The excitement was tangible as the String Cheese Incident stepped onstage at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, CO for their first New Years Eve run in their home state in 15 years. The opening night of the three night event drew a decent sized crowd into the fan friendly venue. With plenty of room to move on the floor and in the stands the easy-going, loving Cheese family welcomed the boys back home to beautiful Colorado. As the band took the stage, smiles spread across each of their faces, time seemed to stand still for a moment as we prepared for three nights with the wildest band on earth.
A “Round The Wheel” opener felt like a big hug from the band to their loving audience. The opening lines acted as an obvious ode to the lack of snow in the state of Colorado this season. Billy seemed to be overly excited as he swayed across the stage unable to contain his infectious smile. Moving immediately into an impressive piece of improve, the band wasted no time getting the audience moving with funky dance grooves. Kyle took charge of the jam with an incredibly aggressive organ solo that broke any sort of apprehension about the band’s time off since Horning’s (besides Winter Jam of course). Leading the band right into “Sometimes A River”, Kyle seemed eager to get the New Years party started.
After a rocking “River” jam and a playful run through “Yo Se”, the band got in their first bluegrass licks of the night with “Far From Home”. “Born On The Wrong Planet” followed and with it came the first sizable piece of improv. A rocking jam, featuring Kyle on the synthesizer and Billy underlying with impressive guitar picking, built to an emotional peak, but seemed to be lacking the little something extra that Cheese is capable of. After wrapping up the jam Billy stopped to thank the audience and admitted he was nervous before he got on stage. This became more apparent as the set went on and the band never really seemed to find their groove. However, they showed signs of settling in during a blissful “Close Your Eyes” jam and a high energy “Dark Clouds” to close the set.
Second set opened with a melodic “Roll Over>On The Road” that kept the audience dancing wildly through the open arena. “On The Road” found Billy blasting his acoustic sound into every corner of the venue. The band seemed to be playing as extraordinary individuals, but lacked the confidence to come together as one unit and push the improvisational envelope. Nevertheless the dancing continued as Kyle led the band into a trancy “Eye Know Why” jam that seemed to melt the very stage they stood on. The first “Jellyfish” since Horning’s literal Jellyfish manifestation landed right in the middle of the second set. The jam was rather straightforward and propelled the band into their first cover of the night.
As the opening notes of “Kashmir” blasted into the 1stBank Center things really got weird. After a rather impressive run-through of the song, the jam took a bass heavy turn. Led by Hann and Travis the EOTO’esque jam seemed out-of-place not only in the set, but in the show as a whole. Picking things back up with “Rivertrance”, Kang once again blew the minds of many as the sound of his fiddle had everyone in the venue bouncing to the groove. The band capped off the set with a “Sirens>Roll Over Reprise” leaving plenty of opportunity for the next two nights.
12/29/2012 1STBANK Center – Broomfield, CO
Set 1: Round the Wheel, Sometimes A River, Yo Se, So Far From Home > Born on the Wrong Planet, Betray the Dark, Close Your Eyes, Black Clouds
Set 2: Roll Over > On the Road, Give Me The Love, Eye Know Why, Jellyfish > Kashmir > Rivertrance, Sirens > Roll Over
E: Time Alive*, Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
[*] Travis on vocals and guitar
By the third song of night two it seemed as though a different band had taken the stage. The boys were relaxed, smiling, and playing together like they were enjoying the party just as much as everyone in the audience. A ripping bluegrass opening sequence of “Birdland>Wheel Hoss>Birdland” got things off to a raging start. Everything from Billy’s masterful picking, to Travis’ precise snare taps seemed to be working together right from the get go. Moving into “Rain” the band kept things interesting all the way through the first set. A beautifully fabricated “Little Hands” jam led by Kang had the audience convinced that night two was going places night one could only have dreamed of. Other first set highlights included an infectiously funky “Pack It Up” and a rockin “Outside And Inside”.
Cheese blasted into the second set with “Texas>Kinky Reggae>It Is What It Is”. The “Texas” opener landed in a blissful landscape that evolved effortlessly into “Kinky Reggae”. The Marley cover was laced with spacey effects as the band turned it into a jam of their own. The patient jamming, highlighted by the percussive work of Hann and Travis, morphed without a hitch into “It Is What It Is”. This extraordinary set opener established the tone for the rest of the New Years run as the band never looked back from that point on.
Just to prove they can play absolutely anything and appeal to fans of every genre of music, Cheese dropped into a cover a Adele’s “I’ll Be Waiting”. It seemed like an interesting move by the band, but it just goes to show that Cheese is trying to bring together people from all areas of musical appreciation. A high-powered “Rhythm of The Road” followed; with Kang absolutely annihilating his mandolin, spreading mind-blowing energy into every open space in the arena. The “Road” jam was easily the most impressive of the set, and at that point also the most impressive of the run.
After a shout out to all the Colorado locals Cheese moved into the playful Talking Heads cover “This Must Be The Place”. Home is definitely where we were as the band took the song through a blissful and focused jam. Finding their way onto a soft landing pad, Cheese used the opportunity to build into “Joyful Sound”. Hann took over the jam, trading blistering hand percussion with heavy electronic bass. Once again the EOTO duo took over, dropping computer fired drum and bass onto the heads of the audience. Turning on a dime, Cheese dove back into “Texas” to close out the set.
As the band came back out on stage for an encore they announced they had a “special surprise”. Michael Travis came out onstage in a wig and led the band through an entertaining version of Van Halen’s “Jump”. After the laughable yet enthusiastic cover, Cheese called it a night with a ripping version of “Whiskey Before Breakfast”.
