For the first time in 10 years, The String Cheese Incident stopped their tour buses in San Diego for, not one, but TWO nights at the Observatory North Park. A relatively recent addition to the So. Cal live music venue scene. I was curious to check out this new place and, of course, see SCI throw it down as only they can.
Let me first start off by thanking the folks at SCI including Dave (you know who you are) for setting me up with the proper credentials for these shows. The SCI family have always been very nice. Wish I could say the same of the Observatory North Park.
This Observatory North Park, according to staff, holds around 1,100 people. That would be what came out for both nights of SCI. However, I believe their capacity numbers are either a little off or they let in way more than 1,100 people because it was wall to wall people in there. If there was an available piece of floor real estate open, it didn’t stay that way for long. Then, if you tried to get some wiggle room by retiring to the bar area or the smoking area, you met with more crowds as if these spaces were ticket-able real estate. Don’t even get me started on the “smoking patio” which was a narrow sloped alley down one side of the building with the ability to hold less than 10% of the folks in attendance. If you’ve ever been to a jamband show you know that at set break the smoking area can get a little over populated. At the Observatory you actually had to stand in line to get out there and once you got there, all you wanted to do was leave. Felt like an internment camp for the rejected and socially shunned. If you had a vape for your nicotine, the security guards were watching you like a hawk to make sure it wasn’t something other than nicotine. I’ve never seen a smoking patio at a jam show smell so much like cigarette smoke before.
Night one kicked off with SCI bluegrass style and stayed that way for most of the night. Straight forward Cheese without a lot of deviation into the stratosphere. Clearly they were warming up San Diego for their two night stay. Highlights from set one were certainly the Will It Go Round>Lost>So Far From Home extended jam, Falling Through the Cracks and a personal favorite, Colorado Bluebird Sky. Opening and closing the set in that Cheese-grass style.
Set two kicked off with Come As You Are, teasing the more psychedelic end of the cheese plate. They busted out a wonderful cover of Paul Simon’s Under African Skies with Jason Hann throwing down on the African talking drum. Par for the course this evening they ended with Texas and delivered a relatively new song to the SCI playbook, Lets Go Outside, as the encore. That was the cue that night two would certainly take us outside our minds and play.
3/14/2016 Observatory North Park, San Diego, CA
Lonesome Fiddle Blues, Lost, Will It Go Round In Circles->Lost->So Far From Home, Look at Where We Are, Little Hands, Freedom Jazz Dance, Falling Through the Cracks, Colorado Bluebird Sky
Come As You Are, Piece of Mine, Betray the Dark, Sweet Spot, Under African Skies (Paul Simon), Birdland, Texas
Lets Go Outside
Night two…way different than night one. Opened up with Best Feeling into the Grateful Dead’s I Know You Rider giving a tip to a large population of Deadheads in the crowd. Then the journey began into the ether and beyond. They busted into a long Way That It Goes with the disco Stayin’ Alive tease back into Way That It Goes that was jam-tastic. Wake Up>Round the Wheel closed out set one.
Set two, if you can believe it (I know you can), took it farther out there. The music, the energy of the room and the lighting took on a look and feel like it hadn’t the night before. I really can’t pick a highlight from set two because it all seemed to be a flowing jam that never ended until Lands End>Restless Wind closed it all out. What would the cap off two nights in SD with? Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones of course!
3/15/2016 Observatory North Park, San Diego
Best Feeling->I Know You Rider (Grateful Dead), Sometimes A River, SKAT, Way That It Goes->Stayin’ Alive->Way That It Goes, Wake Up->Round The Wheel
Dirk, Give Me The Love->Valley of the Jig, Age->You’ve Got the World, Lands End->Restless Wind
Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones)
Notes if you’re heading to the Observatory. Use the upstairs bathrooms. There are only three single person restrooms on the main level. Upstairs there’s men’s and women’s rooms that are very large. Rarely a line. They really should consider adding some bathrooms on the level where everyone is. Made for uncomfortable traffic flow. Early check in via the restaraunt. Get there early (before 7 for an 8pm show) and check in via the security guys at the restaurant. You won’t have to stand in line to get in. Stop and have a bite and a draft while you’re there.
String Cheese heads to LA to play the NOVO tonight at LA Live then on to Las Vegas this weekend. Great time, great music, great fun…SCI!