String Cheese Incident's Winter Carnival: 3.11.11
String Cheese Incident Live at 1st Bank Center on March 11, 2011. <--- Direct Archive Link
Words & Photos By J-man
The String Cheese Incident. Those four words have become so prominent on the jamband/festival scene. For many they mean some of the best times of their lives, for others it's just another band, but for most SCI represents limitless happiness. Friday March 11th, 2011 at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, CO would play host to another high-energy "incident" (as they have come to be called). The Winter Carnival would mark an essential/crucial point in the evolutionary direction of the band. That night in Colorado would yield an incredible amount of joy and a telling look into the future of the String Cheese Incident.
There had been a lot of criticism surrounding SCI's playing and song selection going into the Winter Carnival. The band listened to the criticism and put a lot of effort into practicing and expanding their current song selection.
Arriving at the lot about an hour and a half before the show, there was time for non-sense and people watching. There were a lot of folks on the lot the night, many in costumes, body paint and various other delightful aesthetics. Travelling with four folks, our group was in need of one more ticket. It was clear immediately that the demand for tickets was significantly greater than the supply, with some wooks asking upwards of $120.00 for a ticket.
It's an odd thing with ticket prices and the desire some people have to make money off of true fans. There was a general concern about obtaining a ticket for Murray, and as the show approached the decision was made to walk towards the venue. En route, Murray overheard someone selling a ticket. The gentleman wanted face value. I was thrilled to see that given the high demand, there were still reasonable fans on the lot.
The 1st Bank Center was very euphoric with lots of colors, folks in costume and theatrics. Looking around there were smiling faces everywhere. There is no brighter scene than that of The String Cheese Incident. People were hugging, dancing, sharing and generally excited about the experience to come. The light rig was exceptional boasting a large semi-circular screen over the top of the stage as well as other various visually pleasing stage options. SCI took the stage to a thunderous roar and a massive amount of energy exerted from the crowd...
It was an overwhelming feeling from the photo pit. The massive amount of energy gave me the chills and the shear positivity radiating from the rail-riders brought a tear to my eye. I felt like I was "home".
They set the pace with "Just One Story". The instrumentation and sonic balance was almost flawless from the beginning. As the band leaned towards the jam falling in and out of the melody, the fans lit up and Michael Kang took over on the electric mandolin. The jamming was fluid and my first emotion was overwhelming excitement! They sounded great. The next song was "Little Hands". The 1st Bank Center ate up Billy Nershi and Kang's soft/comforting vocals along with Keith Moseley's harmonies. With the profound addition of Kyle Hollingsworth's piano work to the track, it took off and the jam ensued. The chemistry within the band was really solid with very few musical misses. Kang's raging fiddle guided the song to a close and transitioned the band into "Boo Boo's Pik-A-nik".
The spacey and menacing tones led to Billy saying "We're getting a transmission... They say they're friendly, but how can we be sure? It's a leap of faith."
Noodling, slide work and synth effects ensued as the crowd moved in a fluid manner. Though the jam wasn't very adventurous, it felt tense. As it fell into the standard Sting Cheese sound, comfort over took the venue. The song was clean and the cues were nailed all the way through to the end.
"We're going to pull one out of the memory bank" someone said from the stage.
"Pygmy Pony" began with an almost Latin swing as Billy steeped forward on acoustic lead. It became very world music sounding as it continued into a euphoric realm. "Sirens" came next. Although some view it as cheesy, it holds a special place in my heart and apparently the hearts of many others, because the place went wild as they began. With an interesting percussive roar, the drumming of Michael Travis and percussion of Jason Hann came to the forefront in the end of the song.
SCI came out swinging with "On The Road". It was clear immediately that this would mark the first high point of the evening. People danced in a frenzy. The band sounded perfect. Billy was right on with all of his runs and Kyle picked up on every cue using his time to wail on the keys. The jam slowed and softened in to a crunchy groove forcing a back and forth motion from the crowd. As it picked back up I began to reflect on what would keep a band with such potential and chemistry from touring.
"On The Road" transitioned into "Jellyfish" which explored some cool musical avenues and interesting sounds/effects. One could literally feel the music inside of them. Billy's off-key singing brought me back to reality. He quickly redeemed himself with some solid lead work. Jason Hann took over on the hand drums as the jam ventured into "Late In The Evening" to close the first set.
The lights came up and the mad scramble was on. I love the social aspect of setbreak. Wide-eyed folks dashed for the bathrooms, went in search of friends and looked to consume substances of a mainly liquid state. The 1st Bank Center filled with smoke as folks formed small circles. I noticed several aggressive security guards storming into the circles and physically handling poor fans and taking their smokeables. It was disconcerting to say the least. Later on I would hear horror stories of security tackling people to the ground and hauling several off to jail. But in those moments, I was obliviously enjoying setbreak with a growing numbers of friends as people came looking for us. It's a great feeling during a setbreak knowing you're with your friends and the best of the show was yet to come.