12/30/2012 – 1STBANK Center – Broomfield, CO
Set 1: Birdland > Wheel Hoss > Birdland, Rain, Black and White, Little Hands > Can’t Wait Another Day, Pack It Up, Outside and Inside, Just One Story
Set 2: Texas > Kinky Reggae > It Is What It Is, I’ll Be Waiting* > Rhythm of the Road, Naive Melody, Joyful Sound > Texas
E: Jump# > Whiskey Before Breakfast
[*] Adele (first time played)
[#] Van Halen (Travis on vocals)
The opening notes of “Mouna Bowa” poured into the 1stBank Center to start the New Years Eve celebration. By night three the crowd and band had fallen back into the grove, living in the familiar harmony that sets String Cheese shows apart from any other live music experience. “Shine” carried the band into the first improvisational exploration of the night. Billy patiently led the boys into a bliss filed landscape that they would frequent many times over the course of the evening. The band moved as a singular unit as the jam progressed, signifying the improvisational prowess they would demonstrate throughout the night.
The party really got started with a fast paced “Can’t Stop Now” and a rowdy “Song In My Head”. The train was moving full speed towards the new year with a smile on the face of every passenger. “Struggling Angel” followed by “Colliding” foreshadowed the band’s theatrical New Years show and gave the sold out crowd a chance to catch their breath. The “Colliding” jam found Travis and Hann once again throwing an electronic twist into the music, this time culminating in an impressively psychedelic groove. “Restless Wind” closed out the first set with a beautifully crafted jam that Kang conducted via masterful violin playing.
A “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” to open the second set was the crowd’s first clue that it would be a scorcher. We survived the Mayan apocalypse but it was unsure if we would survive the all out dance party that was Cheese’s second set. Moving immediately into a relentless funk groove, Kyle led the band into a “Teahouse” jam for the ages. There wasn’t a still body in the room as the party raged full speed towards 2013. Billy led directly into “How Mountain Girls Can Love”, turning the dripping funk fest into a country hoedown. Kyle’s “Piece Of Mine” brought a piece of rock and roll into the set with a fiery solo by Kang who seemed to be channeling otherworldly talent.
After a quick pause Cheese opened up a “Best Feeling” that lasted a magical 21-minutes. Finding the blissful landscape once again, Kyle and Billy began painting funk grooves from top to bottom. Completely tearing the jam apart, the boys built into a heavy rock and roll journey with pummeling percussion from Hann and Travis. Culminating in a relentless improvisational explosion, Kang once again tore through the 1st Bank Center with no remorse. Cheese gave the audience a breath of fresh air as they landed in “Search”. Hann and Travis traded blows in an impressive and organic percussion solo to end the jam.
The closing of the best set of the three night run started with a rocking version of “Sledgehammer”. Kyle’s soulful vocals led the band into a short yet well-defined jam that slammed headfirst into the opening notes of “Rosie”. Kyle took the boys into a jam that brilliantly mixed elements of funk and psychedelia, causing the audience to cover every inch of danceable space inside the venue. As Cheese walked off stage, smiling from ear to ear, it was hard to believe they had more in store for the third set.
The final set of 2012 opened with “Let’s Go Outside” and once again morphed into exceptional improvisation by the band. “Land’s End” followed as we neared midnight. In the midst of the jam silk dancers emerged from the ceiling and two white angels were illuminated in the air on either side of the stage. As the jam progressed, so did the journey of the two angels towards each other. Building into all out musical chaos,the wristbands handed out to every member of the audience were illuminated and screams of joy poured across the venue as the angels met and the clock struck midnight. The New Years baby was born onto the stage as balloons fell over the Cheese family. The joy on people’s faces was indescribable and the band looked as though they were incredibly proud to gift their family with such a beautiful display of theatrics. “This is best place on earth as far as I’m concerned,” Billy proclaimed.
After a toast to the audience and every member of the beautifully crafted show, Cheese played a rockin’ version of “Colorado Bluebird Sky”. Continuing to explore every song they touched that night, “Bluebird Sky” morphed into a dark and ominous excursion that opened the new year in a truly unique fashion. A seamless transition into “Bumpin’ Reel” kept the spirit of the night alive. Showing no signs of slowing down, Cheese tore into the opening moments of 2013 like a band possessed.
The interactive fun with the light up wristbands continued as they pulsated along with the music in an otherworldly “Desert Dawn>Sweet Emotion”. The musical attack pushed on with the opening of “Bolly Munster”. Leaving every ounce of energy on the stage and the floor, the Cheese family welcomed the new year with a seemingly endless party. A great segue brought the band back into “Colorado Bluebird Sky”, a final bluegrass explosion to an outstanding weekend of music.
String Cheese’s three night New Years run was more than just a string of shows; it was a celebration of life, music, and the unimaginable bond between a band and their adoring fans. With an introduction like that there is no doubt that Cheese will have plenty in store for us in 2013. Luckily, the band and their fans will enjoy some much deserved rest before jumping on board for another summer of incidents.
12/31/2012 – 1STBANK Center – Broomfield, CO
Set 1: Mouna Bowa, Shine, Can’t Stop Now, Song In My Head, Struggling Angel, Colliding, Restless Wind Set 2: Miss Brown’s Teahouse > How Mountain Girls Can Love, Piece of Mine, Best Feeling > Search, Sledgehammer > Rosie Set 3: Let’s Go Outside, Land’s End, Colorado Bluebird Sky > Bumpin’ Reel, Desert Dawn > Sweet Emotion > Desert Dawn E: Bollymunster > Colorado Bluebird Sky