TREKKIN' FROM THE FOX TO THE ROCKS

We had a funny dream (after not winning tickets to String Cheese Incident's "Golden CD Incident" when we purchased Untying the Not) that we might get lucky in the second-chance drawing. And sometimes dreams do come true. In crazy Willy Wonka style, we set off to Colorado with anticipation of a three-day musical adventure in the Rockies beginning with SCI's Boulder show at the Fox Theatre for 500 of their most faithful fans.

Bill Nershi and Michael Kang :: 07.08.04 :: The Fox
Green-haired Oompa Loompas dancing on stage began the evening's adventure as "Willy Wonka" introduced the band. This all-request show (from fan's e-mailed requests) kicked off with "Born on the Wrong Planet" and continued with several blue-grassy favorites including "Salt Creek" and "Blackberry Blossom." "Tom Thumb's Blues" ended the first set, while more than 100 wanna-attendees still milled outside on 13th Street, catching scattered notes of the show. (The more resourceful ticketless fans listened to the show from the back alley.)

The second set kept all fans whirling as "Land's End" wrapped into "Round the Wheel" and beyond. Partway through, Bill Nershi welcomed the crowd to his cheese factory. "You are about to enter the nerve center of the cheese empire, where dreams become fantasy and fantasy become dreams," he said, serenading the fixated Friend Of Cheese with the "Oompa Loompa Song." The magical evening of synchronized synergy and non-stop dancing ended with a touching tribute, "Restless Wind" before the afterparty with DJ Harry commenced.

Chris Robinson and Audley Freed :: 07.09.04 :: Red Rocks
With barely enough time to recuperate, the next day we headed off to Red Rocks, the incredible natural amphitheater near Golden, Colorado. Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud kicked off a raucous 45-minute set with "Hot Buttered Biscuit Jam." Robinson's newly reinvented group performed several songs from their new album This Magnificent Distance, including his self-proclaimed "storm-a-coming" tune "40 Days" and "Girl On The Mountain," a throwback to 1960s psychedelic lyrical poetry. The addition of Rob Baracco on keyboards added a new dimension to the group's sound as they ended their too-short set with "Lazy Day" and "Omaha," songs more introspective than prior ventures.

Red Rocks Rainbow and Michael Kang :: 07.09.04
The excitement was intense as String Cheese opened their first Red Rocks set with "Shine." Fans, dressed in sparkles and capes, danced in the aisles as Michael Kang sang "Black and White," left unfinished as they transitioned into "Boo Boo's Pikanik." The title of the new song "Look at Where We Are" seemed chosen to reflect on the amazing venue, while the magic of "Birdland" launched a rainbow to the right of the stage between the monolithic rocky outcroppings. I imagined the red rocks as they appeared 800 years ago while Kang and Nershi sang "Little Hands," which morphed into "Dudley's Kitchen Jam." Warren Haynes, the man who always sounds good according to Nershi, joined the boys for the encore of "MLT." As the skies above the rocks darkened, turning them various shades of blue and gray, SCI launched into "Cheap Sunglasses," a first-ever ZZ Top cover, and ended with an energetic "Smile."

Red Rocks Crowd :: Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes :: 07.09.04
Cheese fans seemed poised for more danceadelic music as the Allman Brothers Band took over the stage with a fierce "Mountain Jam" while Derek Trucks and Haynes traded guitar leads back and forth. After strong renditions of "Midnight Rider" and "Stand Back," Barraco joined in for the Derek & the Dominoes song "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad," before Kang stepped in to add his fiddle for "Franklin's Tower."

Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes :: 07.09.04 :: Red Rocks
As an amazing lightning show began high above Red Rocks, the band slowed things down with the 1967 tune "Melissa" and the ever-touching "Soulshine" with vocals by Gregg Allman. The fan's energy level was soon heightened again with "Statesboro Blues." After "Dreams," the Cheese infused as Kang joined in on mandolin, and Kyle Hollingsworth came in on keyboards for a huge "Southbound." Coltrane's "Afro Blue" began the encore leading to a "Mountain Jam" reprise, and wrapping into "Whipping Post" to end night one at the Rocks.


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