The String Cheese Incident 12.29.13
Words By J-man
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)
Audio By Eric Wilkens
In the short time following the Flaming Lips' set I was given starkly contrasting views about the set and band as a whole. The stage setup was swapped out with the same rig from SCI's summer shows at Red Rocks. the home team took the stage for the near capacity show. To the delight of Carly Marthis and I, they began with dark middle eastern sounding, "Bollymunster!" Michael Kang, starting the show on fiddle, was a good sign. He dug in, while Kyle Hollingsworth played with some serious synth tones. A joke from a friend about how we were going to get a "Sometimes A River" was followed with the song itself and Keith Moseley marching in place on stage as he thumped away and sang alongside Kang. Though most of the composition was typical, the jam at the end was heavy and shined bright, even through a couple of stand out missed notes. "Rhum 'N Zouc" followed, taking a bit to get going and fall into place. Once it did, there was some cool interplay between Jason Hann, Michael Travis and Kang. What followed looked good on paper, but didn't translate well. Special guest, Wayne of the Flaming Lips, rambled about Marijuana and politics while the boys vamped in the background for about three minutes before jumping into "Okie From Muskogee." After referring to the band as The Flaming Lips, a round of solos and Wayne calling for the focus again, I tuned out.
String Cheese Incident Live at First Bank Center on December 29, 2013.
Set One: BollyMunster, Sometimes A River > Rhum N Zouc, Okie From Muskogee(1), Song In My Head, Best Feeling > Restless Wind
Set Two: Rosie(2), Miss Brown's Teahouse(2) > The Chicken(2) > Miss Brown's Teahouse(2), Impressions(2), Bertha(3), Barstool, Joyful Sound > EOTO > Close Your Eyes(4)
Encore: Breathe(5) > Royals(5) > Breathe(5)
(1) with Wayne Coyne and Derek Brown (The Flaming Lips)
(2) with Tiny Universe horns and Steve Berlin (Los Lobos)
(3) with David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin
(4) with David Hidalgo
(5) with Keller Williams
The lights again came up as wide eyed hippies wandered in all directions from the floor outward. SCI is known for surprises and going into the second set, we were curious as to what cards the band would play.
"I'm going to do a solo acoustic set, is that cool with you guys?" Kyle inquired.
"That's Steve Berlin from Los Lobos, he produced our album Outside Inside. An amazing player, an amazing man, gracing us with his talents..." Moseley said excitedly.
"... And just to let you know, Karl D. won that sweater at a Mr. Rogers Auction." Kang said with a grin, as Travis followed up with a roll on the drums.
"This is a song about a big hairy spider," Billy said as the band launched into Kyle's "Rosie."
"Rosie" is one of my favorite Kyle songs and one of my favorite songs to receive at an SCI show! The band wasted no time diving into their set as the beat dropped and the characteristic lick rang out on the keys and from the Tiny Universe horns! The song's breakdown and solos were massive and funky and SCI made room for the raging horn section lead by Karl Denson, before Kyle leaned heavy on the wailing synthesizer. "Miss Brown's Teahouse" began with the crowd feeling enthusiastic about the prospect. The horns hit every cue with dead on timing and accuracy before Billy tossed out a short solo. The band transitioned into "The Chicken," with funky horn chops and solos before returning to "Miss Brown's." The crowd loved the addition of the horns and were obviously having a riot. "Impressions" follow in a jazzy fashion, as the band took the crowd on an instrumental odyssey through space. Alongside Karl's flute, the jam grew and opened up into a funk delight.
"Barstool" came next with Billy at the forefront, singing his heart out. "Joyful Sound" followed, stirring up the crowd after a slower number. Billy made weird noises into the mic before Keith started rapping. Following an ambient, dreamlike solo from Kang, EOTO took over, clearing the stage of the other members of SCI. It was tribal, it was somewhat glitchy and there was a dab of dubstep. I took issue with nothing other than the music and composition not being very entertaining.
"Was that a Bill Monroe song, Travis?" Billy asked upon the EOTO segment's completion.
"Flatt and Scruggs," Travis replied without a second thought.
"Flatt and Scruggs did you say?" Billy asked again.
"Yup, Flatt and Scruggs... 1953," Travis replied.
With a cast list such as that evening's performance boasted, who could complain? I could. Many of the folks who consider themselves "hardcore" fans could. The band itself may or may not be thrilled with its output, but ultimately, we're left with an experience. I enjoyed the experience, though I found myself somewhat disappointed in the same light set up from this summer, the lack of range within the band's material and jam vehicles, as well as some general tightening up and sound issues. They sounded tighter than they have in years past, though felt as if they could use a bit more fine tuning. In the end, the scene was beautiful, the people were amazing and the show and guests were enjoyable. I left satisfied until I hit the frigid mountain air.
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