Special thanks to Vegan Patty for the words for this post and Chez Rogers & Choti Singh for the images
I am not a fan of jam bands but I guess you could say that I’m “jam”gential. Newgrass and Gypsyrock, both the rage in CO these days, prick my ears and pump my boogie, especially live. Jam bands not so much. I think I am too easily distracted. By the time acts like Panic and Further wander through their masturbatory guitar grooves, dualing rhythms, and space, I’ve long lost interest and begun to focus entirely on self-preservation as I shimmy strategically this way and that to avoid the merry Wookies and their lick induced spasms. This is not my idea of a good time.
“Try Salmon!” say my Jamtastic friends (the ones I keep just in case). “I’m vegan!” I reply. It’s easier then telling them that I did, once, at the Rialto in Tucson, AZ circa 2004. I only lasted about two songs before the crowd and the Southern Rock got the better of me. This is, most certainly, my problem with Panic. As my most steadfast Jamster describes them, “Panic is all Bourbon and Cocaine. What you need, dear Vegan P, is an act that’s more weed and hula hoops!” And harmony, might I add. A banjo wouldn’t hurt either. And, apparently, a box suite.
Turns out my Jamster friend was right. In a moment of weakness after missing a free ticket, by mere seconds, to see YMSB at Boulder Theater this past Saturday, I did the unthinkable. I accepted a ticket to see String Cheese instead. Once I did, the warnings started. “Now, you know, VP, they can get spacey. And their shows can be really inconsistent. Sometimes they are bluegrassy, but other times, they’re not. You just never know what you are going to get when it comes to that but I can promise that there will definitely be some hard core jammin’! You think you can handle it?” I was about to find out.
String Cheese is a good gateway drug. Like all good Jam-attacks, they groove a wall of sound so powerful that I had little energy left to process my critiques. The one I managed to capture is not so much a critique of the band as it is an affect of my own anti-jam proclivities. I’m not a fan of such heavy Hair band guitar solos and so much space. That said, even these were tight and motivating and mild in flavor compared to the Caribbean feel of the evening’s performance. You’re right, Brett, this isn’t what I was expecting. I’m not quite sure I’ve been able to root out what caused this—Kyle Hollingsworth’s Reggae Bubble-based organtrix? Bill Nershi’s staccato guitar fingering that had me searching the stage for a steel drum? The Island echo that dampened each crescendo at just the right moment? The purple, orange, and yellow heavy lights show? Whatever caused it, the night was awash in near tropical warmth, Space Island sound if you will, which struck me as no small feat against the near zero temps that waited for all of us beyond the glass doors of the Center.
I didn’t get my Bluegrass fix until near the end of the first set and it was short lived. For a song with such a
somber name, “Black Cloud” brought nothing but happy harmonies and sunshine. “Portray the Dark” closed the first set of this first show to the sounds of silence as Cheeseheads much my senior looked on, stunned by the band’s decision to come on so heavy so early in their three night year-end gig! The second set was surprisingly kaleidoscopic. Reggae gave way to Anthem rock turned ‘70s cop drama theme song, all part of “Roll Over” if I’ve kept it straight. “On the Road” was all funky business. The rest of the show was a blur of jammy sammys that lost me a little but keep me boppin’, nonetheless, until the last bit of reverb had been dampened and the band had bid us farewell for the night. While the show didn’t have enough Bluegrass for this li’l lady, I can’t feign disappointment. My first SCI experience won’t be my last.
And now for that confession. I cheated. I sat on the sidelines while others played the game. Suite 224 at the First Bank Center is probably no better or worse than those around it, but as far as this “jam”gential girl is concerned, it’s nothing short of paradise! All the free water I could drink, a high price low occupancy cap, and a seat to call my own, not that I was ever in it! That magic box o’mine kept me safe from and amused by the sea of wookies below. When String Cheese took flight in the ways I was warned they were prone to, I occupied myself by tracking the glow of a pack of green horned devils as they ebbed and flowed from song to song. I lost myself in the electrified spinners and hooptresses. I fell into the rhythms of the moment as flames and rainbows jumped from Jumbotrons to micro screens and back again and beams of light crossed each other to raise the roof. And my expectations. SCI, I’m a fan!