The String Cheese Incident
25 July 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Set One: Song in My Head, Eye Know Why, Sweet Spot, Stay Through, Please Send Me Someone To Love, Round the Wheel > Drums > Sweet Melinda > Wheel Hoss, Live And Let Die
Set Two: Tinder Box > Restless Wind, You've Got the World, Hotel Window, Rivertrance, Way Back Home > Looking Glass > Just One Story
Encore: Drums > Rosie > Billie Jean > Rosie
I’m not really even sure how to begin this review. Not for any bad reason, mind you, to the contrary. I mean, how does one adequately do justice in a write up of String Cheese? Especially given the fact that they brought so very much to the table this weekend and then some, Saturday night being no exception. The Red Rocks scene was picture perfect: azure blue skies overhead, the sunlight bathing nearby downtown Denver in shining golden light, the green foothills standing verdant and proud, and all of us nestled between the magnificence of Creation Rock and her sister Ship Rock, those iconic ruddy monoliths who hold all concert goers in their gentle, familiar embrace while hearts soar, feet dance away madly, faces melt and joys unleash themselves out into the glorious ether that coats the amphitheatre in its sweet, subtle magic. And Cheese on the Rocks is always an affair to attend and remember. Suffice it to say the Cheese boys really like to bring their A+ game to one of their favorite home venues. Must be incredible to be able to call Red Rocks a “home venue”, no? Not to mention my Cheese Family — by far my very favorite fan base of any band going. The sweetest most fun-loving, costume-wearing crazy people in the world and, en masse, a force to be partied with. There is just something so inherently special about a show with folks such as these: you always leave fulfilled and soul-filled. Never mind all the unstoppable smiling and grinning as you survey the entire vista and take it all in, every feather boa, every jellyfish umbrella, every guy in a shark costume. But I suppose it’s time for some Cheese, eh?
Night two of SCI’s Red Rocks run opened with Billy Nershi up on lead first with “Song in My Head”. Kyle Hollingsworth showed instantly he was up for a big night with a monster organ solo, just wailing away as the band grooved along behind. Already we were off to an auspicious beginning to our evening. Kyle was then up to the mic for “Eye Know Why” which got down and funky and blissfully bass-heavy for a bit in the middle. The next song saw guest singers Rhonda Thomas and Tony White join the band on stage, and man were they fabulous. “Sweet Spot” featured a particularly tight solo from Michael Kang as well as the extra voices. Great additions to the show! The sweet and tender syncopation of “Stay Through” (from their most recent album Song in My Head) followed with Kang on his usual lead. Then we had a nice bluesy little number in the form of B.B. King’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love” with the supremely talented Rhonda Thomas on lead vocals — what a performance! Wow!! Love hearing my Cheese get down like that! Then we got the tried, true, triumphant old school “Round the Wheel” which was a delight for experienced Cheeseheads and first-time Incidenters alike. Always nice to hear an old friend. Plus, the lengthy mellow jam in the mid section didn't hurt things much either…especially when it turned intense on us. Classic SCI. Loved it. Oh, and a quick mention about their new lighting design and set-up: HOLY SCHNEIKIES!!! Lasers, fog machines, tons of new colored spots and backlights — it must have cost a fortune. However, it was certainly put to marvelous use all weekend not to mention during “Round the Wheel”. Bravo to all those responsible for this new direction!! After Michael Travis and Jason Hann’s wicked percussion duet at the end of “Round” the band went directly into “Sweet Melinda”. A dirty good Kang-led breakdown ensued with Keith Moseley laying down some fat, fat bass (in addition to the song’s vocals) while Nershi strummed like a madman playing to Kang. Again, more of that classic Cheese feeling that we all come for. And they still weren’t done with the set! Kang busted out the fiddle for “Wheel Hoss” which followed “Melinda” — a bit of fast pickin’ to round out the night. Not bad at all. Finally, saving the best for last, Rhonda and Tony rejoined the band for the simply stunning cover song: McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”. A Beatle and a Bond song all wrapped in String Cheesy goodness?? Yes, please! I’ll order a dozen! And they just freakin’ killed it, even Cheesing it up in the middle, Kang and his instrument crooning to the crowd. One of the absolute highlights of the weekend for me. And it was only set break. Hard to imagine.
And then it was Set Two. And we were all so ready for it. All the hoopers on standby, every foot poised for dance, all the rage sticks a-ragin’…so ready. Things kicked off with a banging “Tinder Box”, those familiar guitar and other electrified strains so recognizable to the myriad fans on countless tiers rising as if to the very skies. More big riffs and rock from Kang during his solo here, helping to make up such an important part of that ‘SCI Sound’. This, in turn, they took into another beloved standard: “Restless Wind”. The guest singers came back out for the organ and percussion-heavy “You’ve Got the World” which followed and which had a really nice groove to it. Very danceable. Bill took things down a bit for us all with the mellow “Hotel Window” but the boys instantly shoved things back into ‘Ludicrous Speed’ with Kang jumping up on fiddle again for that incomparable, intense, impossibly incredible insanity that is “Rivertrance”. I was already getting exhausted from the nonstop dancing…but there was more Cheese. Had…to…press…on. That’s when a really tight three-song combo started off with “Way Back Home” which contained a sizable, spacey jam and went directly into the Nershi-led “Looking Glass” (another track from their most recent album) and eliding right into Kang singing “Just One Story” to close out the second set. Whoa. What a freight train of musical goodness that was! And then there was a huge encore set that night leading off with Dave Watts (The Motet) and Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic) joining Jason on his kit for a four man drum and percussion exhibition along with Travis. So many beats, so much rhythm! And things just kept rolling — right into a huge, fat, awesome “Rosie”, purple, green, magenta, blue lights all aflutter to the unmistakable chords from Kyle at the keys. We all danced and jammed and got our Cheese on encore-style when the song began to morph. But to what? Ears straining for recognition. And then the notes hit you, those ones burned into your memory since childhood — there is never mistaking the sound of a Michael Jackson song. “Billie Jean”?? Are you kidding me??? Tony White grabbed the mic for this solo and he just nailed it to the wall. And the band? Killer. Thriller. You name it, they were magnificent. Another huge highlight of my weekend with Cheese on the Rocks. But they weren’t done yet! They took a big turn right back into “Rosie” for the big, big finish filled with “Billie Jean” teases and even a “Crosseyed and Painless” tease. I mean, what more could you ask for? I certainly couldn’t and didn’t as the show finally drew to a close, just so happy for all I had seen, all I had heard. My joy factor was riding high — the perfect way to leave a Saturday show such as this. What a weekend so far! Certainly made the prospect of a Sunday show all the sweeter…but you’ll have to wait for that one.
Many thanks to Brady Cooling for the incredible photos!!
Stay tuned for Sunday!!