The String Cheese Incident closed out its annual hosting duties at Electric Forest in Rothbury, MI with an explosive finale of guest stars, semi-controversial cover song choices, and fireworks, on and off stage. Cheese is well known for having a multi-genre sound that is all its own but that’s never stopped the seminal dancegrass band from pushing its limits and pulling out all the stops. On special occasions, such as the legendary Forest Saturday night closing sets, The String Cheese Incident delivers displays of sensory overload so expansive they’re dubbed “The Big Shebang” and rightly so.

Set one kicked off with the organ and keys-drenched intro to “Outside and Inside” from Kyle Hollingsworth and a ripping guitar solo from multi-instrumentalist Michael Kang to start things off with a bang. Kang kept up his efforts on the following “Give Me Love” with his signature crisp, melodic style that somehow never overpowers his bandmates’ work yet can reach mile-high heights when he lets loose.

The String Cheese Incident – “Outside and Inside” [Pro-Shot] – 6/24/23

Related: The String Cheese Incident Starts Electric Forest Run With A Multi-Genre Dance Party [Videos]

Bassist Keith Moseley dropped a fierce, thumping heartbeat to “Birdland” before the bluegrass roots of Cheese’s take on the tune kicked in. After a wide-ranging middle section Cheese brought the whole thing back down to Earth. Kang promised the cheering crowd a bunch more bluegrass to come before grabbing his fiddle and keeping his word with a “Black Clouds” that had the dance-hungry Forest audience scootin’ and bootin’.

Kang kept his violin but he and the band abandoned the genre, slipping into the Indian modalities utilized so well on “Bhangra Saanj”. After the abrupt finale to “Saanj”, Kang directed everyone’s attention to a magnificent setting sun breaking through the trees. It’s these moments of sentiment and wonder that exemplify what String Cheese fans love most about their band.

“Sirens” saw percussionist Jason Hann rapping like a man possessed and all of Cheese closed out the track in full heavy metal glory that had railbirds head banging away at dangerous speed. Hollingsworth stepped up for a lead turn on “Tripping The Light Fantastic” before a leave-it-all-on-the-stage “Tinder Box” gave the crowd one last chance to go into full boogie mode before set break.

Related: Shaq Hits Clutch Free Throw From Stage At Electric Forest [Watch]

More sweet organ work from Hollingsworth got set two going with a chugging and churning “Rosie” to a now near-capacity audience who were tightly packing the front. The first cover of the night, Led Zeppelin’s classic “Ramble On”, hit the crowd like a runaway tanker truck full of high-octane fuel into an already towering inferno. Kang did a remarkable emulation of Zep frontman Robert Plant’s epic howls and Cheese used that energy well, moving directly into one of its signature tunes, “Way Back Home”.

With that wild ride concluded, Moseley got his sing-song going on “Get Tight” and demonstrated, once again, String Cheese’s ability to make people boogie no matter what tempo, genre, or time of day. Whether it was guitarist Billy Nershi referencing the band’s proud roots in the music of the mountains on “Colorado Bluebird Sky” or the futuristic fusion of “Hi Ho No Show” there’s always a groove waiting for those ready to listen.

Nearing the finale, Nershi decided it was time to unite the crowd with some of his signature call-and-response crowd management, enticing the audience with a chant of “Oh YEAH!” Satisfied everyone was on the same page, Bill and Cheese laid down another of their truly idiosyncratic songs, “All We Got”, before harried roadies and stage crew brought out the extra risers and gear needed for the smash bang wrap-up about to commence.

Related: Meet Nova Han, The Secret Weapon For String Cheese’s Wildest “Incidents” [Interview]

With special guests the J3PO horns and the SOG Ensemble choir from Detroit the grand finale launched with a hushed, reverent take on the Gnarles Barkley hit “Crazy” that took on an even wilder dimension when the GR All-Stars drumline joined the fray. Drum beats punctuated by horn bursts and the music ascended until everything coalesced into a high-energy, gospel-flavored take on Kanye West’s “All Of The Lights”. Rapper/MC Burkey, of Colorado’s Red Giant Project, came out in a frenzy, spitting bars and adding one last layer to the frenzied wall of sound being laid down.

Adding a new visual aspect to the increasingly crowded stage, a four-person dance troupe twisted and twirled out to centerstage as the music transitioned into the New Radicals track “You Get What You Give”. Ascending one last time into the final section of “All Of The Lights” the sky erupted into fireworks as every element gelled into a sensory overload of energy, light, and love.

As the fireworks slowed and faded Nershi thanked the many guests who helped make the spectacle a reality and the band bid farewell to the crowd for the last time of the weekend. While the sheer scale of this “Big Shebang”, with its lack of inflatables, toxic confetti, and other bells and whistles, definitely came up short as compared to some previous years, the results were the same. When the String Cheese Incident sets out to drop the mic it rattles not just the stage but entire festivals.

When SCI picks that microphone up again next week, halfway across the country for a five-night Colorado run, who knows how insane things will get. But for now, the crowd wandered away, dazed and amazed and most importantly full of the special kind of love that only The String Cheese Incident can inspire. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit the band’s website.

The String Cheese Incident – The Big Shebang – 6/24/23

[Video: HODJmusic]

[Video: samantha cartwight]

Setlist: The String Cheese Incident | Electric Forest Festival | Rothbury, MI | 6/24/23

Set One: Outside and Inside, Give Me the Love, Birdland, Remington Ride, Birdland, Black Clouds, Bhangra Saanj, Sirens, Trip the Light Fantastic, Tinder Box

Set Two: Rosie, Ramble On, Way Back Home, Get Tight, Bluebird Sky, Hi Ho No Show, All We Got, Crazy (Gnarles Barkley), All of the Lights (Kanye West) > You Get What You Give (New Radicals)> All of the Lights (Kanye)