After a night of couch tour with the Phish from Vermont on the 30th my wife and I rounded out our 2013 with a night of String Cheese. This was the third evening with Cheese for the truly faithful fans. It’s always a little bit odd jumping in at the end of a three-night run. It can make you feel sort of like a tourist, but I stand by my decision to peruse all this New Year’s had to offer this year. I mean where on the planet is it even an option to see SCI, Yonder, or Umphrey’s all playing separate headlining shows within twenty miles of each other. The simple fact that I had to make that choice makes me thankful to live here on the Front Range.
Fans had been scurrying around for several weeks leading up to the event trying to procure tickets but the large number of fingers pointed towards the sky meant that many were not successful. The show itself had been sold out for well over a month suggesting that many would-be attendees were going to be left out in the cold. Once inside the elaborate costumes and bedazzled fairy wings dotted the hallways that surrounded the floor. The announcement that Del McCoury Band would be on the bill came late, but it was definitely celebrated by those with tickets in hand. The elder statesman of bluegrass and his band began as the fans filtered in to find their spot to watch the ball drop. They ended up performing just short of an hour. Del garners so much respect as a musician and ambassador for string music. His band includes three of his children whom he obviously raised right. All in all it was simply a prelude to the sit in that was to come very shortly.
When the String Cheese Incident came out for their first set they brought along the entire Del McCoury Band. Kang pointed out that every time they play with Del, he out dresses them. Well with all of SCI decked out in tuxedos, that would not be the case for at least this show. They opened with a stunning “Rolling In My Baby’s Arms.”
Set 1: Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms*> Shenandoah Breakdown*, Cold Rain and Snow*, Birdland**> Wheel Hoss**> Birdland**, Give Me the Love> Way Back Home, Valley of The Jig
Set 2: Water, Colliding> Sirens, Windy Mountain> Stay Thru, Las Vegas> Desert Dawn
Set 3: Rivertance> Happy New Year, Let’s Go Outside> Smile, Drums> It Is What It Is, This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)> Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band> Jam> Just One Story
Encore: Colorado Bluebird Sky
*w/ Del McCoury Band
**w/ Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury (Fiddle and Mandolin)
For many fans that love the Cheesy bluegrass, this was the perfect start to the evening. They immediately went into Bill Monroe’s “Shenandoah Breakdown.” However it was the Del sang version of “Cold Rain and Snow” gave us all collective goose bumps. Del left, but Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury remained on fiddle and mandolin respectively. The band seemed to burst into a stellar version of “Birdland” that disintegrated into an all out hoedown with “Wheel Hoss.” Carter absolutely tore it up on the violin before they returned to the “Birdland” where they began. Carter and Ronnie McCoury took a bow before they disappeared backstage. Kang wowed the crowd with an almost poetic “Give Me the Love” that seemed to end too quickly. After a clean segue they went into a massive “Way Back Home” before they closed the first set with an equally impressive “Valley Of The Jig.” This set went barely over an hour, but with two more to go I didn’t hear any complaints.
String Cheese came to the stage for set two with a powerful “Water” that just seemed to wash over the audience. Bathed in the blue light, fans danced enthusiastically to sweet sounds of the Cheese. Kyle finally got a chance to shine on his energetic “Colliding” before they went into a dark and funky “Sirens.” One of the biggest highlights of the show came with the Nershi led “Windy Mountain” which is always a treat. This was only the fourth time they’ve played the reggae-tastic “Stay Thru,” which was a very nice breather. “Las Vegas” has become a huge vehicle for Nershi to experiment with, much like “Jelly Fish” was in the early days of SCI. This rendition went to the dark side pretty quickly, with some tight and extensive give and take between the entire band. They closed with a classic version of “Desert Dawn” that seemed to shock the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
Sting Cheese returned just before the clock struck midnight. What followed was a massive spectacle the type of which SCI has been providing to fans for years now. This was a bit different though; let me attempt to explain. The band returned as the lights dimmed. They launched off into a huge “Rivertrance” that began slowly enough for all the players to get into position. A large lighting rig with a net descended from the ceiling that contained dancers and other visual performers. Women adorned long flowing dresses ensconced themselves in clear plastic bubbles that blew around confetti like one of those cash grab machines. Pairs of women climbed long silk ribbons that hung from the ceiling and treated us to a series of aerial acrobatics that would have looked proper for any Cirque du soleil show in the world. Fans on the floor were given small color changing batons that they immediately began swinging in unison. The lights splashed all over the crowd as Father Time appeared by the soundboard and began spraying sparks from a handheld tube. Pyrotechnics appeared behind the band as balloons and massive amounts of confetti descended upon the 6500 person room. 2014 had begun and the band played on. As they finished “Rivertrance” they paused and invited Del in the boys out to the stage for a toast. Billy welcomed the New Year, as everyone seemed to take a collective breath. Kyle came to the microphone for a very appropriate “Let’s Go Outside.” The band transitioned nicely to a welcomed “Smile,” before Michael Travis and Jason Hann gave us an elaborate drum jam. It may have gone interstellar a few times. The drums gave way to a bouncy, “It Is What It Is.” We were treated to a pair of sentimental covers. The first was Kyle’s now classic take on the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” which is traditionally his nod to the hometown crowd. Next Cheese performed The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to signify their twentieth year as the String Cheese Incident. Referring to their very earliest days when for New Year’s 1993-94 Michael Travis sat in completing the original core of the band. They proceeded to improvise for a bit with something they labeled the “2014 Jam” on LiveCheese. They ended the third set with a stunning but far too short “Just One Story.”
