Elliot Seng: Colorado tradition jams on and it was so Gouda
July 31, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Before we get this show on the road I'd like to make a mention. What you are about to read is not overzealous, but exceptionally passionate. Let's call it the enlightenment unto your musical curiosity. Or you could call it being slapped in the face with so much dairy-infused talent your mother wouldn't even wipe it off.
Get ready folks, because it's about to get cheesy.
Hailing from Crested Butte, Colorado, the String Cheese Incident (SCI) was formed during the apex of the jam band craze surrounding the year of 1993. With bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish touring the country relentlessly, catering to their massive crowds, SCI was born. The six member group consists of Kyle Hollingsworth on the piano, organ and accordion, Michael Kang on electric guitar, mandolin and violin, Bill Nershi on acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar and electric slide guitar, Keith Mosely on bass guitar, Michael Travis on drums and percussion and Jason Hann on hand drums, auxiliary and percussion. With that kind of musical diversity in a group a whole lot can happen. And it does. Ranging from their roots in bluegrass to rock, jazz, country, funk, calypso, trance (that's right, trance), reggae and psychedelia, they hit every note in tune with a real music-head's expectations.
Making their 27th Red Rocks appearance this past Friday, the home-state crowd welcomed them with open arms and their dancing shoes shined. The sold out, three night run had hundreds of hopefuls eagerly strolling the concert grounds looking for their elusive "golden ticket." I myself was fortunate enough to procure a pass to Friday night's performance.
The opener, Twiddle, kicked off the night with their Vermont-based bluegrass, funk and reggae sound emanating deep into the hills. A nice little prelude to the madness about to unfold. They're pretty tasty, but not as tasty as cheese. Ouch.
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As the sun set and SCI took the stage, the band was greeted to what may have been the strongest ovation I've ever witnessed in person. A moment when you start to realize the gravity of the situation and what this band means to it's fans. I myself had only ever seen SCI one other time at the Rothbury Music Festival and had proclaimed it being the greatest live performance of my young adult life. Mind you this was back in 2009, being their only performance of the year sharing the bill's headliner status with none other than The Grateful Dead.
Throughout the night, fans were treated to varying styles playing away from the original path of the tune at hand. To be able to shift and meld a song into a whole new style, live, while also improvising and soloing is something very few bands can do. An exemplary three-song endeavor at the beginning of the second set saw "On The Road" break form mid-way through, and morph into an electronica-infused jam segueing without stopping into "Valley of the Jig," one of their well known trance-based tracks.
Prior to that, the opened the set with a strong and confident cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil." They went from classic rock, to jam-grass, to electronica and trance. Um, what? Other highlights were popular tracks like "Let's Go Outside" and "Can't Wait Another Day." The night ended with a fitting rendition of "Smile," a heartfelt fan-favorite that would carry spirits well into the weekend. All-in-all, I can say that this was easily the best live music I've seen in a long time. Seriously.
Steamboat Springs has courted the 6-piece in the past. In 2002, SCI played a pair of dates with none other than James Brown, the godfather of soul and Earl Scruggs, one of the true founders of bluegrass at the Meadows Parking lot near the base of Steamboat Resort. They've appeared in Steamboat many times during their early days considering their Colorado roots and the area's love for all-things music. Michael Kang even spent two years working for ski patrol. The band is pretty familiar with our town. I once was lucky enough to meet Bill Nershi at a local eatery while working. We spoke of his Interlocken Festival performance and what he enjoyed most. I was elated, to say the least.
One can only hope that SCI will grace the Yampa Valley again, someday soon. Until then, stay cheesy Steamboat.
Elliot Seng can tell a few stories. Especially the type where music takes the stage. His story started in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania back in 1987. At 27 years old, and residing in Steamboat Springs for the past five years, his dedication to music is more alive than ever. Whether at home in a robe harmonizing to a favorite vocalist or standing next to you at the weekend's top gig dancing like a ninny, he cannot be ignored. In his short time on earth he's a proven music junkie, and totally broke from it.