A little over a year ago, myself and 30,000 other lucky festival goers witnessed the one and only official Incident of 2009. I know that for me this only wetted my appetite for more Cheese and in February of 2010 when summer Incidents where announced I began jumping for joy! Now a full five months later the dream was about to be realized. Living at sea level in San Francisco makes the epic climb into the outstandingly beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater hard on the old legs. By the time I reach the stage area, I am out of breath. Or maybe I am simply dizzy with anticipation.
It is clear that I am not the only person that is excited for the show tonight. The fans that got there early are dressed in full costume and the air is a buzzing with excitement and curiosity about what Cheese will pull out of their bag of tricks. We did not have to wait long as the six members of The String Cheese Incident took to the stage amidst a huge roar from the sold out crowd. It is clear that they are happy to be back at Red Rocks as each member of the band has a huge smile across their faces. As the crowd screamed with excitement Bill Nershi let out a yell of “oh yeah, yes, yes, yes, it’s good to be back!” Keith Moseley began jumping up and down as they launched into the fast paced Can’t Stop Now. With the crowd going nuts, the venue echoed with the line, Heading for a breakdown, can’t stop now as 10,000 people sang along with the band. Without missing a beat, Cheese busted into Round The Wheel, which once again caused the fans to start screaming. Without fully finishing Round The Wheel, Kyle Hollingsworth began the Talking Head cover, This Must be the Place, by explaining that the band had agreed before the show started that indeed this must be the place. Not a single person dancing that night would disagree with such a statement. As the lights dimmed for the beginning of the second set, the stage was totally dark except for a few tinny flashlights. Without warning, the explosive opening notes of BAM! echoed off the rock walls as fans rushed back to their seats to finish the night. This first night of three was full of surprises as never head before covers entered the Cheese catalog. Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh got people grooving as well as MGMT’s Time To Pretend. The crazy genius that makes up The String Cheese Incident awed fans with the ending of Round the Wheel and Shine to end the second set. As the encore of Brand New Start ended people where all smiles and cheers as the multitudes of people flooded the parking lots to rest up for night two.
The weather gods smiled on us for the second day as a few clouds blocked killer rays of the sun as hundreds of people waited in line to claim spots for the show. The excitement level was no lower than the previous night as everyone talked amongst themselves about the impressive show that had been presented to the crowd the night before. Opening with the popular Restless Wind, The String Cheese Incident once again set the mood for the night bringing face stretching smiles to thousands of dancing fans. The first set seemed to fly by as one kick ass song after another was thrown our way. Indian Creek into Sweet Melinda into MLT had me breathless from dancing and screaming so hard. Jellyfish featuring Nershi on the mic once again had the crowd singing along, “My brain is just a jellyfish in the ocean of my head.” To close the first set, a beautiful Black Clouds sang by Moseley set Red Rocks on fire! The LED panels mounted behind the band featured lighting strikes while the rest of stage lights moved in time with music.
Keeping the energy level exactly where they left off the second set opened with a absolutely ridiculous Desert Dawn. This was followed by the Police cover Synchronicity right into the dance party that is Bumpin’ Reel. It was at this point that three para-gliders trailing huge bursts of fireworks began a aerial dance only a few hundred feet above the screaming crowd. Hardly giving the crowd a chance to rest, it was time for song sandwiches. The first was Birdland with Norman Blake’s Blackberry Blossom shoved in the middle. The next was the much loved Johnny Cash with the traditional Jewish folk tune, Hava Nagila, expertly placed right in the middle. The set ended with Rollover amidst a cheering roar. Cheese first came out and played a two song encore of How Mountain Girls Can Love followed my a downright nasty Texas. As the band left the stage the cheering only grew with an intensity until Cheese was forced to come out and satisfy the raging crowd with a second encore. This time they blew our minds with Bob Dylan’s The Mighty Quinn.
The last day started with a bang. Since Sunday was my 29th birthday my lovely girlfriend surprised me with a trip to a local airfield for a skydiving session. I had no idea what was going on as she had me blindfolded right up until we arrived. There are few things as exhilarating as starting out your day by jumping out of a plane 16,000 feet above the earth. With my heart sufficiently pumped up we headed to Red Rocks for a tailgating session while waiting in line to claim a spot in the front rows. The energy of the crowd was surprisingly high giving that this was night three. It defiantly seemed like the fans where feeling more of a first night vibe rather than night three of three. The set started out with some very inspirational words from fellow birthday boy, Jack Mento. As 10,000 people sang happy birthday to Jack (and me) a huge smile sprang across my face and remained there through the whole first set. As personal favorites such as Little Hands, Search and Sirens flew at the crowd, I felt like this set was custom tailored for my birthday. After what seemed like far to short of a period of time, the first set came to a close with Just One Story. Walking through the crowd during set break was like a family reunion of sorts. I was receiving birthday wishes left and right and it brought tears to my eyes that I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in such an amazing setting. As the lights dimmed for the beginning of the final set at Red Rocks the band rocked our collective world with Ms Brown’s Teahouse with a James Brown Sex Machine placed in the middle. Without skipping a beat they instantly began an epic 10 minute Rain. In the middle of Joyful Sound the crowd was treated to awesome view of the magic that is Eoto. Even Moseley was jumpin’ around rocking out as Jason Hann and Michael Travis laid down some fat beats. For Land’s End, hundreds of inflatable beach balls began flying through the crowd, bubble machines started releasing bubbles around the stage as they where joined by glowie hulahoopers on either side of the band. Another epic cover that first saw the light of day here at Red Rocks was Kansas’s Carry On Wayward Son. The cheering didn’t die down as Cheese launched into the final song of the set, On The Road, clearly a sign of the party that will continue at Horning’s Hideout next weekend.
This was an epic weekend of music. While Rothbury 2009 was a great show, it simply didn’t give the String Cheese boys time to stretch out and play a wider variety of songs. These three nights really showed people that the magic that is Cheese never died, it simply was resting, hibernating if you will, just waiting to spring back to life. It really felt like they had not taken a break from touring in 2007. There was no awkwardness between the musical talents of each band member, just straight jamming awesomeness. I for one cannot wait for next weekend! I hope to see many of you there, Just look for the robot helmet cameraman rocking out!
7-23-10 Set I Can’t Stop Now, Round The Wheel> This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)> Lonesome Fiddle Blues, Rocky Mountain Way, Close Your Eyes, Best Feeling> Outside and Inside Set II BAM!> Time To Pretend> White Freightliner Blues, Rivertrance, Song In My Head, Black and White, Impressions> Round The Wheel, Shine Encore: Brand New Start
7-24-10 Set I Restless Wind, Mouna Bowa, Rhythm of the Road, Indian Creek> Sweet Melinda, MLT, Jellyfish> Black Clouds Set II Desert Dawn> Synchronicity I> Bumpin’ Reel, Way That It Goes, Birdland> Blackberry Blossom> Birdland, Way Back Home> Johnny Cash> Hava Nagila> Johnny Cash> Rollover Encore I: How Mountain Girls Can Love, Texas Encore II: The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)
7-25-10 Set I Come as You Are, Little Hands> Dudley’s Kitchen, Love Is Like A Train, Sirens, Search, Eye Know Why, Just One Story Set II Ms Brown’s Teahouse> Sex Machine> Ms Brown’s Teahouse, Rain, Boo Boo Pik-A-Nik, Joyful Sound> Piece of Mine, Land’s End, Carry On Wayward Son, On The Road Encore: Midnight Moonlight, It Is What It Is