This past New Year’s Eve weekend was the sixth year in a row for the String Cheese Incident’s three-night run at the 1st Bank Center. Having attended four out of those six years, I can say with confidence that each show is different than the others – which is why the Boulder-based band consistently draws a substantial crowd each year. Outfitted in glittered garb and neon costumes, all three shows drew quite an intriguing and eclectic group of people. Some long-time fans who flew in for the weekend, local fans like myself, and newer fans who just wanted to see what the fuss is all about – I think it’s safe to say we all had an epic ending to 2016.
Night One kicked off after an opening set from dubstep duo and Boulder locals, Big Gigantic. The first set from the String Cheese Incident was relatively predictable, full of fan favorites and a beloved cover. “Round The Wheel,” “Black Clouds” and the ever-funky “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” brought the heat to this set. “Sweet Spot,” one of the bands newer releases, was strategically placed in the middle of the set and adjacent to a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” piloted by Michael Kang on vocals. This first set of night one finished with “Rollover,” a solid point to end on before the show made quite a transition into the second set.
Set two was billed as the “Big Gigantic Incident,” and no name could have been better fitting. The String Cheese Incident welcome Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken onto the stage for the entire duration of the second set, and what ensued over the next couple hours was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. The eight musicians alternated between performances of String Cheese Incident tunes and Big Gigantic tunes, with an improvised version of the Star Wars theme song somewhere in-between. The set included SCI originals “Joyful Sound,” “Can’t Wait Another Day,” “Jellyfish” and “BollyMunster,” and Big G originals “C’Mon” and “I’ve Gotta Know.” The encore kept in step with this arrangement, with Big G’s “Touch The Sky” and SCI’s “Rosie” and “Desert Dawn” closing out the first of the three shows.
Night two would deliver one of the most immaculate and melodious performances I’ve ever witness from the String Cheese Incident. After a brief opening set by The Floozies, SCI got right into the thick of their live catalogue with “One Step Closer” and “Hi-Ho No Show.” One of the most exquisite songs by the band, “Until The Music’s Over,” brought a softer note to the set that then transitioned smoothly into “These Waves.” Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth is well-known for his infatuation with the Talking Heads, and he conducted the band through a rendition of “Nothing But Flowers.” The first set closed with Kang leading on vocals on one of the most positively overwhelming versions of the band’s “Shine” that I’ve ever experienced, and left the crowd buzzing when the house lights came up.
Second set would take us Cheeseheads even higher, with The Floozies joining SCI for the high-power instrumental, “Valley Of The Jig.” “Come As You Are” was followed by country-twang tune “Sing A New Song,” boasting Billy Nershi’s expertise on the guitar. Hollingsworth took over vocals on “Falling Through The Cracks,” a gem that is rarely pulled out of the archives for the band’s live shows. “Land’s End” was a pleasantly unexpected next choice for this set, the instrumental having been the song performed at midnight three out the last six of these New Year’s Eve shows. Hollingsworth’s groovy “Let’s Go Outside” came before SCI classic “Restless Wind” to wrap up the second set. The encore, despite being only one song, could not have left off on a better note. A cover that String Cheese Incident has truly made their own, “Shakin’ The Tree,” concluded night two and left us itching for our third and final incident the following evening.
Only one night a year do Cheese fans get treated to not two, but three full sets from our favorite jam band. The first set of the last String Cheese Incident show of 2016 started promptly at 8 p.m. with “San Jose” and moved into the Nershi-led sing-along “Song In My Head.” The instrumental “MLT” came next, and was succeeded by “Outside and Inside.” The highlight of the set were the back-to-back covers that came at the end, with the Allman Brothers’ “Hot’Lanta” jamming straight into the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.”
Hollingsworth’s vocals opened the second set on “Close Your Eyes” before another fan favorite and one of numerous highlights of the evening, “Looking Glass.” “Get Tight” was another more recent release from the band that was performed over the weekend, which moved gracefully into “Best Feeling.” An interpretation of The Police’s “Walking On The Moon” was yet another awesome cover skillfully executed by SCI, and preceded the song about the flying pic – “Howard” – to end the set.
At approximately 11:45 p.m., the String Cheese Incident took the stage for the seventh and final set of the New Year’s Eve weekend. Hollingsworth brought the funk yet again with “You’ve Got The World,” and slammed on the keys with only one hand (the other one broken not three days prior). The countdown to midnight was accompanied by “Just One Story” and ariel dancers that gradually dropped from the ceiling of the venue, along with hundreds of golden-colored balloons. And though 2017 had arrived, the band kept on truckin’, the first song of the new year being aptly chosen as “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.” The exhilarating instrumental “Rivertrance,” the favorite sing-along “Sirens,” (boasting Hann’s rapping skills), and the bass-heavy “Beautiful” finished out the jaw-dropping third set. Bob Dylan’s “Quinn The Eskimo” and Doc Watson’s “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” brought us to the end of the show, and led us into what’s bound to be a phenomenal 2017.