With another spin around the sun is almost done, The String Cheese Incident kicked off its New Year’s festivities on Thursday with the first of a three-night run at Mission Ballroom in the band’s beloved Denver, Colorado.

On a night that saw a welcome thaw across most of the nation, Cheese brought its own heat to a party that featured a stellar setlist and special guests like Kanika Moore (Doom Flamingo) and Antwaun Stanley (Vulfpeck). Though harsh weather made getting to the show arduous for those coming from near and far, the smiles on the faces in the crowd clearly showed that the destination was worth the journey. For the rest of us, there is good news! Nugs.net is livestreaming all three nights.

The evening began with the band’s long-awaited induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, met with a roar of approval from the gathered fans. “Round The Wheel” > “Can’t Stop Now” was a bouncy, exuberant way to start off three nights of jams. After the high-energy one-two opening, guitarist/vocalist Billy Nershi congratulated the crowd for making it to the show from near and far, noting the snarling effect of the recent cold snap and logistical fiascos. The exuberant response clearly came from beleaguered folks happy to finally be right where they belonged.

The String Cheese Incident – Set One Preview – 12/29/22

The transition between third song, “Looking Glass”, and “Birdland” brought a much-needed ease in tempo slowing, the band exploring trippy space as Kyle Hollingsworth got some use out of his vast array of keyboards, moving from acoustic beauty to the deepest of space and back again. Multi-instrumentalist Michael Kang broke out his fiddle and shared a lovely bluegrass fiddle-in-the-middle jam with Nershi before percussion pairing of Jason Hann and Michael Travis  handled the changing tempos with veteran ease.

While the crowd and band alike caught their breath, Cheese was joined by the first guest of the evening, the aforementioned
Antwaun Stanley. The band seemed to relish its first chance of the night to show off a little of its unique musical adroitness with a soulful take on the Bill Withers classic “Kissing My Love” before welcoming Doom Flamingo’s Kanika Moore out for a perky “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” and a sultry take on the Grateful Dead’s beloved ode to disco beats, “Shakedown Street”. Moore owned both the stage and the crowd, vamping through the lyrics with a charisma as impressive as her voice itself.

Related: Denver Comes Alive Announces Two-Day Lineup For Expanded 2023 Event At Mission Ballroom

After set break, Kanika came back out with String Cheese as the instantly recognizable opening strains of Allman Brothers Band centerpiece tune “Whipping Post” filled the rafters. With thoughts of the soaring vocals she’d turned in for her earlier visit, this track, known for its crescendo-building, mind-blowing explosiveness, promised massive results. So passionate about her performance was Kanika that she literally fell to her knees before rising to finish with true grace. The talented Ms. Moore didn’t just leave her mark on the stage—she scorched a few boards clean off.

The String Cheese Incident – “Whipping Post” (The Allman Brothers Band) [Pro-Shot] – 12/29/22

“All We Got” is one of those songs that truly sums up the sound of Cheese’s later sound, a homemade electronica that weaves together world music percussive flourishes and an organic beating heart in a way no DJ can replicate. The explorative jam sat in perfect contrast with not only the previous tune but the pulsing, western kissed “Sing A New Song” that followed.

Next, the Mission Ballroom found itself transported to some cosmic dance party by way of the Caribbean on “Can’t Wait Another Day”. Jason Haan beat his array of congas and hand drums into submission with a transfixed glare upwards while Hollingsworth delivered his lyrics with a glee that would be simply impossible to fake.

The second half of the set turned into a blur of contrasts. The spacey flight of “Sand Dollar” flowed into a crowd pleasing, funk-jam “Rosie” > “Travelin’ Blues Jam” > “Rosie” sandwich. This combo once again prompted Nershi to gush about his appreciation for the packed house before leaving the stage to allow the outfit to catch its collective breath.

They weren’t gone long. In very short order, the band returned with special guest Antwaun Stanley in tow. Stanley proceeded to lead the crowd by section in a massive sing-a-long take on signature Stevie Wonder tune “Higher Ground before Kanika Moore, in a dazzling display of feathered costume wildness, rejoined String Cheese and Antwuan for a swing-for-the-fences take on the seminal Queen/David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure”.

After the soul-searing vocals by Moore and Stanley echoed the legendary Bowie/Mercury pairing, the entire band joined its guests in the slow-fading finger-snapping that closes out the classic tune—both a novel way to end the set and a mandate for anyone curious about what’s to come for the rest of the run. The pressure is on. Don’t sleep on it.

Watch full livestreams of each night of the 2022 String Cheese Incident New Year’s run at Denver, CO’s Mission Ballroom via nugs.net. For details, click here. Scroll down to check out the full setlist and a selection of photos and videos from night one.

The String Cheese Incident Colorado Music Hall of Fame Induction – 12/29/22

[Video: starman2112 rush]

The String Cheese Incident w/ Kanika Moore – “Whipping Post” (Allman Brothers Band) – 12/29/22

[Video: Bob Fontneau]

The String Cheese Incident w/ Antwaun Stanley, Kanika Moore – “Under Pressure” (Queen/David Bowie) – 12/29/22

[Video: PhatBeats 420]

Setlist: The String Cheese Incident | Mission Ballroom | Denver, CO | 12/29/22

Set One: Colorado Music Hall Of Fame Induction, ‘Round the Wheel > Can’t Stop Now, Looking Glass > Birdland > Remington Ride > Birdland, When I’m Kissing My Love%, Miss Brown’s Teahouse# > Shakedown Street#

Set Two: Whipping Post@, All We Got, Sing A New Song > Can’t Wait Another Day, Sand Dollar Best Feeling > Rosie
Encore: Higher Ground*

Encore: Under Pressure^
%- Bill Withers – First Time Played – Antwaun Stanley on Vocals
# – featuring Kanika Moore and Antwaun Stanley on Vocals
@ – Allman Brothers Band – First Time Played – Kanika Moore on Vocals
* – Stevie Wonder – featuring Antwaun Stanley on Vocals – LTP 7.3.09
^ – David Bowie and Queen – First Time Played – Kanika & Antwan on Vocals