The String Cheese Incident 12.29.14 - 12.31.14

1stBank Center
Broomfield, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

Monday, December 29, 2014:

Right off the U.S. 36 Denver-Boulder Turnpike sits a reconstituted hockey arena that has hosted everyone from Phish to The New Kids On The Block. The 1stBank Center, once briefly known as The Odeum, has been home to The String Cheese Incident’s New Year’s festivities since 2012. That year marked the first time SCI played on NYE in Colorado in fifteen and the first time ever on the Front Range. Cheese enlisted the help of a troupe of performers to mark the occasion. They welcomed fans with a huge sign that read, “This Must Be The Place.” Various dancers, twirlers, and pranksters all dressed to the nines would be in full effect for the duration. The temperature was frost bite inducing. That meant a lot of the walk up traffic opted to stay home. Not to mention that the 29th this year fell on a Monday. That obviously didn’t deter those that traveled for the run. By the time the lights dimmed the room was barely over half full.

The lack of a sell out did little to dampen Cheese’s spirit. They opened with a seventeen minute “’Round The Wheel” that went into some trance-y territory before spinning back to the refrain.

Set One: ‘Round The Wheel, Sirens, These Waves> Djibouti Bump, Bumpin’ Reel, Outside and Inside> Dirk> Get Down On It > Dirk

Set Two: Colliding, So Far From Home> Wheel Hoss, Until the Music’s Over> It Is What It Is, You’ve Got the World, Looking Glass> Shine

Encore: Beautiful

They wasted no time continuing with a top notch “Sirens,” that could have done without the Jason Hann freestyle in my opinion. The “Bumpin’ Reel” took on biblical proportions with some impeccable fiddle work by Michael Kang.

“It is good to play in front of the home team here… You're looking good, Colorado!” – Moseley

A straight forward “Outside and Inside” started the jam that would take us to a shred heavy, Kyle sung “Dirk.” They proceeded into an amazing version of Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It” before returning to “Dirk” to close the set. This was the first, but not the last, time SCI would reference their String Cheese and the Gang set from last year’s Lockin’ Festival in Virginia.

Their second set began with a monumental “Colliding” again with Kyle slaying the vocals. The second set was full of strong, dance-centric jams that kept the kids moving. The highlight of the entire show was a sweet “Shine” that demonstrated some impeccable timing from the entire band. They returned with a newer song “Beautiful” sung by Mr. Kang for the encore. Overall it was a solid outing that left us all wanting more.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014:

Throughout the first night there seemed to be a theme of bookending the sets with gargantuan jams. That premise would continue throughout night two as well. The temperatures remained in the single digits again, however, more fans made the trek for the 30th than the evening prior. By show time the 1stBank Center would get to about 2/3’s full. Many bands this year decided to a run from NYE on as opposed to playing the run leading up. SCI stuck with tradition and that may have hurt their turnout a little. The second night began with a meet and greet with the band followed by a short acoustic set in the VIP area. Each year SCI pulls out all the stops for the VIP attendees. Free coat check and easy access to the bar are just a couple of the perks. Each night features an activity and a place of refuge from the rest of the venue. There was relaxed atmosphere in the room as the band members filtered inside. VIPs were given the chance to chat and get a quick picture with their favorite performer. Afterwards they made their way to the small but adequate stage in the back of the room.

Acoustic Set: Eat My Dust, Windy Mountain, Lost, Don’t Let Go

Hann and Travis alternated between a makeshift kit and a percussion rig featuring an acoustic drum box. The crowd pressed in forming a tight pocket along the nonexistent rail. For some this was a chance to see their favorite band closer than ever before. It was truly an intimate experience for the 200 or so lucky people in the room. “Windy Mountain” was an absolute treat as well. They finished up around 6:45 PM giving the VIPs ample time to secure their spot before doors opened at 7 PM. All in all it was not a bad way to start the second night. I wandered around for about an hour before setting up to take my photos in the pit. They went on around 8:40 PM with a twenty-minute plus “Best Feeling.”

Set One: Best Feeling> Restless Wind, Betray The Dark, 45th of November, Master Blaster (Jammin’)> Drums> Joyful Sound> Texas

Set Two: Valley Of A Jig, Sometimes A River, Howard> Birdland, Here To Stay, Close Your Eyes> Colorado Bluebird Sky

Encore: Freedom Jazz Dance, Little Hands

They continued ripping through the classic Cheese catalog with a flawless segue into “Restless Wind.” Prior to going into “45th of November” Kang informed the crowd they would be playing a few songs they had not performed in a while. “45th of November” is a song Kyle Hollingsworth wrote with living legend Robert Hunter who was a long time collaborator with Jerry Garcia. At the end, Kyle said, “It’s been like eleven years since we played that song.” Actually, just for clarity, the last time it was played was on 8/9/2007. I would still consider it a pretty big bust out. In fact, I happened to be in the back of the room taking some wide shots. There was a guy in front of me literally shaking with excitement over the song. I asked him about it and he told me that it was his “white whale.” SCI continued with a tight, funky version of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster (Jammin’).” After a solid drum jam, Moseley got dirty on “Joyful Sound” which featured a huge detour into a song labeled “Of Floydian Persuasion” that began with a jam sounding much like Ted Nugent, but ended like the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” Right as the music began to take shape they again made a u-turn and closed the set with their oeuvre to police incompetence “Texas.”

