Colorado’s own Rocky Mountain jamgrass outfit The String Cheese Incident satisfied our Thanksgiving hangovers with a blizzarding Friday evening debut at Denver’s Mission Ballroom for the first night of their two-night run.
Making their return to their homebase fans since their three-night run at Morrison’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre back in July, Bill Nershi, Keith Moseley, Michael Kang, Michael Travis, Kyle Hollingsworth, and Jason Hann strudded out to the sold-out 4,000-capped new venue ready to give thanks to some of their most beloved family, friends, and fans.
Even among the blizzarding conditions that hit Denver nearly an hour before the show started, cheese fans stood unfazed by the mountain storm and packed in the new AEG-owned venue to delight and radiate full-powered energy under the high-tech disco ball.
Kicking things off just a little past 8:30 p.m., the six-piece went into “Close Your Eyes”, starting the night off on a light and airy note, before keyboardist Hollingsworth quickened the pace in “So Far From Home”. The warm instrumental “MLT” jam was washed up next with a beachy blues base and punchy guitar chords, that was followed by an epic space jam breakdown. “Gone Crooked” was the middle bulk as the first set, and was trailed behind a brilliant “Shine” celebration melody. The venue resonated with uplifting, soulful energy that was backed by a danceable lead by guitarist Nershi and bassist Moseley. The group delved into a deep and sultry tribal jam, supported by drummer Travis and percussionist Hann, also faking out the crowd with a slight “This Must Be The Place” tease before bringing back up the ending “Shine” melody.
The first night’s set came to a near closing by Nershi welcoming The Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi, talking with the crowd, “Thanksgiving shows are special cause’ it’s all about the love. We are thankful for you fans coming to all the shows and pouring out the love. You fans have fanned our musical fire. Thanks for fanning fans!”
A group hoot emerged from the crowd to celebrate in the love and gratitude, taking the band into a rotating “One Step Closer” bluegrass jam. Nershi and Kang bounced off each other in the leading melody takeover, then Hall and Pandolfi trading with leads with them and taking the bit on a deep jam that slipped into a grand “BollyMunster”. Kang picked up his violin to start up the Celtic bluegrass melody, Hall and Pandolfi rebounding off Kang’s energy. Hollingsworth deepened the tone with some spacey key work, Moseley striking the take with some deep bass grooves, and finishing off the first night’s set with a heightened ending by all members of the band.
Setbreak saw some classic Grateful Dead “Fire On The Mountain” and “I Know You Rider” tunes, hinting to the crowd of what’s to come for the remainder of the night. The band returned to the stage ready for a straight through jammed-out set at 10:30 p.m., Kang talking with the crowd, “we’re gonna take you on a journey of the last 25 years”, Nershi and Hann starting the group into their 1997 “Texas”. Nershi drove the song through with his story-like lyrics, Hollingsworth taking the first night’s jam into deeper territory with faster-paced key chords and diving into their old-school “Galactic”. The song was taken under psychedelic territory with jazzy and blues undertones that transitioned into their 2001 reggae jam “Rollover”. The crowd swayed along to Kang’s echoing vocals, Hann advancing the group to a progressive jam that layed into the 2003-released “Sirens”, making it evident by now that the band was indeed taking the crowd on an extended jammed-out set throughout their 25 years. Hann rapped the reggae solo, Nershi ripping on his electric guitar as Kang picked up his violin and started into “Valley Of The Jig”. The venue turned into a massive frenzied-dance abyss as Kang led the striking folk ballad through the space orbit of “It Is What It Is”.
The Rocky Mountain favorite “Colorado Bluebird Sky” shone its spot on the last half of the second set, leading the Colorado fans into an uplifting scene under the electric disco ball. The guys took the classic song up a notch by changing up the tempo, teasing back into “Texas” but psyched out the crowd and headed into “Let’s Go Outside”. The journey through the 25 years wouldn’t be complete without a trip through their 2019-released “All We Got”. The psychedelic Mario Kart “Rainbow Road”-inspired visuals projected on the screen behind the group, taking the crowd on an astral funky journey to end the night.
A brief break allowed the band to catch their breath to start up the four-song encore, welcoming Travis, aka Dr. Frankenstein, to blind the crowd with science in a cover of Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”. Hall and Pandolfi returned to the stage for the foreshadowed “I Know You Rider” sequence jam, Travis now back on drums to take the tempo down into Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up”. The band eased the energy in the room into a daze before all members picked up the rendition back into “I Know You Rider” for a final ending of the night.
The String Cheese Incident returns to compete their two-night Thanksgiving run at the Mission Ballroom tonight for another sold-out show. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head to the band’s website.
Below, you can view a whole gallery’s worth of photos courtesy of photographer Andrew Rios.
Setlist: The String Cheese Incident | Mission Ballroom | Denver, CO | 11/29/2019
Set 1: Close Your Eyes, So Far From Home, MLT, Gone Crooked, Shine, Group Hoot*, One Step Closer* > BollyMunster*
Set 2: Texas > Galactic > Rollover > Sirens > Valley Of The Jig > It Is What It Is > Colorado Bluebird Sky > Let’s Go Outside > All We Got
Encore: Blinded Me With Science, I Know You Rider* > Stir It Up* > I Know You Rider*
* = w/ Andy Hall & Chris Pandolfi