Hey Hey, so I am closing out this run at Boulder Theater tonight, and I wanted to dig in a bit and reflect on some of my early SCI memories from this great venue.
I think it was here, where I first played music with String Cheese. I remember seeing them at the Fox earlier that year and being impressed. In fact, I was blown away by the “kid” on acoustic guitar. Not only by his playing, but also by the tone of his instrument. I had never heard an acoustic guitar sound so present and “real.” So later that year, when my band Durt was asked to open for them at the Boulder Theater, we all loved the idea.
I had been jamming with Kang and other local musicians (including Dave Watts) for a while, so we were familiar with each other’s playing. Durt was mainly a rock outfit and I was probably only carrying my Roland D-50 keyboard at that time. The sounds in this board were, to say the least, very ‘80s. So when the SCI boys asked me to sit in that night, I was super pumped, but a bit hesitant as to how my sounds would fit their vibe. I have no idea what I played. Probably “Bigger Isn’t Better “ and “Jellyfish.” Those were the first ones I learned. And I’m not sure how it came across, but I must have passed the audition because they asked me to hop on tour for a few more shows.
The String Cheese Incident – early press photo – outside The Fox Theatre – Boulder, CO
Since then, we have played almost every venue in the area from the Fox to Fillmore, but the Boulder Theater is one of the classic venues. And haunted or not, we always had a fun time playing here. This town has a great history of supporting live music and it seems to be a vortex for musical creativity. So many bands have gone on from here to become nationally known. There must be something in the water. And as for String Cheese, it was always nice to come back to Boulder after a long tour. It’s nice to come home.
Boulder has been my home now since 1993 and I have loved every year. It seems this area has been a hot bed for great music over the decades. String cheese is just one of the many bands that has been born from the creative forces in this area.
My main memory of Chico is the HEAT. Man it seemed like every time SCI played here it was insanely hot. I guess it must have always been summer when we passed through. I do remember playing a show with our friend Dar Williams here at some strange, long barn thing. Dar was totally cool and her keyboard player rocked. I dug what they were doing. Before the show I think we all snuck away to some watering holes along a river and soaked for a long while.
The String Cheese Incident – The Senator Theater – 07.17.04
And there was one super hot night at the Senator Theater where we played “Oye Como Va,” the Santana tune, a rare play for us. It’s funny because on some of these tours each band member would make the setlist for the night and, as I look back at these shows, I wonder who made the each list. You can kinda can tell by openers and closers and overall flow in the set. It can be a tough to make the list. Especially with five other opinions flying round.
So this is the show closer for my West Coast run with JBB. It has been so much fun. They are great guys and they sound killer. I can’t believe it’s over. But we will hook up with them again at the Boulder Theater in couple weeks.
Come on out tonight and try some Hop Bam Ale at Sierra Nevada. It’s going to be a great tour closer with beer and music and I imagine the temperature will be less of an issue this time around with Sierra Nevada on board.
Tahoe was always the stop into or our of California tours. We played a few small clubs in those early years. The first one I played was Humpty’s. When we first played there, I was so new to the group that I did not know all the songs. So I would sit out for a few each night. I forgot which tunes, probably “Black Clouds” or bluegrass ones like that. But that was cool with me because I was able to hang out, get a beer, and meet fans. In fact, it was at these shows that I meet a lot of early California cheese fans.
The String Cheese Incident – Caesar’s Tahoe – Lake Tahoe – 07.19.04
We played a daytime show outside with Leftover Salmon one summer. I remember picking Mark Vann’s brain about how to emulate a banjo roll on the keyboard. It was a trip to figure out how to finger all those notes on the piano. And honestly, I never quite got it. But it was always a good time hanging with the Salmon guys.
So many winter stops for skiing and summer stops for mountain biking. I love this area. Looking forward to getting outside again when we are there.
Ahh San Francisco…wow. This was one of the first stops I had on my virgin tours with the SCI gang. After a huge drive from Telluride in “Jean Claude Band Van” (the first of Cheese vehicles), we stayed right on the Bay at a friend’s condo. I woke up to a gorgeous view of boats and water. In Fact, it was that morning, when Kang and I were out on a Boston wailer trolling around , that he popped the question, “would you consider joining us full time?” I loved the idea, but was a bit booked up with other projects. What was I thinking! But eventually I cleared my schedule (like for the next 25 years).
The String Cheese Incident – Fillmore – San Francisco 1998 (photo by Scott Chernis).
I think it was on that run that we hit Great American Music Hall. It was an amazing venue with its gold leaf balconies and classic ambiance. Then later we played the Fillmore. I remember kind of flipping out to see the “Jerry” room in the backstage area at The Warfield. So much great music had come through these places. It was an honor to be on those stages. The Bay Area was always receptive to SCI. And it will be awesome to be back in this room again, like coming home.
Heading to Santa Cruz tonight. SCI played Palookaville and The Catalyst in those early days. I remember wandering the streets checking out the music stores and markets. One time while we were there a small earthquake hit. We were all sleeping in Bussy, in a random parking lot as usual, and the bus started to sway. I awoke to a jostled band and spilled water bottles, but no worse for the wear.
I have a vague recollection of us playing a gig in a garage with Keller somewhere in town. I think it belonged to a friend of ours, Frank. In fact I think he did all the great woodwork on the inside of Bussy. That must have been an early rendition of the Keller and SCI collaborations. I’ll have to go check out those tapes. Looking forward to getting back there I love this city.
