The String Cheese Incident

26 July 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Set One:  Close Your Eyes > Far From Home, Blue Bossa, Water, Joyful Sound > Miss Brown's Teahouse > Bollymunster

Set Two:  Howard > Tom Sawyer > Howard, Stop Drop Roll, County Road Blues, Sirens, Don't Say > Beautiful > Colorado Bluebird Sky

Encore:  This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) > Jellyfish > I Know You Rider

    Sunday Funday.  And doesn’t that just about sum things up for the third and final night of music with The String Cheese Incident?  After two nights of the musical dynamo tearing Red Rocks to pieces, we were all ready for lightning to strike a third and lucky time as the sun was setting slowly and warmly behind us.  Bathed in the rosy  evening’s light reflected from the red, red rocks all around us, the whole amphitheatre emanated love and joy and happiness, all to be expected from Cheese fans and the Amphitheatre.  Bedecked in the characteristic finery and costumery of our SCI clan, none of us was going to let the last night of the run be a reason to not fly one’s freak flag high and proudly.  Which is just one of the countless reasons I love my Cheese Fam so very much.  Nahko and Medicine for the People simply killed it opening up that evening — I heard tons of positive comments about them from several friends and even more “strangers” (I hesitate to use that word with Cheese Family since those whom you don’t know are just ones you haven’t met yet, however, it’s hard to call them strangers.  It’s a Cheese thing, you see.)  They certainly whipped the audience energy up to a lovely level readying us all the more for some String Cheese in our lives.  And speaking of SCI, why don’t we discuss a bit of music from Sunday’s proceedings?

    An old, but great favorite jumped the whole shebang into life that evening, Kyle Hollingsworth’s familiar voice singing out the lyrics to “Close Your Eyes” as well all began the non-stop dancing that would typify the remainder of our night.  They took this right into a selection from their latest album, Song in My Head, with Billy Nershi up to the mic for “So Far From Home”.  Jason Hann picked up his washboard for this one, sometimes the perfect percussion to back a guy like Nershi.  Not to mention Kyle’s big, ol’ fat solo on organ smack dab in the middle of the song.  Crushed it.  “Blue Bossa” followed with its Latin beat and prolific cowbell providing the perfect rhythm for some serious dancing.  And dance seriously the people did with reckless abandon and hearts full to bursting as Michael Kang picked out a sweet melodic solo line over the top of the energetic ensemble sound.  Up next in the line was a lengthy and powerful “Water” with “Joyful Sound” coming right after.  Another personal favorite of mine, the band knocked this one right out of Red Rocks Park — they really sounded spot on for it.  Kang’s rock-heavy solo in the middle was money as it comes especially when you have Kyle wailing on the keys at the same time.  It was plain to see that the group’s energy levels tonight were at the same astronomic ones as both nights before…and we in the crowd were trying to match that energy.  And it was glorious.  After a wicked closing jam, they took “Joyful” directly into “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” which is yet another favorite of mine from Sunday’s setlist.  Michael Travis laid down the solid phatty beat as Hollingsworth nailed a nasty solo only to hand the reigns to Keith Moseley for a sweet bass run during the central jam.  It was a groovy, chill, and bouncy version all at once that kept the people moving to the music, smiling all the while.  The exotic chords of the instrumental “Bollymunster” heralded the end of “Miss Brown’s” and the beginning of another minutes-long dance fest as we stomped and jumped and laughed and twirled along the packed tiers of Red Rocks.  What a set!  What a setlist!  What a Sunday!  Well, so far that is.  I feel the grand majority of us there present needed that set break more than ever — we are all of us human, after all, and after the way Cheese had rocked it all weekend, many of us were understandably spent…even though we were all full to capacity with the happiness and joy that SCI brings.  Hence the interesting and delightful paradox about shows such as this.  And how about the rest of that show, hmmm?

