Arriving in Philly from my country home is like stepping into another world, where history meets modern times. The history of Philadelphia is the undergrowth of the city. Beyond its used and decaying outward appearance, Philadelphia seems to thrive in spite of itself. The gleaming city streets were filled with trash and litter, the sterility of the modern city seemingly wrought with decay. The history is the forgotten mystery.
I boarded the train around Maniyunk, headed for Upper Darby, The Tower Theater. It was my first time seeing a show in Philadelphia; it was also my first time seeing The String Cheese Incident by themselves, not at a festival. I was notably excited to see a new venue, north of the Mason Dixon. As a southerner I was raised in the country and the city can be appalling and certainly unappealing at times. The Philadelphia transit system along with many of the countries is in disrepair. I was mesmerized by the cars in front of me as they swayed robotically back and forth, as if I was watching some movie from the 1940s. I was Looking in on other cars and its passengers with historical eyes. I fumbled with my train tickets and got off the nearest stop and headed for the Tower Theater. You can't miss the venue, there's actually a giant tower with the sign that says “Tower” on it. Getting inside with only a grope or two of my crotch, (heavy security) I witnessed a security guard do an impressive wrestling move called a “Suplex” on some unwitting concertgoer who refused removal from the venue. The scene was quickly dispersed as The String Cheese Incident entered the stage and the crowd settled into a night of electronic bluegrass funk. I was very interested at what String Cheese could bring to a three hour show all by themselves.
The highlights for me were a groovy “Rosie” which had the entire crowd in a dance frenzy. Also an amazing cover of Led Zeppelin's “Ramble On” combined with some very introspective and improvisational jams, brought the crowd to its feet and kept them there all night. String Cheese solidified itself for me as a fore runner in the jam community. There are some bands that can only try to live by the spirit of improv and while String Cheese can miss the mark at times, they are professionals at always bringing the groove back, no matter what. I did find the bluegrass songs lacking because of the fact that there is no banjo in the band, at all which seems to be counterproductive when trying to duplicate an authentic Bluegrass feel.
All in all, The String Cheese Incident is not my favorite band, their drum heavy rhythm and frantic, at times chaotic jams, miss the mark for me personally but they are a band with thousands of loving, endearing fans and followers with a long history, there is a reason for that and I think I found it in Philadelphia.
Set One: Song In My Head > Rhum N Zouc, Eye Know Why, Doin' My Time, Black Market > On The Road, Rosie
Sweet Spot, Just One Story > Sand Dollar, Love Is Like A Train, Emma's Dream > Can't Wait Another Day, BollyMunster > Just One Story
Encore: Ramble On