The String Cheese Incident

The String Cheese Incident (continued)

"Wow, is this the Ryman parking lot?" I said to myself. The streets and the big parking facility were full of longhairs, socializing with the energy of far flung, close friends that only see each other at shows. They looked and acted just like I did when I was in my twenties. I picked up my tickets at the will call, and had an extra to give away, so I went looking for the right person. Naturally, I was looking for a cute hippie girl at first, and then busted myself. So I changed gears and looked around for a guy that reminded me of myself at his age. Didn't take long.

A smiley guy with long dreads had a finger up in the air. I asked if that meant he had a ticket or needed a ticket. He said it meant he needed one, so I forked one over. When he was done hugging me, I moved inside. The median age seemed to be around 23 or so. "Why'd I wear a nice shirt, I feel so conspicuous..." Okay, let's see, J9, I started down a promising aisle in front of the stage and stopped. "Hell, I'm in the middle of...that?" The music was just beginning, and the whole place was already on their feet, and I realized that's exactly where they were going to be the whole concert. "Oh, so it's like that, huh..." Anyhow, I climbed in back of my dancing aisle and jumped into my little space.

The band made a disclaimer about cleaning up after ourselves, and no smoking in the auditorium. Right. All around me, everybody was firing up one hit bowls and hooting and howling, drinking beer sold in the lobby. The girl next to me, I don't know what her trip was, exactly. But after she'd do a hit, which was pretty reglar, she'd let out a scream that I thought would shatter my eardrums. I like to hoot and holler at shows myself, but it wasn't like that. It was the blood curdling scream of a knifing victim, like someone just stuck her right in the ribs. Whatever. Then she'd look at me like "Get into it, Grandpa..." I knew it wouldn't make any sense to explain that I was seeing the Dead and the New Riders in NYC when her parents were conceiving her on acid, so I just considered alternate locations to enjoy the show.

There was a blue haired lady barring the way to the balcony. I knew that ordinarily they wouldn't let you up there with a floor seat ticket, so I gave her my rap. "Ma'am, I have a good floor seat ticket, but I need to find a safer place to park myself. These hippies are gonna kill me!" "Oh, I know what you mean," she said. "Why don't you go and talk to one of the ushers, maybe they can help you."

Once inside, I started cruising for a place to hang. They were dancing everywhere, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or something. I'd forgotten what it was like. It's all knees and elbows flying, not like Soul Train or something. Big tall guys come hurtling through space at you doing the Goat Dance or the Wizard Dance. One guy came flying out of a trance circle at me with his eyes on fire, glaring at me. "Damn, it's the Charlie Manson Dance," I shuddered. I was dodging psychedelic collisions all the way to the soundboard, where I found a little rail to lean on. The soundman looked over and saw I was no threat to his gear, nodded at me. I was in, and found my little power spot. The lights were fantastic, the band was rippin it. I'd never seen the Ryman look or feel anything like this before. As a stoned friend of mine used to say, "It's like deja vu all over again."

A week or so later, when we went to New Orleans to catch the Steve Kimock Band, a number of the SCI members were also at the show. They had played a date themselves that night, a few hours before. It was a shame we didn't meet up backstage there or something, but I did catch up with them on the telephone, in the heat of their busy touring schedule.  continue to interview