Every time it seems that they’ve reached the peak in their musical careers, Colorado’s own String Cheese Incident repeatedly exceeds all expectations. This past weekend was the band’s annual “Hometown Throwdown,” consisting of a three-night run at Red Rocks. Fans look forward to this weekend in July all year long, and after months of anticipation, the boys did not disappoint.
Other than the fact that they’re local, the String Cheese Incident has a great niche in Denver’s local music scene. With so many fans of jam and bluegrass music, the Front Range holds a huge population of diehard fans that leads to nearly if not completely sold out shows at venues like Red Rocks and the First Bank Center.
Friday night kicked off the three-day stint strong, with the first set featuring originals like “Texas,” “Water” and “Farther,” along with new tune and Red Rocks debut, “Get Tight.” The band wrapped up the short but impressive first set with “Hi Ho No Show” and Michael Kang leading vocals on “It Is What It Is.”
Second set featured originals like “Just One Story,” and a cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” sandwiched between “Way Back Home.” Billy Nershi then gave an exciting display of guitar skill during fan favorite “Black Clouds.” The end of Friday’s show finished on a high note, with SCI leading the crowd in a dance party to “Miss Brown’s Teahouse,” Kyle Hollingsworth’s “Let’s Go Outside,” and a rowdy “Rivertrance.”
Saturday night’s first set boasted more originals like “Restless Wind,” “Until the Music’s Over,” and another Kyle-led jam, “You’ve Got The World.” Also featured was “Best Feeling,” originally recorded with SCI compadre Keller Williams and a mainstay in the band’s live catalogue. An incredible rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Over” closed out the first set, with Sheryl Renee and opening act Kamasi Washington sitting in.
Second set, second night included Keith Moseley leading on “Sweet Spot,” Jason Hann rapping on “Sirens,” and the band’s ode to their home state, “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” “45th of November” would fall in the middle of the set to slow things down, slotted between two electrifying tunes, “Beautiful” and “Desert Dawn.” Washington sat in again for the energizing instrumental, “Bumpin’ Reel,” and Renee took over vocals on a breathtaking version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” before night two concluded with another new tune, “Believe.”
Anyone who is anyone knows never to miss a Sunday show, and with Hot Rize starting off the evening’s music, we knew we were in for a bluegrass-tastic treat. All of Hot Rize joined SCI for four tunes – “On The Road Again,” “Panama Red” and “9 lb. Hammer.” The fourth song, “Land’s End,” was particular special, the song having been written by Hot Rize’s Tim O’Brien but also having become a staple jam among SCI’s repertoire. The remainder of the first set would return the stage to SCI alone, featuring “These Waves,” a funky “Colliding,” and the country-pop hit, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.”
The sixth and final set of this epic weekend would include a whole lot of jamming and dancing. And to accompany our booty-shaking was “Rosie,” “Turn This Around” and “BollyMunster.” Only two tunes would change the tempo, with Billy Nershi leading on an awesome “Windy Mountain” and Keith Moseley’s crowd sing-along, “Joyful Sound.” “Down A River” and “‘Round The Wheel” were the first two of a three-part encore that finished with a kickass version of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.”