FESTIVAL REVIEW: String Cheese Incident @ Electric Forest
Our previous story on Electric Forest touched on the festival’s diversity. From patrons to artists, the event is a true smorgasbord of festival counterculture. Of course, Electric Forest’s spiritual leaders are none other than The String Cheese Incident, quite possibly the world’s most eclectic band.
Over the course of three days, six sets, and about twelve hours worth of scheduled music, the String Cheese Incident proved exactly why they are the best band to headline a festival like this. Sure, their Sunday crowd paled in comparison to that of Bassnectar’s, but the String Cheese Incident really help to tie this whole thing together.
Friday evening at Electric Forest marked the band’s first show since Valentine’s Day weekend in Las Vegas. The group got things started with “Can’t Wait Another Day,” “Wheel Hoss,” “Joyful Sound,” and “Just One Story.” The band had high spirits as they shook off the cobwebs of their absence and started to deliver a beautiful set.
Things got better when they invited some members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to come out and play some horns on “Sugar Plum,” which is an old time jazzy number that can be found on Pres. Hall’s latest album That’s It! SCI’s instrumentation gave the track a little more life, and the crowd was feeling the bust out, no doubt. Things only got crazier when the group dove into Kool & The Gang’s “Hollywood Swingin’,” which nodded back to their 2014 Lockn’ set with JT Taylor. “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” and a little Bruno Mars ditty rounded out an unbelievable first set.
Second set was a heater as well, including fan-favorites “Best Feeling” segueing into “Restless Wind” and back-to-back covers of the Allman Brothers Band and Talking Heads. However, the true WTF moment came when Cheese invited none other than Skrillex to join them for a couple Doors covers during the encore. The crowd went wild as Sonny Moore, awaiting his main stage performance, played guitar and hyped up the crowd during the encore. No one at the entire festival expected it to happen, and smiles were all around as Cheese did, once again, the unexpected.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Skrillex as Friday’s special guests? What other band would do that?
Saturday night in the Forest usually means big production for String Cheese Incident. Over the years they have had stilt-walkers, flag-bearers, fireworks, and wild dancers, but their shenanigans this year would prove that their best stunts have yet to come!
After a solid first set that saw a “Desert Dawn” opener, “Take On Me” bust-out cover and a plethora of hot air balloons floating over the crowd, the group took the stage and jammed out “You’ve Got The World,” a funky, new Kyle tune that always gets the party started. However, it was when they stepped into “Texas” that the real she-bang got going.
A giant hot air ballon that looked like the moon appeared; it looked like it was being weighed down by sand bags. Wait, those aren’t sand bags – THAT’S A PERSON! There was an aerial dancer hanging from the moon. Woah…
As the jam began the bubble, the aerial dancer became more impressive with her moves. It came to a peak and all of a sudden giant blow-up balls of each planet were rushing over the crowd’s heads heading towards the stage. Blimps appeared with bright, neon ‘SCI’ flashing on them. Fireworks went off.
The English language isn’t quite capable of expressing how awesome it was. Everyone had goosebumps everywhere. It was truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen…
The ‘she-bang’ on Saturday was dope enough to overwrite that awful-sounding “Terrapin Station” that they delivered. My favorite band had done it again; they went over the top with theatrics to create an unforgettable moment in my life. There were no sit-ins on Saturday, however Kang did sit in with Bassnectar, which was pretty awesome.
The main stage was an awesome place on Sunday afternoon. Hammocks were hung and frisbees were tossed as Keller Williams Grateful Grass and Yonder Mountain String Band played soundtrack to the sun-soaking. With bluegrass-filled programming before them, it was fairly obvious String Cheese was going to pick a bluegrass set for their first of two.
What wasn’t obvious was the amount of guests, energy, improvisation, and song selection that took place. “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” sandwiching “Another Brick In The Wall”? As the opener?!? SCI was still riding high off their Saturday ‘she-bang’ as they displayed their bluegrass roots for the patrons of Electric Forest.
The bluegrass-heavy set also rounded the band’s output for the weekend. While Friday and Saturday were spent in part trying to cater to the dubstep audience, Sunday afternoon was spent bridging the gap between Grateful Grass and Yonder and the jamtronica / electro that makes up the majority of Forest’s lineup. The entire first set saw an array of musicians, including all of the members of Yonder and Grateful Grass, joining SCI for some good ol’ fashion pickin’.
The tracks with Keller haven’t been played on stage in 15 years. “Catch a Criminal” and “Sharecropper’s Son” haven’t ben played during a SCI ever. The band reached deep into the depths of their love for sporadic musicianship and improvisational jams to deliver one of their best festival sets in recent history.
Set two was probably the band’s strongest in terms of rippin’ Cheese. There were few frills, only one cover, and just one sit-in. For the vast majority of the 1.5+ hour set, fans were able to see their favorite band at their best. “It Is What It Is” was Kang’s highest moment on stage, the 20+ minute “Shantytown” was awe-inspiring, and the 20 minute “Howard” to close was just legendary. The majority of patrons may have been at Gramatik, but the bright side was that Cheese fans got a really spectacular last set in an intimate setting.
The sum of these sets was further proof that Cheese is one of, if not THE, most eclectic band on the planet. Take a look at their guests for the weekend: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Skrillex, Yonder Mountain String Band, Big Gigantic, Keller Williams, The Infamous Stringdusters. They played dubstep, bluegrass, funk, electro, country rock, and so much more. There isn’t another band on the planet that will deliver all of that over the course of three nights, and it’s why they are the perfect band for ‘Eclectic Forest.’ Until next year, Cheese.
Setlists…06/26/2015 ELECTRIC FOREST, ROTHBURY, MI [via FriendsOfCheese.com]Set One: Cant Wait Another Day, Wheel Hoss, Joyful Sound > Just One Story, Valley Of The Jig, Sugar Plum!, Hollywood Swingin’!, Miss Brown’s Teahouse! > Uptown Funk!Set Two: Best Feeling > Restless Wind, Until The Music’s Over > Let’s Go Outside > Piece Of Mine, Looking Glass > Jessica > This Must Be The Place > BeautifulEncore: Break On Through@ > L.A.Woman@ > Break On Through@[!] with Preservation Hall Jazz Band horns, [@] with Skrillex on guitar / vocals06/27/2015 ELECTRIC FOREST, ROTHBURY, MI [via FriendsOfCheese.com]Set One: Desert Dawn, Sweet Spot, Birdland, Stop Drop Roll, Song In My Head > Betray The Dark > Can’t Stop Now > Take On Me > Can’t Stop Now > Rosie Set Two: You’ve Got The World, Texas, Sirens > Rivertrance, I’m Still Here, Colorado Bluebird Sky, Way Back Home > Terrapin Station > Rollover06/28/2015 ELECTRIC FOREST, ROTHBURY, MI [via FriendsOfCheese.com]Set One: Lonesome Fiddle Blues > Another Brick In The Wall part 2 > Lonesome Fiddle Blues, Black Clouds, Catch a Criminal, Sharecropper’s Son, Callaloo And Red Snapper, Vacate, Kidney In A Cooler, Outside Inside > CollidingSet Two: Drums > Search, Bumpin’ Reel, Sometimes A River, It Is What It Is, Shantytown, Way That It Goes, HowardEncore: BollyMunster with Andy Falco, Allie Kral, Dave Johnston, and And Hall, Chris Pandolfi,  with Allie , Ben, and Adam of YMSB,  YMSB original, Ben on vox/electric bass (replaced Keith) ,  with all of YMSB, Andy Falco, Andy Hall, with Ben on vox,  with Keller Williams,  w Dominic Lalli on Sax