MARCH MADNESS | 3 NIGHTS OF STRING CHEESE

String Cheese Incident | The Fillmore Auditorium | Denver, CO | 03.20.03 - 03.22.03

Although not all of the slated guests and opening acts for the String Cheese Incident shows were able to attend the festivities, the audience was more than pleased by the time things wrapped up on Saturday night. King Crimson was the highly anticipated opening act for the first night, and they unfortunately could not make it. That was more than a little disappointing for me, as I had no idea what to expect with one of their live shows. Word then came out that the John Cowan Band had "immigration issues" and could not make it out on the third night. It was also the first night of the NCAA tournament. Add on top of that twenty-nine inches of snow in Denver over the previous 48 hours (according to the National Weather Service), which made it an undertaking to get out of the house, let alone out to The Fillmore. Parking was horrendous. Even where there were available spaces, the snow was impassable. It took close to half an hour to find a parking spot.


By The Kayceman
Getting things started on Thursday evening at The Fillmore Auditorium was a bit tough, but after a nicely placed "Black Clouds" in the first set, many had forgotten their parking woes and the treacherous conditions that they had just endured. Following was a blissful rendition of the fresh sounding instrumental "Suntan" that seemed to pick up the crowd’s collective energy. An overall standard first set was punctuated by a ferocious jam in "Texas." Always a fun song, the jam extended for over twenty minutes and featured some intricate interplay between the band members. The band vacillated from the ambient segments toward a rollicking climax that had the crowd worked into a frenzy. Definitely a highlight among highlights for the weekend.

A pensive, extended introduction to "100 Year Flood" marked the beginning of the second set, which was nice, and made even nicer by a sleek segue into an instrumental jam of The Beatles gem "Dear Prudence." Indeed, the entire second set felt like one extended jam with one excellent segue following another. There was an outstanding "Drums" interlude in the middle of the set that stirred up the soul, and then out of left field came the Led Zeppelin classic "Ramble On!" Whenever a band takes on a Zeppelin song, its always interesting to see who is attempting to tackle the vocals. Michael Kang would do the honors on this evening, and wound up doing a pretty decent job as well (this coming from a former Zeppelin freak).


By The Kayceman
Then... "¡BAM!" I had never actually seen this one live before. Wow. Boy howdy, I tell you what, that Kyle Hollingsworth fella can tickle himself some ivory. Seriously though, that was one of the most incredible displays on keys I have witnessed or heard. I turned into a Hollingsworth-booster after that song. To round out the set, the Boulder crew busted out the knee-slapping, foot-stomper "How Mountain Girls Can Love" to the delight of the crowd. Phenomenal set.

Finally the encore: "Is This Love" by, Bob Marley. Solid stuff. But wait there’s more: a second encore for those with patience: a tasty version of "Rhum ‘n’ Zouc." Nice finishing touch to a great night of music.

After a day of fifty-degree weather, some of the snow had begun to melt away which made it a little easier arriving to the venue on the second night. Only one hitch: I stepped in a gigantic puddle and completely soaked my foot in icy-cold puddle water. Fortunately the line at the entrance wasn’t ridiculously long and I didn’t have much to complain about for very long.

Opening the first set with "Turn This Around," the band followed up with a blistering version of "Miss Brown’s Teahouse" that had the audience completely enraptured. The band clearly fed off the audience, and jammed the bejeezus out of the song. With a funky, memorable, affable hook that seemed to extend farther than anyone anticipated, the band had created some of their most triumphant jamming of the weekend. After that, the band seemed to really hit on all cylinders for the remainder of the set. Many thought they would close with "Way Back Home," upon hearing its opening notes. This was the second big highlight of the set, and the band took the song over the top, and back around again for another spin. A remarkable version of the song. After pulling off quite a coup with that string of songs, Billy Nershi almost felt prompted to offer up some explanation. Speaking in a moment of rhetorical exigence, Nershi said something to the effect of "Well, now we’re goin’." The band then brought out the only opening act that made it out; Martin Sexton. Within the first three seconds, it was clear what the band had in mind, "Superstition" by, Stevie Wonder. Nice choice. Sexton’s voice was perfect for the song, and the band churned out a deliciously funky rendition of the tune.


By The Kayceman
The band continued The Beatles theme into the second set of the second night with a nice jam on "Here Comes the Sun," which was sandwiched between an impressive "Land’s End." The band finished the set with a personal favorite of mine, "Smile." After an uplifting jam segment, the band indicated they were done, and the crowd had absolutely no complaints--only curiosity as to what the encore would be.

The band came out in a short while, and started the gentle, lulling sounds of "Shaking The Tree," to the delight of many in the audience. The song always seems to have incredible jamming potential, and the band was able to unleash a great deal of power before returning to the reprise. A great nightcap to an outstanding two-night run. The only question that remained would be how the band could top their performance the final night.

I've seen the top of the mountain and the String Cheese Incident has taken me there. The culmination of energy between band and community descended upon The Fillmore one last time Saturday night and created an Incident that will live on in Cheese history as a night of pure musical bliss.