The String Cheese Incident made their way back to the stage and popped the can on an electro-funk dance party during “Valley Of The Jig.” Moseley again demonstrated his prowess on the mic with “Sometimes A River,” which acted as a nice breather for the crowd. However, the highlight of the entire show was a stellar “Howard” with some thick jams that gave way to Weather Report’s “Birdland.” They wrapped up the second set of night two with “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” This song has continued to be a vehicle for strong jams. The encore was a two-part crowd pleaser featuring Moseley’s filthy bass licks on “Freedom Jazz Dance” followed by an awe-inducing “Little Hands.” Billy took the opportunity to tell the story about the inspiration for “Little Hands.” They camped out in Moab and came upon an Anasazi encampment where they used a primitive airbrush technique to trace their hands on the walls of the cave.

The second night felt like one for the fans. The combination of the acoustic set along with their song choices made for a very enjoyable performance. All of the individual members were in sync and playing incredibly well with one another. With two down there was little to do, but wait for the main event.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014:

The lighting rig was intense the two nights leading up to New Year’s Eve. In fact, I should say "rigs" because there was not only a behemoth triangular lighting array above the stage, but another massive circle of lights above soundboard. At times it had near epilepsy inducing intensity. It set the mood well, showering the entire room with a Technicolor glow. In addition to the lights, fans noticed giant balloon filled bags along with odd-looking cocoon structures hanging from the rafters. This would all come into play for ringing in the New Year. The String Cheese Incident started promptly at 8:20 leaving a few latecomers scrambling to find their seats. This show sold out several weeks prior, leaving only pockets of space here and there at show time. They started with a beautifully smooth “Black Clouds.”

Set One: Black Clouds, Smile, Let’s Go Outside, Sweet Spot, Water> Kinky Reggae> On The Road

Set Two: Can’t Wait Another Day, Miss Brown’s Teahouse, Desert Dawn, I’m Still Here, Way Back Home> Fool In The Rain> Way Back Home> Jellyfish> Desert Dawn

Set Three: Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance, Land’s End, Glory Chords> Celebration*> Rosie, Late In The Evening, Rivertrance, This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)> Just One Story

Encore: Bollymunster, Good Times Around The Bend

*w/ Liza Oxnard

What followed was a three set throw down from Cheese worthy of a New Year’s celebration. They quickly followed up with a delicious “Smile” in front of Kyle’s call to the great outdoors, “Let’s Go Outside.” Moseley showed us the “Sweet Spot” before a bass heavy segue took us to a Kang-sung version of Bob Marley’s “Kinky Reggae.” String Cheese shut down the first set with a concise, but powerful, “On The Road.”

The second set was easily my favorite of the entire run. It had everything; new songs, old songs, a wide variety of the kind of musical acrobatics that would make Umphrey’s Mcgee jealous, not to mention Led Zeppelin. They began with Kyle’s commemoration of anticipation “Can’t Wait Another Day” followed by a textbook “Miss Brown's Teahouse.” What followed is why I fell in love with jam in the first place. It began inauspiciously with a straight “Desert Dawn” that gave way to a somewhat reserved “I’m Still Here.” Suddenly the clack of Travis’s drumsticks echoed throughout the venue. The Paul Simon-esque intro to “Way Back Home” was in full swing. Kang’s mandolin danced with Kyle’s keys magnificently. It built slowly before exploding on the refrain. The jam continued at breakneck pace before slowing to tease some Zeppelin. Except it was not a tease, it was a full on “Fool In The Rain.” The transitions were immaculate as they went back into “Way Back Home” yet again. Then came an amazing “Jellyfish.” Many including myself believed this to be the end of the set. The boys brought it all full circle with a short, but oh so sweet, “Desert Dawn.”

SCI timed the night out nicely. They returned to the stage around 11:40 PM and got the festivities flowing with Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance,” and it turns out it did. We’ll get to that. The “Land’s End” was truncated, but a sort of welcome to the weirdness that was about to take place. Performers dressed as lizards appeared throughout the crowd on the floor. The cocoons that hung silent suddenly broke open and butterflies emerged with large colorful wings flowing forty feet above the floor. The “Glory Chords” acted as an extended countdown culminating with a gigantic neon flower blazing to life above the stage. Confetti canyons rained paper down as the balloons gave way from their resting place. They ended the song and as is their tradition, took a minute to welcome the New Year from the stage.

“Our band has been together for over twenty years now.” –Nershi

The String Cheese Incident invited Liza Oxnard up to join in on Kool and the Gang’s Disco classic “Celebration.” Michael Travis took his turn singing Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening.” “Rivertrance” rang out and my wife pointed out an inspired dancer in the back of the crowd on the floor. I told her to hold on a second. I made my way over to the said dancer and began busting my own move alongside. As a photographer and writer it’s not often that I get to totally let go and get down. This was an exception. Halfway through the song I looked back to see my wife and soon another friend dancing furiously. String Cheese went into the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” and we kept moving. The room exploded during the transcendental, set-closing “Just One Story.” Billy came out and challenged the audience about their lack of enthusiasm. Some fans may have misinterpreted this, but it as all in good spirit. The encore was a ridiculously crunchy “BollyMunster” followed by an appropriate “Good Times Around The Bend.”

This three-night run felt like a commemoration of all things Cheese. The String Cheese Incident has now reached that two-decade milestone. They have also continued to innovate and expand musically as a band. With a winter tour already booked and a stop at the Inaugural Colorado Up Concert, 2015 is looking like another big year for SCI. Time will tell if they decided to continue the New Year’s tradition on the Front Range as we ring in 2016. Here’s to a very happy and healthy New Year.

Nick's Night One Photo Gallery

Nick's Night Two Photo Gallery

Nick's Night Three Photo Gallery


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