On Friday night, String Cheese Incident returned to the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, commencing their annual three-night run at the legendary outdoor venue in Morrison, Colorado. Over the last month or so, String Cheese has been on a tear, and last night’s show truly raised the bar as the group sounded beyond tight and offered up an exceptional setlist to kick off the run. After a set by Jyemo Club, a world-funk fusion group out of Denver, String Cheese shredded through their Red Rocks performance, with a huge bust out of “Parker’s Blues” during the tail end of the first set—the last time the tune was played was back on July 29th, 2004, making it a few days short of thirteen years since “Parker’s Blues” had last been played.
For their first number of the night, String Cheese Incident offered up “Believe,” the title track off their latest studio album, which was released a few months ago. Despite some sound issues and the speakers cutting out toward the beginning of the song, the song, featuring an electronic-tinged jam carried by Kyle Hollingsworth, served as a good warm-up for the rest of the night as the band got into full swing of things. From there, the rhythm section led into the crowd-pleasing classic, “Smile.” Following the jovial, tropical number, String Cheese Incident became fully locked into the performance, evidenced by the nonstop three-song sequence through “These Waves,” “Djibouti Bump,” and “Can’t Stop Now,” and the particularly tight transitions across them. Coming out of “Djibouti Bump,” the synthy, upbeat jam built to a climatic finish before dropping into the propulsive bluegrass tune sung by Keith Moseley, during which Billy Nershi showed off his own pickin’ skills ahead of Michael Kang and Hollingsworth’s own rapid-fire solos. Featuring Hollingsworth on vocals and tight vocal harmonies across the board, Michael Travis led in a smooth rendition of “Falling Through The Cracks.”
As the first set heated up to its close, Nershi led the charge into “Miss Brown’s Teahouse,” with his own twangy and resonate solo featured during the tune. The jam out of “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” came to a heavy, rhythmic finish as the song accelerated into “Parker’s Blues,” a song which hadn’t seen air time since 2004. Despite the thirteen year gap, “Parker’s Blues” saw String Cheese Incident working the song patiently and savoring the more ambient groove of the tune. From there, via a return through “Miss Brown’s Teahouse,” the group moved into “Birdland,” kicking off the final closing sandwich of the first set, which saw a cover of “Orange Blossom Special.” The final sequence of songs, which was kicked off by “Miss Brown’s Teahouse,” showed String Cheese at its finest, with the group expertly working their transitions, giving each song the proper treatment, and clearly dialing into the infectious energy of the crowd. As Kang’s prominent fiddle led to the frenetic climax of “Orange Blossom Special,” Cheese’s return to “Birdland” made for a shreddy and dramatic close to the set.
Coming out of set break, Cheese continued on with their amped-up energy, picking up right where they left off at the end of set one. Though the rain started to pour down as the members of the band returned to the stage (which now, more or less, is a Red Rocks tradition for Cheese, who has frequently encountered weather issues during their past runs), “You’ve Got The World” was a jubilant and triumphant affair and neither the musicians nor the crowd seemed deterred. With Keith’s standout bass line intertwining deliciously with Kyle on the keys, the song made for an expertly rendered and high-energy start to set two. From there, Cheese moved into “Valley of the Jig,” and the trancey, electronic-tinged number set a tone for the rest of the set, which leaned more heavily on Cheese’s penchant for electronic tones.
“You’ve Got The World”
As the rain slowed to a trickle and then cleared, Billy led in the melodic start to bluegrass-fueled “Windy Mountain,” an appropriate and crowd-pleasing number which saw Kyle rocking an accordion. Expertly built through to the feel-good “Joyful Sound,” the group then transitioned into “Rumble,” and the resonant bass, which at points sounded didjeridoo-esque, again channeled a more electronic-inspired vibe. After taking a moment to recollect themselves, String Cheese moved into a soaring rendition of “Outside and Inside,” which came to a dramatic close as it abruptly dropped into Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me.” Jamming out of the crowd-pleasing cover, the group dropped the volume with a quick interlude featuring Kyle’s cascading keys before getting heavier for a cover of “In The Hall Of The Mountain King,” Edvard Grieg’s Romantic composition from 1875 that has become widely recognizable for its creeping, dramatic minor theme. Crawling out of the cover, an extended dark jam eventually led into “Beautiful,” which saw Kyle and Kang tear through their solos to end the second set on a high note.
After noting that they were short on time and pressing close to Red Rocks’ strict time curfew, to start off their encore, Jason Hann and Travis emerged with members of the opening act, Jyemo Club, for a huge drum jam. Featuring six percussionists on stage, the drums accelerated to a peak as the rest of the members of String Cheese came out for the final number, “Don’t It Make You Want To Dance.” Closing with an a capella verse and inviting the sold-out amphitheater to sing along, the final number of the night ended at midnight on the dot, making for a powerful close to the night.
Setlist: String Cheese Incident | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 7/22/2017
Set One: Believe, Smile, These Waves > Djibouti Bump > Can’t Stop Now, Falling Through The Cracks, Miss Brown’s Teahouse > Parker’s Blues > Miss Brown’s Teahouse > Birdland > Orange Blossom Special > Birdland
Set Two: You’ve Got The World, Valley of the Jig, Windy Mountain > Joyful Sound > Rumble, Outside And Inside > You Wreck Me > In The Hall of the Mountain King > Beautiful
Encore: Drums1, Don’t It Make You Want To Dance
[Photos: Brittany Teuber]