String Cheese Incident 7.7 - 7.8.18

Eugene, OR
Cuthbert Amphitheater

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Eric Willacker

Eugene, Oregon is a place where people float around in a smiley haze, happier than most, and more oblivious than the rest. At any given time, you may find yourself surrounded by hula hoops and questionable dance moves. If this sounds familiar but you’ve never been to Eugene, chances are that’s because you’ve been to a String Cheese Incident show. The city and the band are a match made in hippie heaven and it’s only magnified when combined with the beautiful Cuthbert Amphitheater and the relaxed vibe that could only be curated by descendants of the Merry Prankster himself, Ken Kesey. (Kesey Enterprises produced the show)

Saturday, July 7:

Saturday evening started with an unexpected “Dudley’s Kitchen” opener, the first time Cheese had played the song in almost a year and a half. A fifteen-minute “Close Your Eyes” followed and segued into the short and sweet bluegrass tune, “So Far From Home” which hadn’t been played in exactly a year.

A couple of covers (“Ophelia” and “Freedom Jazz Dance”) followed before Jarrod Kaplan joined the band for a nearly thirty minute set-closing segment of Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening” > “Just One Story” which featured a “Drums” jam between the three percussionists.

The improv never really let up for the rest of the night with a hefty “Sweet Spot” opening the second set and a twenty minute take on “The Big Reveal” leading straight into the fan-favorite, “Miss Brown’s Teahouse.”

The rest of the second set streamed together perfectly and continued on without a break. An abnormally energetic “Jellyfish” led into a “Land’s End” > “Glory Chords” > “Colliding” set closer that displayed the band’s diverse range of sound from bluegrass-inspired to synth-heavy.

Set One: Dudley's Kitchen, Close Your Eyes > So Far From Home, Ophelia, Freedom Jazz Dance, Late In The Evening* > Drums* > Just One Story

Set Two: Sweet Spot, The Big Reveal > Miss Browns Teahouse, Stay Through > Jellyfish > Willin' > Jellyfish > Lands End > Glory Chords > Colliding

Encore: Quinn the Eskimo*

Notes: * with Jarrod Kaplan on percussion

Sunday, July 8:

After the jam-heavy show the night before, most expected to see the “stringier” side of The String Cheese Incident on Sunday, a day they’re known to let their bluegrass influences show. These expectations proved to be true, at least for starters, as the band opened with New Grass Revival’s “Can’t Stop Now.”

The latin-influenced “Search” brought upon the night’s first glimpse of extended improv and segued into Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” A run-of-the-mill “Falling Through The Cracks” preceded the real meat of the set, which started with Jeff Pevar sitting in on “MLT,” my favorite jam of the weekend.

Pevar, an Oregon jazz guitarist known for his work with artists ranging from Phil Lesh to Ray Charles, seems to pop up every time Cheese comes to Eugene and it’s always a treat. A huge “Water” > “Dirk” then closed the first set and set the tone for the final stanza of the weekend, a wild jam session featuring many Cheese favorites and a surprising sit-in.

Fighting through a slow start of “Believe” and “Song In My Head” came “Valley Of The Jig,” a musically bipolar stew that only Cheese could make interesting. I’ll never understand why they choose to include the section of percussionist Jason Hann’s live vocal samples, but he seems to enjoy it and the blissful jam that follows makes it all worth it.

Guitarist Bill Nershi’s “Hotel Window” followed and is a slow song that permeates a sweet and loving vibe. Former Furthur guitarist John Kadlecik then joined the band for a wonderful cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me” that’s been stuck in my head ever since.

Another cover, this time Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place,” appeared to be the closer until old-school Cheese favorite “Texas” ended the set as the fifth jam of the night to pass the fifteen-minute mark. With not much time left before curfew, the band squeezed in “Can’t Wait Another Day” and walked off stage to cap off their best run of shows in Eugene since 2015’s Winter Carnival.

Set One: Can't Stop Now, Search > Could You Be Loved, Falling Through The Cracks, MLT*, Water > Dirk

Set Two: Believe, Song In My Head, Valley of the Jig, Hotel Window, You Wreck Me#, This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) > Heads Up Jam > Texas

Encore: Can't Wait Another Day

Notes: * with Jeff Pevar on guitar, # with John Kadlecik on guitar

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