Following a lengthy setbreak, SCI returned to the stage which was setup with several additional mics. It was time for a pickin' party with member of the opening band "New South". They started off with the bluegrass number "How Mountain Girls Can Love", which included some great picking and alternating solos."Rocky Road Blues" came next. I really enjoy this song and with a mix of acoustic and electric instruments they picked through the song with Billy singing lead vocals. It followed in a similar fashion as the previous song, with straight forward progressions, alternating solos and solid instrumentation. The last song of the pickin' party was "Shenandoah Breakdown", a fast paced banjo tune. Of the three songs this was by far my favorite and the highest energy, triggering Billy to call into the microphone with random yelps.
The fans seemed to throughly enjoy the bluegrass portion of the show. With a touch of noodling and tunning, the band went into "Climb". This song welcomed a few missed cues and limited variation from the main melodies of the song. SCI pressed on until everything slowed down and Kyle took over on the synthesizer. The synth moaned over echo and ambient tones, only to drop back into an electric organ part. Kyle's talent is unquestioned. He is incredible on the keys, often stealing the show and leaving people with their jaws hanging open.
"Sing a New Song" began with a subtle drum part that lead into some slide on the guitar from Billy. The song took on a heavy rock vibe that seemed to appeal to the crowd, but again Billy's voice fell off-key as he held the notes. I did however, really enjoy his slide guitar playing. "Give ME The Love" came next as my attention to the music began to wain. As the vocals subsided and the jam took off, I was sucked back in. The band began to peak as the lights became bright in the venue.
A much needed "Blue Bossa" was to follow, providing something to step to. Kang picked the lead part with precision perfectly and typical Kang tone. Kyle came in heavy on the piano, prompting the drum/percussion section to pick it up. The jam became very layered. I was really impressed with Travis' and Hann's playing. The breakdown brought a plateau that included what sounded almost like an EOTO breakdown. It was in fact Kyle crunching away on the clavinet. As expected, Kang once again began to dismantle the 1st Bank Center. The euphoria was almost too much to handle which is just the way that I like it.
"Rhythm of The Road" went through several different tempos resolving to a fast paced all out raging jam. I shook my head back and forth. It's very rare that I feel like I am going to loose control and dance my ass off, but SCI brings me to that point. The lights went insane, the crowd followed suite and SCI peaked to the highest point so far that evening. With Kang leading the charge and Kyle wailing in the background, they dropped into a slow swinging duel lead between Nershi and Kang. Transitioning into "Dirk", the jam picked up with Kyle go to town on the clav. A rock vibe filled the venue once again. Sub-par vocals entered the picture once again with some heavy instrumental fills.
After a couple of seconds of quiet, SCI transitioned into "Shine". The intro was beautiful and I equated the melodies with happiness. One couldn't help but smile; it was truly an incredible feeling. At that moment I had the realization that if SCI would tour, I would do the best that I could to see as many shows as possible. Billy teased "Mona Bowa" and once again got the chills. It was a perfect moment, and in true SCI fashion, the song began to build until it was all out craziness once again to close the second set.
The energy was through the roof as String Cheese Incident came back out for the encore...
"We don't play that much anymore, but who knows what could happen in the future." Billy said with a smile.
I immediately perked up and thought TOUR. The crowd cheered with excitement as the band encored with "Bloody Well Right". It was an odd choice for an encore... It was simple, limited and most notably unimpressive. I lost interest as the song seemed to drone on. With the hum of the electric mandolin, they transitioned into the final song of the evening, "Las Vegas". It was as slow as the previous song, but a certain airiness overcame the music as my eyes began to glaze over. I began to hope that they were just building up to a massive jam, when Billy came in rapping. "Are you kidding me?" I thought to myself, "What is going on?"The song continued at a slow pace until it picked up a little bit and eventually came to a close. Many were left scratching their heads.
Overall, I thought the show was very good. I was a little perplexed by the encores but thought almost everything leading up to that point was solid. The instrumentation was on par with the majority of what I have seen from SCI, and aside from a couple of missed cues, they radiated chemistry. They have redeemed themselves and stepped up to the plate at a time when pressure from the fans was high. Now it's up to the band... Are they going to take this seriously and tour? The fans want an all-out tour, not a mini tour with five dates in two locations.
We want a tour...
J-man's Photo Gallery From The Show
Set 1: Tuning/Banter, Just One Story, Little Hands> Boo Boo's Pik-a-nik, Pygmy Pony, Sirens, On the Road> Jellyfish> Late in the Evening
Set 2: How Mountain Girls Can Love*, Rocky Road Blues*, Shenandoah Breakdown*, Tuning> Climb, Sing a New Song, Give me the Love, Blue Bossa, Rythm of the Road> Dirk>Shine
Encore: Banter, Bloody Well Right> Las Vegas