2001 A String Cheese Odyssey

When I first arrived in Portland on Friday the 29th, I had some business to take care of before getting ready for the first show of this much anticipated three night run. Nadia had sent each of us on a mission to update the Jellyfish table look and to get some supplies for the many folks who would hopefully be visiting us for the next few days. My task was to find a container for the crew to carry around Jellyfish supplies from show to show. The front desk staff gave me directions to a mall about fifteen minutes drive from the hotel. This was a great practice for my serenity, patience and acceptance since I can not stand malls, shopping or anything that goes along with it. I can stand in line for hours to buy tickets or to get into a show, but if there are two people in front of me at the register in Kmart, it tests my serenity. And to top it off, this was the Friday after Christmas, where everyone is returning the gifts they had no use for. (Oh, Aunt Muriel, this tie is just what I needed!!!) But I was an addict on a mission and found the biggest, baddest container in Portland. Ninety two gallons, with a carrying handle and wheels. Check it out at your next show. I also want to thank Scott L. for our new laminated “jellyfish” banners. Great job!!!!

I can’t begin to describe how cool the Oregon Convention Center was set up for the shows. These were not just shows, but an event. My congratulations to John Dwork of Peak Experience Productions for turning an otherwise cookie cutter convention center into String Cheese City. The front atrium hosted audience-participatory activities as well as the shrines honoring each night’s specific theme (water, earth and space). Also in the atrium were great vending booths where there was some real unique items for sale as well as face painting and chair massages. I even went home with a DVD player from the silent auction to benefit The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. Now if I only knew how to hook the thing up. Off to the side of the atrium were the “Chill Your Space Room”, “Munchkin Childcare”, “SCI Fidelity Room”, and of course my favorite, room 126, “Jellyfish Room”. We had our own room complete with sofas and chairs for our meetings at set break, and also for anyone to hang out in. Thanks, Nadia. The table was set up in the atrium right outside the room. Ah, the pleasure of not having to have our meeting in a walkway near the beer line, with stoners interrupting the meeting with that often asked question “Hey, dude can I have a hit off that mellow balloon?”. Ironically, right across from our room was the “Aviva Rock Medical Room” which unlike first aid was specifically for people who were feeling too heavily the effects of chemicals. Today we have a choice of which of these rooms we want to visit. I choose the Jellyfish room. And then, of course, there were two stages for music, Main Stage and Odyssey Stage.

And great music came from both stages. The first night on the Odyssey stage I listened to some local boys from Netherlands, CO, the Yonder Mountain String Band. They play great electrified, high energy bluegrass and are a blast. Check them out. Tonight’s Incident started at 10:15 with a rousing Restless Wind, as 8000 freaks danced in unison (well, sort of). The room was large enough for each of us to have enough space to boogie. The set featured a new Kang tune, Inspiration, and ended with a rousing Daryl. Off to the serenity of the aforementioned Room 126. There were about twenty of us from all ends of the country at each night’s meeting to share recovery in their own way. The calm between the storms was a very special part of the weekend for this addict. The second set each night began with Lester composing a poem for that night’s theme. On this night, Kang went right into Water after the poem. Steel Pulse came out for a swaying Get Up, Stand Up. The set’s climax for me was one of the hottest Black Clouds I have ever heard. The show ended at 2:15 AM. Can we stand two more nights of this?

One of the musical highlights of the weekend was an acoustic set by Billy Nershi and Liza Oxnard in the SCI Fidelity room on Saturday. Billy and Liza played together in Telluride, CO before SCI existed (when Billy was a “fry boy” in a Telluride restaurant). This set was beautiful combining Liza’s lovely vocals with Bill’s stunning guitar work. I couldn’t help looking around that small room thinking that three years ago, String Cheese Incident could not have filled up this small room and tonight there were 8000 people waiting for them to take the Main Stage. They’ve come a long way in such a short time. Saturday’s first set started with Come As You Are and featured guests from Ozomatli, who opened on the Main Stage. The set ended with a scorching Search. The second set was also well paced, and included two tunes I hadn’t heard before, Howard (which sounded very phish-like to me) and SKORT, which I loved.

There was a special electricity in the air on New Year’s Eve. People seemed especially friendly. I have never worked a table before where so many folks just stopped by to thank us for our service and supported what we’re doing even if they were not one of us. It was really cool to be part of this special night. I used to go to the Grateful Dead New Year’s shows regularly in the 70’s and early 80’s but once the kid’s came along, I had other responsibilities to attend to. Therefore, this was only the second time I could make it to a New Year’s show since 1983. The first set of tonight’s show I thought was the best played set of the run, and I was not alone in that opinion. From the opener Outside, Inside and then Little Hands>Orange Blossom Special to the closing jam of Birdland, boys were on fire. The set lasted over ninety minutes and forced the New Year’s parade to start a little late, but who cared. So we yelled happy New Year at 12:30 and the meeting had to be a quick one. That first set was well worth it. The parade was awesome and depicted the Earth’s evolution from prehistoric times to the space age. During the parade we got to hear the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Steve Miller’s Fly Like An Eagle. Although there were no other incredible breakouts (as in last year’s Abbey Road) this was a solid set with a lot of fun including our theme song, Jellyfish. The evening ended with Keller Williams joining the band for his tune Kidney in a Cooler and Smile, which was very appropriate since I could not stop smiling for the three night run.

Needless to say, I had a great time in Portland. A special hello to the terrific folks with whom I had the pleasure of working the table with, Jeff from Oklahoma, Lisa from Southern California and Scott from Northern California. It was wonderful meeting you guys and everyone else who joined us in Portland. Hope to see a lot of you on Winter Tour.

Peace and Hugs,
Steve K (CO)