The String Cheese Incident & Big Gigantic 12.29.16
Words By J. Picard
Photos By Doug Fondriest Photography
"When you're there you're never here and here is where it seems so clear, the winner of the rat race are the rats..."
No matter where you were, you were quickly running out of time on the rat race that was 2016. With only a few days remaining before the ball would drop on the year, it was decided that my wife and I would tackle The String Cheese Incident's three night run at 1stBank Center in Broomfield, CO. The decision was an easy one as the shows were basically in our home town and we met at an SCI show, so the band held a very special place in our hearts.
Headed west on 36 towards Boulder with Denver in the rear view mirror, we stopped at a Park & Ride to pick up my attorney then continued on to the venue where we were greeted by sizable lines at the box office. We secured our passes at a line-less window that had a sign that read "SCI Guests." "The passes are also luggage tags," the woman at the window said to me handing me our envelope. I stood there for a second staring at her blankly as she reciprocated. "Ok, thanks," I said as I backed away from the glass. We wandered around to the East Entrance where we were welcomed by some laid back folks who glanced at our passes and told us to "have fun!"
We headed back to the VIP area which was located in a sort of side gymnasium that had a small stage, tables and chairs, couple of bars and Scramble Campbell artwork on the curtained walls. We dropped off our coats at the coat check and headed into the venue which began to fill for the first night of the three night run! We immediately began running into friends, doling out hugs, high fives and smiles as we made our way down to the floor. As we hit the concrete, the boys hit the stage looking excited and began with "Round The Wheel!" The music, vocals and melodies sounded solid from the start and as the song progressed so to did the jam vehicle. Kyle Hollingsworth's broken arm wasn't even enough to slow down the train as it went station to station screaming as it did so. "Lost" came next and opened up in its mid-section with Bill Nershi and Michael Kang taking turns on their respective instruments. The tempo picked up, some quick notes were passed around and the band transitioned smoothly into "Black Clouds!" The song was as it normally is, however in the middle, Kyle stepped up for a synth solo laden with space. Michael Travis and Jason Hann sped the song back up to it's typical tempo as it rounded the finish.
"Are you ready for a wild weekend? Ringing in the new year in style! Wild style! Wild child! Ya'll are a bunch of wild childs!" Bill yelled.
Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster" was dedicated to a fan and included some loose vocals up against some tight picking and expansive jamming. Following the song a couple of jokes were made about Jason dressing up as Princess Leia in honor of Carrie Fisher's passing as Kyle teased the Star Wars theme. Up next was "Sweet Spot," which featured the vocals of Keith Moseley. The crowd sang along to the "catchy little number" before the solos took shape and were executed.
We came off of the concourse from getting a round of Colorado Pales to some banter from Billy and "Miss Brown's Tea House!" The 1stBank Center, though only about half-full, was into it! Kyle jumped back to the Star Wars theme, with added R2D2 sounds and a couple of additional teases before Kang jumped into the exchange. The band returned to "Miss Brown's," before taking off towards the 20:00 minute mark of the composition and transitioning into "Rollover!" Kang sang about seashells and rivers as my mind wandered to thoughts of 2016, one of the best years to date for me. I smiled as Bill picked a great solo and Kang returned to the mic. The band built and built with Jamtronica showing it's delightful face. Things got heavy. Kang ripped. All the while I had a shit-eating grin on my face! Though there were aspects of the first set that I felt lacked, it was a sound starting point for the weekend.
A short time later the second set started in with "Bam!" as the combined bands oriented themselves, slowly finding the groove. Dominic Lalli's sax playing felt much more oriented towards the music of SCI than what we hear being output by Big Gigantic. Jeremy Salken could be seen set up on the opposite side of the stage of Jason Hann, both with smiles on their faces, as Travis moved like an animatronic Chuckie Cheese drummer. My mind wandered towards memories of the Allman Brothers with their three drummers and I looked forward to the possibilities. "Bam!" transitioned into "Bring That Funk," and the first taste of Dom and Jeremy's electronic influence, which was tasteful and created a fun dance party! They abruptly transitioned back into "Bam!" for a brief minute before concluding.
"Drums" transitioned into "Jellyfish" with a roar from the crowd! Billy took over in only a way that Billy could. People were going crazy behind the soundboard and at one point I turned to Carly and said, "There is some weird shit going on behind you right now," in regards to a couple doing progressive yoga. "Alice!" the crowd yelled. I smiled at how absurd the vibe was and began laughing to myself. The music got heavy and took a turn towards "Cmon," with a lot of weird vocal manipulations and a heavy electronic beat. The room lost it as everyone threw their hands up and jumped around. At one point, I am pretty sure the vocal sample was Jen Hartswick, who was presumably in New York gearing up for a performance with Phish later that weekend. With the chop of Billy's guitar and Kang's electric mandolin, they went back into "Jellyfish" in double time. The 1stBank Center was peaking!
We headed up and joined our friends Doug, Lindsey and some of their friends in the bowl as Kang's fiddle sounded out with with the melody of "Bollymunster" following suit. Our group danced wildly to the middle-eastern groove which sounded great along side Dom's ripping sax. The middle opened up and spacey noodling ensued before the band transitioned into "I've Gotta Know," which was catchy. Kang teased "Bollymunster" a couple of times before they eventually went back into it. Upon its return, Kang's vocals and Jason's hollers signified the turn towards the bridge and the end of the second set. The half-filled arena roared with excitement then Billy provided a sentimental note about rehearsing and playing with the Big Gigantic guys.
The show began with the band sounding relatively rehearsed and ended with some fantastic and unexpected arrangements with Big Gigantic. The setlist looked fantastic on paper and was a great start to what would be a long weekend. We said goodbye to our friends, collected our Lawyer and made our way backstage to retrieve our coats. As we stepped over the threshold into the night our breath could be seen against the night sky. We located our vehicle and a couple of turns later we were home safe and sound getting our rest for the days ahead...
Doug's Photo Gallery
Set One: Round the Wheel, Lost > Black Clouds, Master Blaster, Sweet Spot, Miss Brown's Teahouse > Rollover
Set Two (The Big Gigantic Incident): Bam!, Joyful Sound > Rumble > Black Market > Can't Wait Another Day > Drums > Jellyfish > C'Mon > Jellyfish, BollyMunster, I've Gotta Know > BollyMunster
Encore: Rosie > Touch the Sky > Desert Dawn