I started 2014 with the String Cheese Incident (NYE Review)
2013 was a big year for me. I traveled all over the country hitting numerous festivals and concerts, utilizing late June through December 31st to see the String Cheese Incident as many times as possible. Electric Forest, Forecastle, Lockn’, Hulaween and the New Year’s run put me at 13 shows for the year and I was impressed each and every time. There were your standouts and your average Cheese sets, but every time I was able to catch these guys, it was a major highlight of my year.
The 31st of December 2013 was an ecstatic day. I was about 2000 miles from home, the furthest I’ve ever traveled to see the band. I began 2013 promising myself that this is where I’d be when the ball dropped, and I followed through. The cool weather and mountainous region is completely unlike my Florida home, and this NYE, for the better, was completely unlike any other new year I have celebrated.
The Del McCoury Band opened up the show with a short, but strong, set. I had seen the Travelin’ McCoury’s play, but never with papa McCoury fronting the band. His presence was a friendly authority as he led his sons in pickin’ classics, giving each member his turn to shine instrumentally and vocally.
The String Cheese Incident came out looking a bit different…not in a bad way. Our beloved mountain hippies were looking FRESH! Suits were all around the stage as Michael Kang mentioned that the McCoury’s inspired them after years of playing with the group and being upstaged…fashionably speaking, of course. The entire Del McCoury Band joined the group on stage for the first few songs, including bluegrass classics “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Shenandoah Breakdown” before playing the Grateful Dead’s “Cold Rain and Snow.”
Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter stuck around for “Bird Land > Wheel Hoss > Birdland,” a definitive moment of the three-set night. “Give Me The Love > Way Back Home” and “Valley of the Jig” capped off the first set. Michael Kang was absolutely shredding that mini-little guitar during “Way Back Home” and set the tone for the most impressive live performance I have ever seen from the multi-instrumentalist.
Set two was jam-packed with improvisation and variety. The set began with a rare “Water” appearance before getting in to “Colliding > Sirens.” “Windy Mountain” followed and displayed a heartfelt vocal performance by Billy Nershi along with some more Michael Kang guitar shredding (which from this point forward will be referred to as “Kang Bang”). “Stay Thru” had the crowd grooving to the reggae beat and the set ended with a rare “Las Vegas” that segued in to an epic “Desert Dawn,” a track that was on the setlist for the first night but didn’t show up until night 3.
Cheese took the stage again at 10-til’ the new year. “Rivertrance” begun and things started getting a little crazy. Where as most bands stop with balloons, SCI likes to get theatric. Real theatric. There was confetti, glitter, dancers in snow globes, acrobats flying from the roof, fireworks (in the building? Um….what!?) and the obligatory thousands of balloons falling from the rafters. “Rivertrance” sandwiched a “Glory Chords” jam, which is a nod to how the group rang in 2013…pretty epic if you ask me! After the celebration ensued, Del McCoury and his band joined the group on stage for a toast to 2014, but the night was certainly not over.
“Let’s Go Outside” was jammed into an upbeat “Smile.” Drums led way into “It Is What It Is” where the Kang Bang was at its absolute finest, blurring the line between guitar-driven psychedelia and auditory sex. The set came to a boiling point as the group covered the Talking Head’s “This Must Be the Place” into the “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Band Reprise” that referenced the first two songs played on the NYE run. Finally the group capped the set off by finishing “Just One Story,” another nod to the 12/28 show just a few days prior.
In classic fashion, the group came out and performed “Colorado Bluebird Sky,” a fitting tune for the state that loves them dearly. The group was exuberant as they left it all out on stage with a righteous singalong and an instrumental solo-cypher. And of course, one last Kang Bang took place.
I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for my favorite band…
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