The String Cheese Incident :: 03.25.05 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO
In what is now a Colorado institution, The String Cheese Incident recently set up shop in Denver's Fillmore Auditorium for a three night Winter Carnival. The Cheese have no problem filling this historic, medium-sized venue, and this night was certainly no different. And with a new studio album about to be released, the band was surely eager to support it. A couple fans who had attended the previous night, which featured special guest Dr. John, graded it an average show, so anticipation for redemption was in the air.
Perry Farrell :: 3.25.05 :: Fillmore, CO
On this night in the middle of the three-night stand, we were treated to a DJ set by the iconic Perry Farrell, who was quite content playing your father's record collection of mostly 70's rock hits. Most everyone knew every song, many of which were not really dance songs but rather, anthems. His selections made me wonder whether Perry was trying to educate the few under-age folks on commercial rock hits of a particular era or was he just into a classic rock phase, reminding us of from where we've come.
SCI started off pretty well with hints of bluegrass picking through some early songs led by guitarist Billy Nershi. In a change of pace, "San Jose" was a great exhibition of funky African beats by guest Sikiru Adepoju on the talking drum. Mid-set, however, the jams lost a little direction. Somewhere during "Land's End" it seemed like the band just stopped playing, most likely in anticipation of inviting Perry to join them. As Farrell took the stage, it struck me that this was a re-creation of the Perry Ferrell Incident that was promised as part of last year's cancelled Lollapalooza tour. This was a taste of what the boys might have been practicing in preparation for that tour as the Cheese played three songs that they had never before played in public.
SCI :: 3.25.05 :: Fillmore, CO
Farrell's front-man persona (made famous as the leader of Jane's Addiction) has always been intriguing and commanding. He channels a punk Jim Morrison. As the band ripped into renditions of Jane's Addiction's, "Mountain Song," and "Been Caught Stealing," Farrell's distinct yowl evoked memories of Jane's shows that I was fortunate enough to witness. Hearing the Cheese play these tunes in their own homegrown style was a treat as Perry adapted his vocals to the grassy rhythms. Perry's third and final song with the band, Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love," was announced as an ode to the Fillmore. Given the genre of his DJ set, it seemed to fit right in. His all-too-brief appearance made for a truly remarkable show.
SCI with Perry Farrell :: 3.25.05 :: Fillmore, CO
Second set opened with mandolin/fiddle man Michael Kang's "Black and White." Unfortunately, Kang's jams seemed a little scarce throughout the evening as Nershi took most of the solos. So when Kang got his licks in, I paid attention. "One Step Closer" picked up a gospel flavor that turned into a tasty jam led by Kyle Hollingsworth. Then came "Jellyfish." Nershi's tale of "Agnes" lost me five-minutes into his monologue, but the band zigged and zagged its way back home through the instrumental "Sirens," followed by an extended jam. Meanwhile in one of the upstairs recesses of the Fillmore, I stumbled upon a tucked-away art gallery that was showcasing some amazing and original work from the likes of Stanley Mouse, Alex Grey, and Boulderite Scramble Campbell. The psychedelic images and photographs complemented the music nicely.
Michael Kang :: SCI :: 3.25.05 :: Fillmore, CO
Unfortunately, on this night not every jam "worked." 2003's release Untying the Not marked a change in the String Cheese sound. When they play songs like "Sirens" live, they sound like a different band. Instruments get transmogrified through various effects into a sonic melting pot. Sometimes the synthetic weave was engaging, but too often harsher tones found their way into the mix.
Kyle Hollingsworth (SCI) :: 3.25.05 :: Fillmore, CO
The third night of the Carnival featured the McCoury Brothers band, and judging by the setlist, bluegrass reigned through three epic sets. SCI's strong-suit has been the melding of various styles into a bluegrass context. Their recent explorations into live electronica testify to their growth as artists. They definitely face the challenge of translating their more recent studio audioscapes into the live experiences. Every once in a while the results border on cacophony. It will be interesting to see where their new studio album, One Step Closer, takes them.
Setlist (thanks to www.friendsofcheese.com)
Set 1: Miss Brown's Teahouse > How Mountain Girls Can Love, 45th of November, San Jose, Rainbow Serpent > Land's End > Mountain Song, Been Caught Stealing, Feel Like Making Love
Set 2: Black and White, One Step Closer, Jellyfish > Sirens > Jam > Round the Wheel
Encore: Lost, Search
Words by: Haig Assadourian
Images by: Tony Stack
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