SCI came back with a singular encore of “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” This song has truly evolved over the last couple years. Pardon the pun, but it really has gotten some wings allowing them to truly synch up as a group on this number. All in all it was a great night of music from a band that never strays too far from its roots. The inclusion of the Del McCoury Band was a solid decision and it gave Cheese the opportunity to really pick during their first set. The second set seemed to focus more on the long jam, while the third set felt like a celebration of all that this band has accomplished in their twenty years. The String Cheese Incident is and continues to be a vibrant lightening rod for music fans from across the spectrum. Their show on New Year’s Eve is just more proof that SCI is back at the top of the heap.
Happy New Year!
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for music. Some of the best memories of my life come from the times I’ve spent with friends and family getting down at a New Year’s Eve show. You can’t beat the atmosphere, the people, or the unbelievable 3 night runs so many of the artists put together. I thought I’d share where I think the top places to be this NYE as well as some clips from some of the great NYE shows of the past.
#1 – String Cheese Incident – Broomfield, CO
The photo above is from one of the greatest shows I’ve ever witnessed. String Cheese at 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO a couple years back in 2012. Unreal! The atmosphere was amazing and the vibe in Colorado was jubilant. The three night run included an unforgettable light show, guest spots, on stage performances, and the best people in the world all gathered to bring in the new year in the most exhilarating way possible. The three night run ended with a nearly 4 hour long, 3 set show that was truly unforgettable. My favorite part of the show is the “Sweet Emotion” cover towards the end of the first set. I was in another world listening to the reverberations of the bass as the tune echoed through the crowd.
This year promises to be even better! People who have been before have been geared up for this event for months. One of my good friends even organized a trip with over 100 people and took over an entire hotel floor! Go Steve Bannister! The video below from 2012 will rock your world! “Sweet Emotion” is about 20 minutes from the end.
#2 – Umphrey’s Mcgee – Denver, CO
Colorado is the place to be! Broomfield is only a short drive from Denver so you could hypothetically check out part of each band’s run this NYE. I came into my own as a person and passionate music fan during the early 2000′s in Chicago and I’ve attended UM on NYE at least 5 times without counting. They really bring it and you can expect something unique and special every time. They used to do a 3 night run at the Aragon EVERY YEAR much to the delight of Chicagoans, but the story is that the Aragon cancelled on them a couple years back to make way for the Black Keys. Bad move. UM has never been back and they’ve continued producing epic shows each year since. Highlights that I can remember from off the top of my head include UM playing with a full brass band, they brought an entire chorus with them another time, stage performances, and some covers I’ve only gotten to hear them do once.
UM has 4 nights in Denver so hopefully you can get into one of the shows. Here they are they Pageant in 2011, the first year they didn’t play Chicago.
#3 – Widespread Panic – Atlanta, GA
The photo above from December 31st in Charlotte last year pretty much says everything you need to know about how great the 30th and 31st are going to be in Atlanta this year! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen these guys, actually, all the way back to 2011 Summer Camp. But I’ve been in the mood for listening to NYE shows and I came across this from 2005. I immediately knew I had to add this year’s show to the list.
#4 – Sun Stereo – Urbana, IL
Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and I decided to stay closer to home. I’ll be checking out Josh Houchin, Kelly McMorris, and the rest of Sun Stereo rock the Canopy Club. This local band rocked Summer Camp and Hangout Festival last year and will without a doubt be the best show in town come NYE.
