Colorado’s beloved The String Cheese Incident celebrated their last 25th anniversary show of 2019 for a Saturday night finale at Denver’s Mission Ballroom.
The mission was very well indeed accomplished for the six-piece, treating their home-state fans to three historical sets and original bust-outs for their second night return to Denver’s newer venue since Friday night’s debut. The show marked the band’s last show before the turn of the decade, taking on a much needed vacation after a year-round celebration of 25 years of cheesy, musical magic.
The band, comprised of Bill Nershi, Michael Kang, Keith Moseley, Michael Travis, Kyle Hollingsworth, and Jason Hann, started the first night’s set playing original cassette recordings prior to their first 1996 album studio release, Born On The Wrong Planet. The band released Aged Cheese: SCI’s First Cassette Tape in 2014 for fans to listen to, but used last night’s show as a storytelling celebration of 25 years as a band.
The guys busted into the opening track of the 2014 cassette release, “Lester Had A Coconut” for some easy-listening jams. Storytime with Nershi was the theme of the whole first set, talking to the crowd about how each member of the band got on the cheese train and formed what we all know today. Nershi told the story of his meeting with Moseley at RockyGrass Festival in 1992, then started into The Stanley Brothers, “How Mountain Girls Can Love”. A bust-out of “Sunny Skies” made the night’s third song of the night, Nershi then going into the story of moving to Boulder in 1995 and checking out a key player at the Fox Theatre. Kyle Hollingsworth was playing with a band called Durt, and Nershi later asked Hollingsworth to hop on tour with them for a couple shows to sit-in on. Now “sitting in for the rest of his life”, Hollingsworth’s addition to the group became a key asset to the band’s original sound and musical dimensions.
Hann and Travis started into an opening scratchy percussion of “Moonflower” for a jazzy, desert-rhythmed tune, Nershi then telling the last story of the night of how Hann became part of the cheese crew. Wanting some added texture to the band’s sound, Nershi and the guys scoped out Hann in 2004 after playing with his original band Zoo People. A rare bustout of “Rhythmess” started into the ending of the first set, the soulful vocals by Nershi and Kang ringing out throughout the venue before Hollingworth took over a key breakdown, handing off the main controls off to Kang on the mandola. The last bit of the first set concluded with a violin send off by Kang, diving into a deep funky jam, Nershi ripping into his guitar to slide into “Dudley’s Kitchen” for a fast-pickin country roundabout.
After a brief setbreak, the lyrics in “Can’t Wait Another Day” struck out throughout the sold-out crowd for a solid opening jam. Nershi broke out his electric guitar for a following of “Get Tight”, Hollingsworth following close behind with an epic key solo before Kang took back over electric reigns for a finishing touch. Nershi picked at his acoustic guitar in “Best Feeling” as Kang and Moseley led the group in a dark jam that took us into “Outside And Inside” territory. As their last show of the year, the band took the time to honor the late Robert Hunter who had passed earlier this year, starting into the Hunter and Hollingsworth co-written “45th of November”, easing into the heartfelt tune with a slow key intro by Hollingsworth. The guys took the rendition down into a deep and sultry jam before hitting into the flavored “Bhangra Saanj”. The Beats Antique-collaborated song was released earlier this year for a modern take of West African, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European music and elements. A blast off with an intergalactic space jam outro with Hollingsworth and Kang in “Howard” marked a grand ending for the second set of the night, the band still pulsing with energy for a hurried return for set three.
A projection of a cake placed on Hollingworth’s amp displayed the written frosting, “Thank you for all the fun and love” before Denver became the place in a kick off of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” that resonated off the venue’s sparkling disco ball. A sonic, atmospheric melody jam took the cover into the Kang lyric ballad “Beautiful”, completing the two-song sequence into the 30-minute mark of the third set. After a run through of “Black Clouds”, the golden time of the night shown through with “Wake Up” and “Way Back Home” that was taken through with a frenzied take by all members in a flowing “Rivertrance” circuit. Hollingsworth sent off the key breakdown as Kang went off for some boot stompin’ fiddlin’ fun. The song quickly jammed into a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with a vocal takeover by Kang, Moseley and Travis driving the heavy backbone of the classic rock song. Hollingsworth took the chorus higher that jumped the band back into “Rivertrance”, the crowd at full-blasted energy as Kang returned to his fast fiddlin’ for an ending reprise of Friday night’s “Colorado Bluebird Sky”.
“This Must Be The Place (Native Melody)
[Video: Live For Live Music]
SCI’s final encore of the year started with a heartfelt thank you to the band’s crew, sound, lights, stage, and tour management, before Nershi got the encore’s funky party started with “Rosie”. The band ended the celebratory evening for a landing of the band’s traditional bluegrass ballad “Good Times Around The Bend”, Kang on mandolin and all members lightly jamming for a hearted return to their classic roots as a band.
Fans thought a third encore was in store, but the band assured us they’d be back in 2020 for a whole new decade of shows and memories with their fans as they walked off stage. The String Cheese Incident’s finale at the Mission Ballroom wasn’t quite over, as Lion Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)” blared on the PA system and the disco ball started up for an ending funky disco party for the remaining couple thousand cheese fans that remained, leaving the night with a warmed feeling of music and love for the future to come with this cheesy band we love.
The String Cheese Incident has so far only announced their headlining sets at California’s The Hog Farm Hangout in June and Virginia’s FloydFest in July for 2020. Though not yet announced, we know we’ll be seeing a lot more of SCI in the coming year, hopefully again at Denver’s Mission Ballroom. For more information, head to the band’s website.
You can listen to a free audio stream of last night’s show here.
Setlist: The String Cheese Incident | Mission Ballroom | Denver, CO | 11/30/2019
Set One: Lester Had A Coconut, How Mountain Girls Can Love, Sunny Skies, Moonflower, Rhythmess, Little Hands > Dudley’s Kitchen
Set Two: Can’t Wait Another Day, Get Tight, Best Feeling > Outside And Inside, 45th of November, Bhangra Saanj, Howard
Set Three: This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) > Beautiful, Black Clouds, Wake Up > Way Back Home > Rivertrance > Whole Lotta Love > Rivertrance > Colorado Bluebird Sky
Encore: Rosie, Good Times Around The Bend