Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
Within minutes of arriving at Horning’s Hideout it was clear that String Cheese had taken over. There were colorful, glowing, art installations all over the grounds..not to mention the fractal forest. All of this and the festival had yet to begin. As cheese-heads began to arrive, the campgrounds came to life.
For the first night of this shindig, Mountain Standard Time opened up the main stage. MST gave an incredible performance. Straight out of Colorado, this jam band combines elements of funk, bluegrass, rock n’ roll, and even seemed to have a bit of a Phishy influence. Crazy amounts of energy were built through their jams, which seemed to grow and grow without limit.
A funky reggae band, John Browns Body, took the stage next. In the crowd we noticed reggae artist Tubby Love. Just moments later he is up on stage with the band, sings a short bit as he dances and smiles with immense joy and gratitude for his love of the music. John Browns Body got everyone groovin, just as reggae should.
At another stage the California Honeydrops were gettin bluesy. It felt as if we were transported to the streets of Nawlins. The band interacted with the crowd like no other-marching off the stage into the audience and getting everyone to sing along. Their songs were saturated with innuendos, but in a comical and playful way. Everyone was loving it.
The final act of the evening would be EOTO. As the night had fallen, the vibe transitioned from groovy day sets to an intense, almost club-like atmosphere. EOTO’s sound was immense, with permeating beats. At the close of the set Michael Travis and Jason Hann announced their excitement for the three cheesy nights ahead.
Early in the afternoon Steve Kimock and Bernie Worrell hit the main stage. Kimock is a renowned guitarist, and it was quite the treat to see him live. In combination with some female vocals and familiar covers, it was a nice set to start off Horning’s Friday. ALO and the California Honeydrops offered up a set before the first night of Cheese began.
And, what a night it was. SCI was playing as if it was the last night of the festival! It was an all out rager. ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ started the night out, and as the set heated up a killer crowd favorite, ‘Let’s Go Outside’. Cheese must have been plenty warmed up from Red Rocks, because there was no holding back musically, or from the energy the audience provided. Kimock helped close out the first set with ‘Sweet Melinda’. The prime highlight of the second set was ‘Joyful Sound’. It’s a tune that represents the identity of Cheese’s sound so well. It’s funky, groovy, and well..joyful. If this was night one, there was no telling what the Saturday spectacular would entail…
Early in our Saturday there was a great workshop, the History of Bluegrass with the McCoury’s. It was more of a show than a workshop to everyone’s surprise. The McCoury’s, minus Del the man himself, were up on stage with Nershi playing some classic bluegrass tunes.
The variety of genres at Horning’s is one of the festival’s highest points. There is folk, funk, grassy tunes, jazz, reggae, rock, and of course String Cheese, which surpasses any sort of genre categorization. They’ve got it all.
As the day went on John Scofield’s Uberjam Band kicked off the music on the main stage-yet another renowned musician performing at the fest. An amazing improvisational jazz guitarist, Scofield presents his music with effortless perfection.
Now, the moment all the festivarians had been waiting for…Saturday night’s Cheesestravaganza! Right off the bat we’re hit with a ‘Smile’. It immediately brings the vibe high. Another great tune, ‘Sometimes a River’, follows. It’s wonderfully folky, and everyone sings along. ‘Colorado Bluebird Sky’ was a joyful moment to conclude the set. It was almost too good. The energy was brimming, and so too was the excitement as the much awaited ‘half-time’ performance was about to begin.
Cheese played a short instrumental set during the show, and the jams matched the energy points of the performance. There were extravagantly costumed fire dancers, reminiscent of the cards in Alice and Wonderland. A giant white bed grew several stories high with a dancing woman atop. There were even baskets of donuts passed amongst the crowd…yes, donuts. A darkly decorated car cruised out into the bowl and shot streams of fire through a flame-thrower. A hot air balloon bouquet floated through the air, and then suddenly hundreds of people were running up to the stage! The bowl had been opened, and the final set of Cheese had begun…it was fiesta time!
What better to start things off then a high-powered ‘Rosie’! Everyone chants on. The energy in the crowd is extreme. There are funky costumes in all directions; everyone’s grooves are in full swing. ‘Rhythm of the Road’ segued into a sweet ‘Can’t Stop Now’. Jams build and then explode into unstoppable dancing moments. Then, a Talking Heads cover! It’s ‘This Must Be The Place’. There is a quasi-Caribbean undertone to the song. It’s incredible, and everyone sings along. Encore, encore! And just like that, the big Saturday night is already over!
A grassy Sunday funday was still in store. Colorado’s Elephant Revival played a great day set. Everyone soaked up the sunshine and enjoyed the folky tunes. And, as always, Bonnie Paine’s voice amazed us all.
Over at the main stage, the Del McCoury Band offered up some good ol’ traditional bluegrass. Del’s stage presence is incredible. Everyone is dancin around enjoying the classics.
Then it was time for a final cheesy show. The first set began mellow with a ‘Catfish John’. Ronnie McCoury took the stage to join with his mandolin. Even better, a nice Dead cover, ‘Cold Rain and Snow’, with the lovely Bonnie Paine on washboard. The set closes up with ‘Restless Wind’.
As the night begins to fall we wonder what’s in store for that last set. The music is evidently more funky. ‘Valley of the Jig’ kicks things off. There are sparkling hoops and an immense light show spreading all across the hill. ‘Windy Mountain’ flows into ‘Piece of Mine’. Nershi’s solos are just too good, and Keith’s bass lines echo across the grounds. Jason Hann takes a percussion solo that gets everyone’s attention, and then suddenly it’s ‘Desert Dawn’! It’s another major cheese tune that everyone knows and loves. The rhythm is funky and bouncy..could this really be the end already?
SCI exits the stage, but quickly returns for their encore. And, it’s ‘Jellyfish’! The crowd listens as Nershi tells a story through his verses, and there are still a few remaining jellyfish bouncing in the crowd. The band says their final goodbyes, but still manages to return to the stage one last time to bow and thank everyone again.
It had been quite the cheesy weekend, and an incredible musical summer. See ya next time Horning’s!