Celebrating 20 years as a band, The String Cheese Incident brought it home to Colorado and played three nights at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield. Rather than a straight run, the band played the 28th and 29th, took a night off, and then played New Year’s Eve.
Bootsy Collins opened night one with a set featuring several Parliament Funckadelic songs. The general consensus of people was that the set was loud and sounded a little muddy, but the energy was great, the all-white outfits were sexy and fun, and Bootsy rocked out some deep bass lines while leading the band.
The highlights from the 28th included Karl Denson and Chris Littlefield from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe sitting in for “Black and White” and “I Wish.” The second set contained a big “Rollover” and many tears were shed during bassist Keith Moseley’s “Struggling Angel,” a song for a beloved fan who passed away in 2012.
The encore was a very brief history lesson of the String Cheese Incident. A nervous Billy Nershi came out to sing and play “Down a River,” a song he wrote before the band was formed. Then Michael Kang (electric mandolin), Michael Travis (drums) and Keith Moseley (bass) came out to represent an early version of SCI and play “Lester Had a Coconut.” They were joined by Kyle Hollingsworth (keys) for “’Round The Wheel” and were joined a few minutes into the song by Jason Hahn (percussion) to complete the incarnation of the band as it is today.
Night two of the run saw the Flaming Lips open the show in their unique fashion. It featured weirdness (Wayne Coyne holding a doll during the first couple of songs), psychedelia (a psych-rock version of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”), and a sing-a-long or two (the set ended with “Do You Realize??” which spent some time as Oklahoma’s official state rock song).
String Cheese Incident wasted no time in getting those inside the 1st Bank Center moving, opening with a rollicking “BollyMunster.” Wayne Coyne came out in the first set with a lyrical cheat-sheet in hand to sing “Oki From Muskogee.” The first half of the second set saw the return of Karl Denson and Chris Littlefield on horns along with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. They worked their way through “Rosie,” a “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” with “The Chicken” sandwiched in after Kyle told a front row fan it was for him, and “Impressions.”
Then David Hidalgo of Los Lobos came out for a powerful version of the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” and returned for a set closing “Close Your Eyes.” As if this weren’t plenty of guests for one night, the biggest surprise was saved for the encore. Keller Williams walked onto the stage to continue the Cheese history lesson. The Keller Williams Incident encore consisted of Keller’s song “Breathe” and took a detour into Lorde’s “Royals” before circling back to “Breathe.” It was a strong show that had everyone wondering what the band had in store for New Year’s Eve.
On New Year’s Eve, the Del McCoury Band came out a little early to get things started, since there was a lot on the evening’s agenda. After their relatively short set, the crew added more microphone stands, and soon the McCourys came back onstage escorting the boys from the String Cheese Incident. People have come to expect a certain amount of, let’s say “flair” in SCI’s costume design, but on this night the boys looked sharp in black tuxedos. They were even wearing shoes! Michael Kang explained that after years of playing with Del and company, and being outclassed by them, they decided to make sure they looked as good as the McCourys.
After a few songs, including the Grateful Dead’s “Cold Rain and Snow,” Del left the stage while the rest of the McCourys stuck around for a “Birdland>Wheel Hoss>Flying Home Jam>Birdland” which proved to be a good avenue for all of the musicians to really show their chops.
The energy continued to rise during the second set, which started with “Water,” and moved through “Colliding” and “Sirens” before the gentle groove of “Windy Mountain” had the room swaying. Being decked out in tuxedos really seemed appropriate during a raucous version of “Las Vegas.” Jason Hahn, with his big lapels, looked like he should be dealing cards in Monte Carlo. Then came a tight “Desert Dawn,” which had been on the first night’s setlist but hadn’t been played.
After another short break, the band was back for the big event. One of Cheese’s go-to jams, “Rivertrance,” delivered us into 2014. There were fireworks at the back of the stage and sparks spinning from overhead. And of course the inevitable balloon and confetti drop. There were aerialists and dancing girls in giant snow globes. Hollingsworth actually crawled up on his piano and walked across the keys. Smiles abounded. Dancing was rampant. Breath was held. The energy between band and audience was palpable.
After finishing “Rivertrance,” McCoury and his band came out, along with various family members of both bands, and enjoyed a glass of champagne and watched the spectacle they helped create. Hollingsworth eventually started the music up again, and the rest of the band joined in and went into “Let’s Go Outside.”
There was lots of good interplay between all the players and the band members were clearly enjoying themselves. Moseley was grooving along in his black cowboy hat and tuxedo, Kang was often face-to-face with Nershi, trading licks. A “Drums” segment found Hahn on Travis’ drum riser playing his talking drum.
At the end of the third set, the band reprised “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and then went back into “Just One Story” which is how the whole run of shows started. The encore was “Colorado Bluebird Sky,” a newer song that some fans think may be a little overplayed lately, but a good jam vehicle providing lots of peaks, and a fitting song for the end of a Denver run, and the beginning of a new year.