Colorado’s home-grown band, the String Cheese Incident (SCI), returned to the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado for three nights of concerts. Last October SCI played the Fourmile Canyon Revival Benefit in the same venue with members of Phish and Yonder Mountain String Band. Since then, the progressive bluegrass jam band has been practicing intensively for their traditional 3-show “Winter Carnival” and the new “Electric Forest” Music Festival they will be putting on in Rothbury, Michigan this summer.
The band brought smiles to the faces of their fans Thursday by opening with one of their signature numbers named Smile naturally. Billy Nershi was in fine form on guitar as they went into their version of the classic Birdland. This segued into the blue grassy Wheel Hoss, which led back to Birdland. Keith Mosley’s deep rich voice was the highlight of Sometimes a River and a few other numbers. Water flowed well with mandolin and fiddle player Michael Kang pulling off an excellent jam. They ended the first set with a well-received new song called Colorado Bluebird Sky.
Second set led off with BAM! Billy came out in a silver wig and announced “I’m Rick James, bitch!” referring to comedian Dave Chapelle’s skit. The drums were upbeat, with Jason Hann bringing thunderous good energy with his percussion work in accompaniment with the incomparable Michael Travis on drums. A nice Betray the Dark went into an awesome jam-full Rivertrance. Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth did one of his favorites, Piece of Mine. SCI kept up the pace with a percussion-driven Sweet Melinda, which included a little tease for Slipknot, and Billy really loved those “big shoes.” The surprise of the set was a Led Zeppelin cover, Ramble On. For the last part of their encore they tore into Tore Up, a Chuck Berry song later covered by Jerry Garcia.
On Friday, the band went through the first set with considerable energy; from the opener, Just One Story, to Little Hands and Boo’s Boo’s, they kept it cranked up. They did a different, funk-i-fied version of Sirens, followed by a rousing fan favorite, On the Road. Jellyfish was awesome, and the set ended with a wondrous Paul Simon cover, Late in the Evening.
Kang brought it on Friday with fast, intense jams in several numbers and Billy kept pace and Kyle stepped up the keys from his first-night performance. Together with Moseley, Travis, and Hann, the band went into both the space and dance realms.
Members of the openening bluegrass band New South joined the Cheese at the beginning of the second set for some great blue grassy tunes. The boys then poured out that cheesy goodness for Give Me the Love and Blue Bossa. The band rounded out the set with an excellent Rhythm of the Road and Dirk, and then Shine. Nershi, stated before the encore that it was great to perform in Colorado at the Broomfield venue and added, after not performing for a while, to be in front of so many smiling fans, he smiled and said, “This is the shit.” SCI then busted out a Supertramp cover and finished with Las Vegas.
By the third night the band was comfortably warmed up. Kang stood out; his playing was the best so far.
Cheese came out with a credible Song in My Head. Performing a drum jam in Search, Travis and Hann were the propulsive force that drove this show forward. For another night, the Cheese mixed the old (such as the rarely played 100 Year Flood), with new, this time from Kyle; Rosie, which was a crowd pleaser and Lets go Outside.
Ivan and Ian Neville, from the opening act Dumstaphunk, came back onstage for a rockin’ Will It Go Round in Circles. Eye Know Why continued the jam. A Fixx song, One Thing Leads to Another, was not the best of covers they’ve done this run but they followed that with a nice Valley of the Jig with a great build-up. SCI hardly hit a bad note; the longer, slower, spacey jams and transitions seemed to flow effortlessly. The good energy of the crowd and musicians was abundant.
Second set started off with a long good Howard. During an extended Way Back Home jam, Cheese brought out the eye-candy; folks with banners, a parade, costumed stilt-walkers, silvery dancing girls on platforms and acrobats twirling from the ceiling all joined in with the music for an experience that only SCI can provide. It takes a lot to put out that level of fun. During the encore, a pair of the biggest beach balls ever seen rolled forward on the hands of the elated crowd, while the fan favorite Johnny Cash cover Ring of Fire burned into a beautiful Desert Dawn. The Black Clouds encore was the icing on the carnival cake.
String Cheese played like the serious musicians they are and laid to rest any questions the fans may have had about them being rusty. The shows were solid. The lights and visuals were spectacular.
With the group being back together only a limited amount of time, one of the things promised to fans was that the Cheese would be trying some new things and they delivered. Sets were long. Songs that had not been played in years were teamed with surprise covers. The sound had a harder edge, and they changed up some of the transitions and jams.
As always, many of the fans were dressed in costume and a photographer was available to take pictures for the costume contest, winners receiving VIP upgrades for Saturdays show. Colorado-based String Cheese Incident’s fans are a colorful, energetic and exuberant bunch, that travel from afar to see the band. They also take strides to effect change outside of their festive pastimes. SCI teamed up with the Conscious Alliance’s food drive, “Art that Feeds” program. The Conscious Alliance and SCI asked fans to drop off food at the concert venue and the fans, over the three days of shows, dropped off over 25,000 pounds of food, making it the organization’s largest food drive to date.
The String Cheese Incident is back in fine form and most of the fans are happy. As Billy said when he came out to thank them for their support, “anything can happen…”
String Cheese Incident 3/10/11 (Thursday) 1st Bank Center Broomfield, CO
Set One: Smile, Birdland, Wheel Hoss, Birdland, Sometimes A River,
Black and White, Suntan, Don’t Say, Water, Colorado Bluebird Sky*
Set Two: Bam! Fuck You** Bam!, Betray The Dark, Rivertrance, Cottonmouth,
Piece of Mine, Sweet Melinda^ Big Shoes Ramble On
E: Barstool, Tore Up^^
*First Time Played, Emmitt-Nershi Band Song
**First Time played
^with Slipknot Teases
^^First Time Played, Chuck Berry original/Jerry Garcia cover Song
String Cheese Incident, 3/11/11 (Friday) First Bank Center, Broomfield CO
Set 1: Just One Story, Little Hands, Boo Boo’s Picnic, The Pygmy Pony,
Sirens, On the Road, Jellyfish, Late In The Evening
Set 2: How Mountain Girls Can Love*, Rocky Road Blues*, Shenandoah
Breakdown*, Climb, Sing a New Song, Give Me the Love, Blue Bossa, Rhythm
of the Road, Dirk, Shine
Encore: Bloody Well Right, Las Vegas
*with members of the New South
String Cheese Incident, 3/12/11, (Saturday) First Bank Center, Broomfield
CO Set 1: Song In My Head, Search, 100 Year Flood, Rosie, Will It Go Round
in Circles*, Eye Know Why, Shantytown, One Thing Leads To Another Valley
of the Jig
Set 2: Howard, Way Back Home, Let’s Go Outside, Sand Dollar,
Ring of Fire, Desert Dawn
Encore: Black Clouds, Wanna Be Starting Something, Black Clouds
*w/ Tony hall on bass, Ian Neville on guitar, Ivan Neville on keys (Keith