LA was a hard market to break into. The first few times, we played a club called The Troubadour. Cool vibey spot with lots of great history, but the crowd, many years ago, was not impressed with our improvisational style. We got more than a few blank stares. It was hard to get it going when the crowd was not into it.
But all that has changed and now we have a great connection with the fans there. The Hulaween 2002 show was off the hook. It was our “Academummy Awards” that year. We did a “Dead Rock Stars”-themed show. Each band member sang a song from one of the many deceased rock stars in history. I sang “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I remember searching for the perfect mustard-colored cardigan sweater and trying to get the wig to fit just right. It was fun to try to emulate Kurt’s mumbled lyrics, and standing at the front of stage like all the cool guitar guys was awesome. Overall, as far as theme shows go this was one of our better forays.
But the highlight for me was talking about psychedelics with Rod Roddy, from The Price Is Right, back stage. Sounds like he lived a long and adventurous life. Long live Roddy!
Heading to San Diego tonight. KHB is playing the Belly Up. SCI performed there the year that I joined (1997). Man, that was a whirlwind year. I just looked back at all the dates and there seemed to be no downtime at all. We were serious road dogs back then.
We had just come from a long run starting in Gainseville, FL, through New Orleans, Houston, Santa Fe and Flagstaff. So I have scattered memories of that gig, but I do remember walking randomly on the railroad tracks looking for a laundromat (I probably never found one). Also, that night, I met a keyboard player that I had admired from my Baltimore days. He played with a band called New Potato Caboose. They were a great group that fell into the early “jam band” genre. The keyboard player would do this killer percussion jam on his Hammond B3 with the drummers – very inspiring.
SCI has come back many times since then though. I recall a great show at the RIMAC Arena in 2002. I’ve heard that the “San Jose” from that show was pretty slamming. We also played with RatDog in 2006 at the park. That whole run with them was so much fun. I had a blast talking and jamming with all the guys. Plus I got to dance my ass off watching their set every night. I am psyched to in SoCal. again and looking forward to another great night of music.
Well, I’m heading to the West Coast again. It’s been a while since I’ve been back there with my solo project. I’m looking forward to a week of Pacific Coast hospitality.
When traveling with SCI, this was one of the first places I played on tour. I remember coming down into the Bay Area after a grueling, 26-hour drive from Boulder. It was like wandering into Wonderland. Everything was green, lush and so foreign to my cold Colorado winter.
I had never been to the Pacific Coast before and I was amazed at this land of the counter culture, Haight-Ashbury and the roots of the “Jam” culture. I had never seen a Whole Foods, met a vegan or walked through giant redwoods. And driving on Route 1 was spectacular, but always a bit unnerving, while at the wheel of a 32-foot ski bus named Bussy. That time was an awakening for me, not just musically, but also personally.
We played many cities and venues in those early tours, from San Diego to Seattle. It was a blast to leave my day job and join forces with this super vibrant, energetic crew of freaks. With Kristen the “merch goddess” and JonO our sound man, we traveled the West trying to convert young open-minded people to our musical style.
In the next few days, I’ll be posting on Facebook about my memories from early SCI gigs in each of my West Coast stops on this KHB tour.
So we’re heading into the last three shows in Chicago. What ? How did that happen so fast? There have been some pretty slamming moments (also some scary ones) in the last couple of weeks. But overall it’s been feeling really good.
It’s been wild being back in this world again. Though every day does start to feel the same. Wake up on the bus in a new town, go to sound check, then start rehearsals and begin “the great set list debate.” Off to catering for a quick bite and then we jump on stage for the show. And it ends with late night mayhem on the bus. Kind of fun actually. I’m going to miss it.
Meeting great fans and breweries across the country as part of the Hop On Tour experience has been a new treat as well. We’ve shared a lot of great craft brews, and some awesome meet & greets. It all comes together at my sold-out Kyle’s Brew Fest CHICAGO as the Hop On Tour finale, again supporting food banks and impoverished communities through Conscious Alliance.
We are psyched to be out again and are ready to rage these last few nights!
I have included some photos and a video from the last week on the road. Enjoy.
See ya soon. I heart Ambien.
The setlist that wasn't.
Happy birthday to Jesse Aratow in Boston (SCI Manager / Tour Manager)!
What the hell. This is great!! So much fun. The band is feeling solid and we are really connecting on so many levels. This is what music is about. Also, it’s been super exciting to walk out onto stage and feel the appreciation from the fans every night. It’s good to see that the fans are as pumped as we are to be back at it. Musically it has been a blast. We have been able to play through much of our wide repertoire. That’s the advantage of doing this many shows in a row. It permits us to dust-off some of the older stuff and breathe new life into them.
So we are heading to Baltimore on a long haul drive about 13 hours. And as I stare out the bus window and see my hometown come into view, it’s hard not to reminisce. I left here 18 years ago to become a forest ranger in Colorado. And although the ranger part didn’t pan out, it still turned out to be a good choice. It is amazing how some decisions can turn your life in a whole new direction.
But it is great to see my family again (all 7 of them) and get a chance to feel that sibling connection. But it does make for one hell of a guest list when I come back home.
I have gathered some photos and videos thus far. Check them out. See ya soon.
Fox Theatre - Atlanta
B3 organ repair needed already on the second show.
SweetWater Brewery: brewing for JamCruise
This is a cask-conditioned IPA with rum-soaked oak chips and mango extract. We were inspired by the vibe and setting of Jamruise.