The rumors circulating around another Billy Kreutzmann appearance were quickly bolstered by the "Dark Hollow" in a quick but fun acoustic set. Everyone could "feel the magic of this place" during an outstanding "Shantytown" to kick off set two. The funk of "Chameleon" was a welcome surprise and set the table for the fireworks to come. "Desert Dawn," in my humble opinion, is the best new song the band has put together in years. As the only repeat of the tour, you can tell the band is diggin' it as well. It was written by John Barlow (GD lyricist) and again hinted at the Dead vibe growing by the minute. As "Sweet Melinda"'s melody sunk in, the Rhythm Devil himself (Bill Kreutzmann) joined the band for an inspiring run through the tune and a well worked transition into the Caribbean grooves of "San Jose."


By The Kayceman
Travis and Mr. Kreutzmann lit up the start to set three with a drum session in perfect synch (much tighter than last year's drum off between the two). "I Know You Rider" is the perfect Colorado testament to the legacy of the Grateful Dead and bid farewell to the legendary rhythm drummer. From here on out the evening transcended into a pure disco dancin' throw down. The reworking of "MLT," complete with Kyle's tripped out work on the keys, has quickly climbed the charts into the upper echelon of Cheese jam vehicles. Normally, "Jellyfish" is simply a nice throwback to the band's early songwriting roots, but Billy's freestyling and the parading of a departing crew member tied to a post in a mock pig roast added a hilarious touch. As the opening notes to "Rollover" filtered though the crowd the energy built to the point where I fully expected the roof to blow right off The Fillmore. A flawless segue into "Rivertrance" put us all at the mercy of Michael's fiddle and closed the door to what I consider a perfect set.

Thankfully the boys "LET TRAVIS SING" and threw down a funky rendition of the Police's "Next To You" to start, as Billy quoted, "the fourth set." Yet again the band laid down an inspiring transition, pouring into a grand "Rollover" finale. The experience of the fervent Cheese faithful relished in Saturday night can be summarized in one word: "EPIC!"

First two nights reviewed by: Nathan Rodriguez
Third night reviewed by: James Biviano
JamBase | Colorado
Go See Live Music!


For those of you keeping score, here’s the nitty gritty on the three night run, courtesy of www.friendsofcheese.com

3.20.03 (1st Night)
Set I Texas Town, Cedar Laurels-->Black Clouds, Suntan, This Must Bet the Place (Naïve Melody)-->Jam-->Texas

Set II 100 Year Flood-->Dear Prudence Jam-->Sand Dollar-->Drums-->Got What He Wanted, Ramble On, ¡BAM! Sing a New Song, How Mountain Girls Can Love

Encore: Is This Love
Encore 2: Rhum ‘n’ Zouc


3.21.03 (2nd night)
Set I Turn This Around, Miss Brown’s Teahouse, Walls of Time, Remington Ride, Latinissmo, Way Back Home, Superstition

Set II Wake Up, Land’s End-->Here Comes the Sun Jam-->Land’s End-->Up the Canyon, White Freightliner Blues-->Jam-->Howard, Smile

Encore: Shakin’ the Tree


3.22.03 (3rd Night)
Set I Huckling the Berries, Dark Hollow, Shenandoah Breakdown, Doin’ My Time, The Hobo Song, Rebecca, Bear Creek, Hold What You’ve Got, Wheel Hoss

Set II Shantytown, Missin’ Me-->Chameleon, Desert Dawn, Boo Boo’s Picnic, Sweet Melinda-->San Jose

Set III Drums-->I Know You Rider, MLT, Jellyfish-->Rollover-->Rivertrance

Encore: Next to You-->Rollover


Finally, SCI scheduled tour dates:

Japan 2003
4.09.2003 | Big Cat | Osaka, Japan (Wed.)
4.10.2003 | Club Quattro | Nagoya, Japan (Thu.)
4.12.2003 | Shibuya Ax | Tokyo, Japan (Sat.)
4.13.2003 | Shibuya Ax | Tokyo, Japan (Sun.)

Spring Tour 2003
4.16.2003 | Richmond's Landmark Theater | Richmond, VA (Wed.)
4.17.2003 | Raleigh Civic Center | Raleigh, NC (Thu.)
4.18.2003 | Asheville Civic Center | Asheville, NC (Fri.)
4.19.2003 | Suwannee Music Park | Live Oak, FL (Sat.)
4.20.2003 | Suwannee Music Park | Live Oak, FL (Sun.)
4.23.2003 | SIU Arena | Carbondale, IL (Wed.)
4.24.2003 | Elliot Hall of Music | West Lafayette, IN (Thu.)
4.25.2003 | UIC Pavilion | Chicago, IL (Fri.)
4.26.2003 | Orpheum Theatre | Minneapolis, MN (Sat.)
4.27.2003 | Orpheum Theatre | Minneapolis, MN (Sun.)

[Published on: 3/27/03]

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