String Cheese Incident | September 5, 2003 | Red Rocks Amphitheater | Morrison, CO
By Tony Stack
Fresh out of the studio with their new CD, Untying the Not about to launch, the String Cheese Incident must have felt like throwing a party in their backyard. Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the most beautiful venues in the northern hemisphere, served the purpose just fine. Two nights up in the mountains with a few thousand of their friends kicked off an eighteen-date Fall tour.
An afternoon warm up was hosted by new monsoon at the top of the amphitheatre seating on a stage overlooking Colorado. new monsoon had delivered a smoking couple of sets in Boulder's Fox Theater two nights before and now found themselves, literally, on top of the world. As the birds swirled atop the nearby peaks, the band launched into its first set with killer songs such as "One of These Days," "On the Sun" and "Mountain Air." This red-hot band from San Francisco would play 'tweener' sets after the Incident's other guests on both nights. new monsoon may not be a secret anymore as they continue to deliver thoroughly engaging jams that feature diverse instrumentation.
Dj Logic kept the party going on the main stage playing numerous vinyl testaments to the roots of funk and reggae. He whipped up a Hendrix medley that got the crowd's attention, followed by an excellent treatment of Zeppelin selections. Logic has often demonstrated his wide-ranging and flavorful musical tastes but this set tended to focus on "old school" strains of rock and roll.
By Adam George
Logic took a few minute break but walked back on stage with his frequent collaborators, Medeski Martin & Wood. John Medeski soon built a chaotic Hammond organ canvas for his cohorts to paint upon and eventually, rhythms emerged with Chris Wood's strong bass guitar riffs and Billy Martin's jazz syncopation. Logic's turntable contributed sound ambience and vocals samples through the entire set. MMW delivered a mix of old and new material from their Uninvisible release. Favorites such as their Bob Marley cover "Lively Up Yourself" got the crowd dancing. Some furious drum solos from Martin invoked passionate renditions of Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun" and "Fire." Logic's earlier Hendrix selections seemed to have an influence. The finale was a little bit of magic. Martin continued his excellent drum work on an African talking drum while Medeski and Logic seemed to duel in instrumental conversation with Wood's stand-up bass.
As the Incident took stage, I couldn't help but notice the numerous racks of lighting adorning the main stage. "This is going to be good," I thought. As expected, the crowd warmly welcomed the String Cheese boys back home after their recent tours through Japan and Europe.
By Tony Stack
The ensuing setlist was a little surprising, but then, good artists don't always do the expected. The sixteen songs this evening included only one new song from the latest CD. Perhaps the band plans to work its new material into their shows gradually.
The show was kicked off smartly with Bill Nershi's acoustic picking and Michael Kang's Pink Floyd-esque jazz trance interlude in one of the best sounding renditions of "Roll Over" I've heard. The new song that followed, "Sirens" was a bit plodding and stayed heavy throughout.
Part of SCI's charm is their authenticity. Whether it's Nershi's humble and appealing vocals on "Texas Town" or Michael Kang's heart felt violin playing on "Mouna Bowa," band members lay it on the line. The crowd senses and feeds it right back. "Joyful Sound" and "Shine" both offered colorful guitar interplay highlighted with brooding jams that seemed heavier than a black hole. Night had fallen during the first set and the light show soon lived up to its potential as various angled colors showered the band, the audience, and the surrounding rock formations.
By Tony Stack
John Medeski joined the band for a more spacey than usual "Jellyfish," sitting back-to-back with Kyle Hollingsworth amongst the keyboard stacks. Nershi released some aerobic energy as he danced around the stage before the set finale, "Birdland" which featured its own stellar jam.
SCI's second set welcomed DJ Logic for a single song, "Riverdance" in which he contributed some cool instrumental samples. This may have been the set highlight and set a high standard for the rest of the show. Kyle Hollingsworth's fantastic keyboards stood up to the challenge and really shined in songs like "Boo Boo's Picnic" and "Close Your Eyes."
By Adam George
Nershi is a notorious fan of bluegrass and by this point in the show, I had noticed a distinct lack of pickin'. The set closer, "Can't Stop Now" gave Nershi his fix in fine style. Encores of Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved" and "Search" wrapped up the show on a high note.
This party lasted for almost eight hours. The weather cooperated and the Colorado crowd was treated to tremendous musicianship spanning a variety of styles crafted by both leaders and up and comers in the jam music scene, all of which contributed to a great kick off for the String Cheese Incident's tour and memorable end to the summer music season.
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