Happy New Year’s Everyone!
With all the gallantry and smackdabbery of Christmas behind us it was time to get down at the first of three nights with The String Cheese Incident in The 1stBank Center. It has been fifteen years since SCI has played a New Year’s Eve show in Colorado; this run marks the first time ever that they are ringing in the New Year on the Front Range. The first night saw a continuation of their momentum from the summer tour. They put a huge effort into practicing prior to these runs and it showed when they hit the stage.
I took the opportunity to hop on the Quixote’s bus. At $24 after fees it seemed a bit expensive, but how can you put a price on a safe ride. I arrived and quickly made my way inside. With temperatures in the single digits, it didn’t make much sense to hang out in the Lot. Inside, the kids adorned in capes and glittery accoutrement swooped about in anticipation of the night’s show. The first of a three-night run usually calls for a lighter turnout, and at the height of the evening the floor was full, but there was still plenty of seats available throughout the venue. They opened with a tasty “Round The Wheel.”
Set One: Round The Wheel, Sometimes A River, Yo Sé, So Far From Home, Born On The Wrong Planet, Betray The Dark, Close Your Eye > Black Clouds
Set Two: Rollover > Out On The Road, Give Me The Love, Eye Know Why, Jellyfish > Kashmir, Rivertrance, Sirens > Rollover
Encore: Time Alive, Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
String Cheese continued with a floating rendition of “Sometimes A River” before the show exploded with an excellent “Yo Sé.” Kyle Hollingsworth’s fingers danced on the keys and showcased his Latin flair. Jason Hahn too stepped into the spotlight blasting away on the bongos. Billy Nershi took the helm on the rockabilly bluegrass number “So Far From Home,” before the highlight of the first set came in the form of “Born On The Wrong Planet.” SCI chilled out the crowd with a funky and brooding “Betray The Dark.” They closed the set with a one two punch “Close Your Eye” into a massive “Black Clouds.” Other than the set stretching out a bit, it was fairly standard, with somewhat restrained playing. The second set would be their chance to really let loose.
They opened with an unfinished “Rollover,” that many fans assumed would come on New Year’s Eve. String Cheese transitioned smoothly into an extended rendition of “Out On The Road,” again showcasing Kyle’s dirty organ tricks. Michael Kang’s vocals gave a gentle feel to “Give Me The Love.” Kyle busted out one of his tunes with “Eye Know Why.” The crowd was slightly stunned with the intro to “Jellyfish,” again thinking this would come later in the run. However, Nershi found himself fumbling with the lyrics before restarting the song and settling back in nicely. The audience laughed it off, as this song saw some of the best jamming of the night before they ripped into Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Kang again took the microphone and belted out this song intensely. It was a quick but solid version.
Cheese brought a bit of that old-fashioned dance party whomp with “Rivertrance,” but again it was tasteful and I found myself focusing on Kang’s fiddle anyway. They again ended the set big with “Sirens” into “Rollover Reprise.” The band seemed to be gushing a bit over the crowd, having mentioned several times throughout the night how happy they were to be in Colorado for New Year’s. They encored with a Travis-fronted song entitled “Time Alive,” that came off as rock opera-esque by the end. They followed up that with a short take on the bluegrass standard “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” It was a solid start to the three-night run with the second set coming out on top. They got more comfortable as the night progressed and it manifested itself in the interplay between the musicians. With two more nights to go it would be interesting to see if they can keep up this pace.
Kashmir Video – http://youtu.be/-HUCymKySVM
Kyle Hollingsworth has taken part in a wide array of events at Summer Camp. From sitting in with moe. on “Happy Hour Hero” to hosting a seminar on brewing beer, he’s definitely a welcomed guest at the festival. Back near his home in Boulder, Colorado it’s becoming a winter tradition that Kyle takes a trip down the Front Range sharing good music and first-class beer. This year he upped the ante by including Soulive as well as a couple fresh brews. He warmed up for two nights in Denver by bringing Eric Krasno to sit in for the show at Hodi’s in Fort Collins. Kyle also brought a variation on Avery’s dry-hopped Winter Day IPA that he collaborated on with the brewery. It was a spicy ale, balanced by an abundance of hoppy goodness. It’s definitely a nice holiday beer.
Video Link – http://youtu.be/tJdcdEImhEE