    Boom.  “Howard” lit the second set afire as Kang nabbed the mic and the band exploded into another hour-and-a-half’s worth of marvelous music.  Nershi threw down a big, bold, boisterous acoustic guitar solo at one point (thanks, Billy!) and later in the song we found ourselves in a tripped-out, very spacey jam that morphed into the classic, intricate, Cheese-style kind of breakdown that is such a distinguishing mark of SCI’s performing.  And then something magic happened.  The notes of “Howard” began to die away as new notes took their place, songs eliding into one another.  And these new notes were so well-known, so accustomed — but what song was it?  And then it hit us all, like a velvet hammer to the forehead.  “A modern day warrior. Mean, mean stride.  Today’s Tom Sawyer.  Mean, mean pride!” Yes, you read that correctly.  A Rush cover.  And “Tom Sawyer” to boot!  Hells to the yeah!  Kang took the vocals and the band proceeded to do an amazing impersonation of that grand Canadian band.  Kyle’s keyboards were perfect, just perfect.  And playing Neal Peart’s drum parts?  Travis and Hann teamed up for an impressive display of percussion skill and acumen that well-nigh mirrored Peart himself.  All so very good.  Another one for which I am eternally grateful.  String Cheese took this right back into “Howard” to finish things up with a monster “Howard” jam.  A super mellow and rather long instrumental interlude led us to the tongue-in-cheek “Stop, Drop, Roll” with its funky almost disco-like feel at points.  Really fun song, that one.  Later down the set it was time for “Sirens”, the minor, almost sinister sounding chords and riffs starting the song up unmistakable from the beginning note.  However, when Moseley hits that chorus, the whole song changes in spirit to the refrain of “I just want to say I love you…”  Man, what a great song and what a great one live.  And this time was no exception whatsoever.  Kyle took the lead next for “Don’t Say” which the band then took into “Beautiful” featuring two pretty amazing solos from Kang and Hollingsworth.  Just what to expect from a Cheese show:  incredible solo work, phenomenal talent and skill, monumental ensemble sound, and fun, fun, fun.  They slid right into the final song of the set from “Beautiful” with Nershi back up to sing us a little “Colorado Bluebird Sky”.  And what a gift that was!  Suffice it to say, that song kills it every time here in Colorado.  What can we say?  And, of course, it’s always nice to get some fast pickin’ from Cheese and, thanks to Billy’s acoustic skills, that’s exactly what we got!  Chill-up-to-quick jamming in full-effect, like they do, Kang and Nershi trading off guitar lines, every member of the band bringing the heat — this was definitely the best version of the song I had ever heard.  It was as if the group was trying to prove something all the way to the end of the show.  Amazing.  But, they weren’t done yet!  One encore?  Nope.  Two?  Hardly.  Three encores??  Yup.  That’s right.  Three.  And Talking Heads up first??  Baller.  “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” kicked off the ‘encore set’ with Kyle heading up the merry band.  This is certainly one of my favorite covers of theirs so I was so grateful to get it before the end of the run.  Great job of it, too, of course.  Not slowing down a beat, Cheese elided the Heads right into their own “Jellyfish” for a wild and crazy version of it.  Sure made a lot of people in the crowd ecstatic.  Billy stopped the lyrics a few lines in only to head off to the side to grab his, presumably, tequila for a cheers and a drink before continuing on and restarting the lyrics.  Classic Nershi.  Love it.  Rocking out pretty hard, the boys brought it until the very end, never slacking in energy or stage presence.  And, just when we thought the final chords were being played, whammo!  The Grateful Dead.  “I Know You Rider”.  In our faces.  Quick and spry and fun and the perfect way to end the juggernaut that was the past three days at Red Rocks.  What a run!  What a combination, String Cheese and Red Rocks!  If you’ve not yet made the pilgrimage to the Rocks, I highly recommend SCI’s next run there as your first.  Incidents in that magical place are truly special things to behold.  And so very worth the time, cost, and effort.  Hope you’ve enjoyed this little Sunday recap.  Happy music in your future, my friends!

A huge thanks to String Cheese, Red Rocks, and my Cheese Family for such a wonderfully wonderful weekend!!

Many thanks to Brady Cooling for his amazing photography!!