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Tuesday, July 26

ALL WEEKEND LONG. A Review Of String Cheese’s Three Incidents At RedRocks. July-16,17,18 2016,

ALL WEEKEND LONG. A Review Of String Cheese’s Three Incidents At Red Rocks. July-16,17,18 2016, Words Kevin Long  Photo: Emily Takacs

    There is just something extraordinary about witnessing Incidents at Red Rocks. The relationship S.C.I shares with their hometown fans is analogous to The Grateful Dead and their legions of deadheads. More so than any other band today, Cheese fans actually practice love and humanity among their community instead of just preaching about it. 

This unity has not wavered over my twenty years of following the band. I had just recently moved back to the area, so to say it was good to be home was an understatement.
     The party started early Friday night with an opening set by TAUK out of New York. It's no wonder why there is a buzz following this band. They played an inspiring set that had the masses dancing early and often, as their funk was snaking notes into a responsive audience.

    The String Cheese Incident assembled on stage around eight and promptly opened the run with the coveted tune "Texas" as the comfortably crowded Red Rocks burst into joy as the dance party had officially begun. The first set was an ideal mixture of new material and classics. The highlights was a dirty "Way That It Goes" complete with "Spinning Wheel" teases as the band let the jam patently build to an insane peak. Just added to S.C.I Sound Lab the song "Farther" grew wings from the recently released version.The set ended with the new instrumental "Hi Ho No Show" which is going to become a favorite once it evolves, at this stage it sounds like "Valley of the Jig" and "Rivertrance" had a baby. How is that a bad sign? Because this new composition smokes.

   The set break was special as S.C.I. was inducted into the Red Rocks Hall of Fame. If you have ever wandered through it before a show, you know they are surrounded by astonishing artists and I can not think of a band more deserving to have that honor bestowed upon them. The band’s immediate family were on hand as well to share the honor. 
     In the second half, the newly crowned band produced a majestic set of music worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The stanza got started in the form of "Just One Story" and it produced impressive jams as Kyle showed just why he has become an integral part of this band. This jazzy jam soon bled into the anthem "Way Back Home". Then the theme for the weekend showed itself as the 80’s Tears For Fears hit "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" developed out of the madness and inserted itself in an Incident for the first time ever. 

Our beloved drummer, Michael Travis handled the vocals flawlessly as the befuddled crowd all took a moment before resuming dancing their troubles away. This 1980’s hit worked itself back into "Way Back Home" for the first of many stunning musical sandwiches these maestro's would cleverly maneuver. The positive energy  lasted all night as an extended "Miss Brown’s Teahouse" stole the limelight down the stretch until the perfect encore for the first night of three, a long and dirty "Rivertrance". They raises the dial to an all-night high as the instrumental classic soared for a solid fifteen minutes before it ended abruptly and was followed by those joyous words “See you tomorrow night”. Damn Right!

       Saturday was a near perfect evening, as the world renowned saxophonist Kamasi Washington started the festivities and was absolutely breathtaking. Music lovers  smart enough to come in early were mesmerized as this masterly performance that took place as the sun was lighting up the sky in pinks and blue. It was surreal and a near perfect moment. Luckily, Kamasi was not done for the evening when his impressive set concluded.

The String Cheese Incident opened the show with "Restless Wind" letting the sold out crowd know all we needed too about the night that laid ahead. A rousing, "Best Feeling" followed an extended take on the beloved opener. S.C.I. was firing on every possible cylinder for the remainder of the run. Almost every song was delivered with purpose and joy as the love fest did nothing to slow down.

 On this magical evening, we were lucky enough to have two talented musicians sit in. Kamasi Washington joined the boys in the midst of a smoking set to deliver a disarmingly beautiful version of the Miles Davis staple "Impressions". This pinch me moment was followed directly with another as vocalist Sheryl Renee joined the party as the band closed the first half with Sly and the Family Stone’s classic "I Want to Take you Higher" and that is exactly what this group of musicians did to the sold out crowd. It was a stirring rendition that had the fans singing in unison while moving in a tribal-like fashion.
     Kamasi once again joined the band on tunes in the second set turning this show into an instant classic. He joined the band and lent his mastery to the co-penned, with Robert Hunter, song" 45 of November" and it never sounded better to this fan. But, the real fireworks took place when he stayed for an outrageous version of "Bumpin’ Reel". This set ended on a powerful note with "Sirens>Desert Dawn" combo that had everyone in the
majestic amphitheater on their feet and needing water. The real treat was saved for the encore when both guest musicians rejoined the band as Sheryl sang a soulful take on the Fleetwood Mac treasure "Dreams".

 The almost punchdrunk fans were treated to a "Believe" for good measure to complete a Saturday night special. Then one of the most spontaneous acts of pure joy transpired. After the concert Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" played loudly over the P.A. Well apparently, the charged up fans felt like partying all night as the sold out crowd danced as if nobody was watching, it was magnificent. Soon the band came back onstage to join the dance party

Photo by S.C.I FB page.

. [VIDEO BELOW] I fucking love the String Cheese Incident.
     But every jam band fan knows never miss a Sunday show especially in the midst of a three night run. String Cheese got the memo, as they saved the best show for the diehard Sunday fans and OH, what a night.

  Sunday's theatrics began old school style with a rousing bluegrass set by legendary artist Hot Rize. S.C.I was enjoying the set as much or more than the fans as they could be seen side stage taking in the pristine music.
      The penultimate night began with the opening act joining String Cheese for the first couple of numbers. Nobody was more excited than Billy, as he shared growing up and watching Hot Rize perform in the mountains.

 They promptly began the show by performing Willie Nelson’s anthem “On The Road Again” another cover performed for the first time. The next number put the Sunday faithful in an ecstatic state as Hot Rize joined in on the coveted instrumental “Land’s End”. This slice of forbidden fruit turned into a bluegrass party with beauteous versions of “Panama Red” and “Nine Pound Hammer” before Hot Rize retired for the evening.
    “These Waves” started the electric portion of the show as well as the flood of ecstasy this extremely special night produced. String Cheese just let loose and the result was nothing short of astonishing. “Colliding” brought the eventful first half to a close but S.C.I saved the best for last.

     An explosive “Rosie” opened up the second half and set the tone as the crowd responded as the jam just got plain dirty. The classic “Turn this Around” was up next and got serious quickly as Kang led the jam into a really spacey Pink Floydian mood, it couldn't be, could it? Boom! Those sacred lyrics to “Breathe” soared from Michael's  mouth and touched everyone’s musical souls. The masses were firmly planted in that place we all chase as Cheese played a impeccable version of Floyd’s classic before segwaying back into ”Turn This Around”. Billy altered the mood with a touching
“Windy Mountain” but String Cheese was firmly in control of the crowd as we savored every note. 

The last half of the set was a continuous party with the triple threat of “Joyful Sound”>Rumble>Bumpin’ Reel. Each played with heavy improvisation as the band melted faces, others danced like we have the previous two memoroarable  nights. A three song double encore including “Wheel of Life” and Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” sent everyone home exhausted but our soul rejuvenated.

 After three extraordinary nights of music S.C.I took a well deserved bow. The String Cheese Incident are clearly in a healthy place creating amazing new songs while adding an extra layer of grime to the classics. I may have left Red Rocks singing "Ramble On", but it never felt so good to be home.

Written by: Kevin Long
Edited by: Greg Heffelfinger                  
                                   A Video of Saturday's Night Post Show Party Thanks Neal Briant