into a great round of solos. "Dudley's Kitchen" is one of those songs that have come to define SCI as a band. Miles Davis' "Nardis," bring a more mellow in the pocket jazz vibe. Kyle took over on the electric organ, producing some beautiful tones and progressions.
"Rhythm of The Road" began what would be a great handful of songs to close the first set! 1997 featured SCI at the top of their game, working hard to build a fanbase, playing together constantly in an attempt to progress, they became a powerhouse. The band was indeed a collective unit as opposed to individual entities. The end of the song brought Kang front and center for some ridiculous electric mandolin work. "Black Clouds" brought even more impressive instrumentation and vocal harmonies to the foreground. "Bigger Isn't Better" eased in melodically, prompting some minor chord jams. Through ups and down the music ventured towards "Round The Wheel" to close the first set... and what a fantastic first set it was!
The second set eased in with "Texas," which took off quickly and sounded as clean as a studio cut. "Resume Man," which was a popular song in the setlist of early Cheese shows, followed. The song bopped along, slowing the flow of the show down significantly. "Got What He Wanted" went into "Drums" featuring Travis on drums and Lane Ludwig on timbales, before going into "Pirates." The band resolved to a bluegrass feel once again with a short, "How Mountain Girls Can Love."
Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't" contrasted the previous bluegrass jazz and took the flow of the music in yet another direction. Kyle stepped up to the plate and off they went. It's incredibly exciting how diverse Cheese is instrumentally. They flow through jazz, bluegrass, rock, jam, improvisation, folk and back with ease and comfort. "Well You needn't" transitioned in "Jellyfish" triggering Billy's vocal stylings and Kang's funky swagger. The jam then segued into the evening's closer, the traditional blues song, "I Know You Rider." What a great choice to end a fantastic show! The beauty of Cheese shined bright through one last jam.
This show is one of the best that we have heard from The SCI Archive! The cleanliness of the recording, the variety of genre-bending setlist and the depth of the jams and instrumentation all make this a must listen/download. Factor in the historical aspect of the show within' the bands progression as a group and we have ourselves one of the most "Say Cheese" worthy picks yet.
We hope you enjoy!