Some bands base their tour dates around traditions, and local jam band heroes the String Cheese Incident are one of those bands. After six years of playing a three-night New Year’s Eve weekend run at the First Bank Center, Cheese has moved on to a new hometown tradition — Cheesegiving. Once the Mission Ballroom opened and became fair game in 2019, Cheese hosted a two-night party the weekend after Thanksgiving that stuck with both the band and their fans. This year, Cheese tacked on a night-before-Thanksgiving show along with the weekend run, and we were on hand for the third and final night of a new tradition in the making.
While Wednesday and Friday night’s shows saw special local guests, Cheese surprised their fans on Saturday by giving them the chance to vote on the first setlist. Polls were made in fan Facebook groups and much talk was had in the days leading up to Saturday’s show. As hoped, the first set of the evening was a whole lot of bust-outs. Fans got to finally experience songs that they had been chasing for years, and Saturday’s first set will go down as one of the more special “incidents” in String Cheese history.
Everywhere you looked — from the front rail to the back row of the stands — fans were raging to the songs they had been wishing and waiting for. Undeniably one of the most sought-after songs in the Cheese catalog, the first set kicked off with “Bigger Isn’t Better,” led by Michael Kang as the crowd yelled his name and cheered him on. The storytelling “Little Hands” moved into the Latin-influenced “Pirates” and started up a series of amateur salsa moves from the crowd.
As Keith Moseley ripped into “Resume Man,” the crowd went from twirling to singing along to every word coming from the deep-voiced bassist. A funky “Climb” came before a much-anticipated “100 Year Flood” that led another sing-along, followed up by an unexpected tease of the Allman Brothers’ “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” The heaters kept coming with “Big Shoes,” and after a drum solo from the double-rhythm section that is Michael Travis and Jason Hann, Cheese closed the fan-voted first set with “San Jose,” received by uproarious applause.
Then the band took back the reigns, and although no longer chosen by the fans, Cheese had clearly read the room and served up a second set that was precisely what their crowd wanted. They wasted no time, getting right into a raucous “Way Back Home,” which led into a serious dance party during “Rivertrance” in which Kang showed off on the beloved fiddle portion. Keeping with the theme of fan favorites, Bill Nershi took over for “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” before the band switched up the vibe with the psychedelic “Galactic.”
As the show moved towards its end, “Into the Blue” and “Sirens” saw Kang and Moseley taking turns on vocals. Upping the tempo for the final stretch of the evening, keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth crooned on “Let’s Go Outside” to finish out the second set. In keeping to their roots for the encore, Nershi led on the quintessentially Cheese-y “Restless Wind” before the band briefly thanked the crowd, took their graceful leave from the stage and capped off an insurmountably beautiful Thanksgiving week.