After two exciting holiday shows and halfway through their summer tour, the String Cheese Incident made a hometown stop at Red Rocks Amphitheater to show the crowd what Incidents are all about. Robert Randolph got the crowd shaking their hips in the picturesque amphitheater and left way for The Cheese to impress me in ways I didn’t think possible. From rockin’ bluegrass to spacey exploration jams and crazy covers, the band had something in store to please everyone in attendance.
Set I: Lonesome Fiddle Blues, Search, My Way, MLT, These Waves, Sweet Melinda>!Bam!
Right from the intro of “Lonesome Fiddle Blues,” the band had a spacey aura about them that would last the entire night. A little rockin’ bluegrass got the crowd moving right away, but once again the mood shifted to ambience before too long. Kyle Hollingsworth was more than eager to make his presence known, lending synthesized mayhem to the mix. “Search” let the crowd know the band came ready to play and gave Billy Nershi a chance to let loose some howls, showing they were just as excited as the crowd. The highlight of the first set, if not the show was “MLT.” This was Cheese at their best. The middle section of the song gave way to an extended segment characterized by start-stop jamming and deep space exploration with a hint of techno-like vibrancy. The lighting added to the experience, giving eye candy to all those who were not taken away by the music. Michael Kang was not afraid to take center stage, building pressure with his rifts and holding them until the crowd was about to explode. I was so overwhelmed by “MLT” that it was hard to recollect the rest of the set, except for the closer. “!Bam!” has become one of my favorite tunes and a great way to close out an exceptional set. Hollingsworth once again shined during this song, tickling the ivories with deep funk and jazzy rhythms. What a great first set and a great way to kick off the weekend.
Set II: Daryl>Howard, SKAT, Little Hands, Drifting> Don’t Stop till’ You Get Enough> Jam > Rhythm of the Road
E: Close Your Eyes* w/ Robert Randolph
After what seemed like an extremely long set break, Cheese took the stage armed with an arsenal of tricks up their sleeves. Once again they kicked things off with a little bluegrass. The stylizing of “Daryl” gave Kang a chance to showcase his fiddle playing talents. It didn’t take much time however for it to get back into the groove of things with the much improved playing of Keith Moseley laying down some funk driven bass lines. This gave way to a perfect transition into “Howard.” The ups and downs of this carnival style song found its way once again into the ambient exploration that had held the show together so tightly. Throughout the evening, each band member would take his turn leading the others through various tempo changes and beat shifts, blending a wide array of musical styles into one sound of musical bliss. The show reached one of its highlights about an hour into the second set when drummer Michael Travis proceeded to put on an Afro wig and a white glove. The beat shifted and Kyle’s keyboards cranked up the unmistakable opening to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till’ You Get Enough.” “Lovely, is the feelin’ now,” echoed from Travis’s high-pitched voice throughout Red Rocks Amphitheater and sent the crowd into a frenzy. If the crowd wasn’t moving yet, a little MJ definitely brought some moonwalking into the house. The band had their fun with the cover and went into another extended, ambient jam, which found its way into “Rhythm of the Road.” This would eventually close out the set as smiling faces wondered what could come for an encore.
A slide guitar was set in the middle of the stage and everyone knew what would happen...a guest appearance by Robert Randolph. Cheese came out followed by Randolph and played a rocking rendition of “Close Your Eyes.” Randolph and Hollingsworth both took extended solos, feeding off of one another. The song finally came back around to the chorus and the eventful evening had finally come to a close. What a stellar performance! Even before they sat down, people were already saying that was the best Cheese show they had ever seen. It was an incredible evening that can only be described by the exploration the band was willing to take. Could the next night even compare?
Set I. San Jose> Got What He Wanted, Up the Canyon, Eat My Dust, Long Gone, Latinissmo> Turn This Around> Round the Wheel
Robert Randolph once again kicked things off right with another stunning performance and a little bit of craziness as Kang and Nershi joined him for a rendition of “Voodoo Child.” Night two started off with a bang and Cheese hadn’t even taken the stage yet.
When SCI finally planted themselves on stage, they were obviously a bit sad about having to play their last night in Colorado, but came ready to throw down. The “San Jose” opener was nice and got the place moving quickly. This song really sounds like a Paul Simon tune to me with its chanting and rumba beats. It segued nicely into “Got What He Wanted.” There was a nice section in this song that once again showcased Moseley’s improved bass playing and Hollingsworth’s funky keyboard touch. Then we got what several people were really looking forward to over the weekend...some bluegrass. It was a nice little block of some good ole’ mountain grass which was highlighted by the first cover of the evening, David Grisman’s “Eat My Dust,” which hadn’t been played in almost two years. Thus far the show was much more mellow than last night’s performance, but many fans were longing for the hardcore bluegrass.
“Latinissmo” changed the pace and brought back some of the feel from last night’s spacey endeavor. “Turn This Around” came seemingly out of the jam and kept the semi-mellow, ambient mood going. “Round the Wheel” came out and would close out the set. Cheese had their fun with the song singing, “waiting for the rain to fall” which reflects the states dire need for rain. Overall a solid set that ended on a great note, but a bit mellow.
Set II. Shantytown> Drum, Tom Sawyer, Hotel Window*, This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)> Jam> Land’s End> Smile
E: Sittin’ On Top of the World*
*w/ Robert Randolph
The second set started of with a bang as the band broke into “Shantytown,” which would never be completed. Instead they opted to go into drums, which eventually brought every member of the band up front to play a percussion instrument. This was a very interesting spectacle and set the pace for the rest of the evening. After about seven minutes of crowd amazement and band enjoyment, the drums ended and a huge roar from the crowd filled the amphitheater. Cheese was really pumped up for this final set in Colorado and came ready to show it. At this point the crowd erupted once more as the spacey intro to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” came through the speakers. Kang gave the vocals to this classic song and Hollingsworth keys were amazing with the lights that bounced off the natural, rock backdrop. Things were really heating up and began to boil as Robert Randolph made an appearance for “Hotel Window.” The pace was slower, but Randolph’s southern, gospel guitar rifts seemed to fit in perfectly with this song. The band gave him plenty of opportunities to take center stage and show why he is becoming one of the fastest growing acts out there. Randolph left the stage and things stayed a bit mellow as the band played the Talking Heads cover, “This Must Be the Place.” Although a bit slow, it was a great rendition and gave Nershi a chance to stir up the crowd, leading them in a long “hoot.” An extended funk jam came out of the song and winded its way through ups and downs, finally dropping into “Land’s End.” Another intense jam eventually merged into “Smile,” which would bring the set to a close.
What a proper song to close it all out because at that time, that’s what everyone was wearing. A fourth incredible set had ended and there would be one more chance to add an exclamation point to this monumental weekend. What better way to end it than by bringing Robert Randolph back out for one more smoking tune. A short but sweet version of “Sittin’ On Top of the World” brought closure to the weekend and left almost everyone in attendance filled with utter joy. After the song, the members of the band joined Randolph in a big group hug and left the stage to a roar of applause. People had their varying opinions about which Colorado night was better, but all that were lucky enough to be there, knew they had seen something special.
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