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String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks: To go or not to go? A case for diversity

Red Rocks boasts an impressive schedule this summer, a nice mix of classic rock, country, indie-leaners and electronic bashers.

But, this being Colorado and the venue being Red Rocks, another faction rears its head prominently again in 2012: jam bands.

Lotus, Umphrey’s McGee and Furthur will all hit the Rocks; still many others contain jam elements. (Widespread Panic is notably absent as the Georgians are on an indeterminate hiatus.) Most notably, though, Colorado’s own String Cheese Incident plays three nights this week: Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

 

That’s right: A band that hasn’t released an album of new material since 2005 is commanding two more nights at Red Rocks than the Beach Boys, Peter Gabriel and Jack White.

Just what in the wide, wide world of patchwork pants is going on here?

Before getting too into all this, an admission that comes with little guilt and some pride seems appropriate: I have been to a lot of jam band concerts. By my count, I’ve seen Phish 37 times, Widespread Panic somewhere in the 20ish region, SCI on at least 15 occasions and some derivation of the Grateful Dead perhaps more than all of the others.

Add in a few moe. bro-downs, Yonder Mountain String Band noodle-pickin’ forays, Umphrey’s McGee laser shows and assorted other spectacles, and my grand total for jammin’ out hardcore is well above the 100-gig mark. Why outline such a history? Well, I want to express my opinion with a relative basis for it.

And here it is: Jam band fans need to stop going to jam band concerts.

String Cheese’s three-night stand, which starts Thursday, is mind-boggling. I can appreciate what the band did in the late ’90s — as I said, I did so many times live — but they haven’t done anything original or even exciting in a decade. (Many would argue they did nothing of the sort in their entire career.)

I understand the appeal of nostalgia: I, myself, will go to a Phish show or two over Labor Day at Dick’s. And I also am a firm advocate for diversity in music. Anyone who completely writes off a genre isn’t paying attention. But on the flip side, someone who devotes his/her entire musical life to one type of music — or worse, one group — is missing out.

Going to all three SCI shows? Why? Don’t do it. Go to one, if you must, and then use the extra, ahem, cheddar you saved expanding your proverbial horizons.

For the price of just one ticket to Cheese (about $50 to $60), you could check out Portishead-esque Lower Dens on July 10, electro-freaks Liars July 13 and Southern hip-hop phenom Big K.R.I.T. on July 18. Haven’t heard about or don’t enjoy any of those bands? Hundreds more are coming to town this summer.

I can’t fault you for knowing what you like, but all too often it’s the jam crowd that gets absorbed into a hemp-forged blender full of veggie burritos, patchouli oil and magic crystals. Panic’s not on tour? Don’t settle for hitting the road with the Disco Biscuits. Try something new.

Coloradans are particularly awful at this: There are enough jamfests and brewgrass mountain hoedowns in our state to make Trey Anastasio wish he had formed a stripped-down punk duo in college. So, it might as well start here. Get out of your comfort zone, and to paraphrase Anastasio himself, live while you’re young.

I’ll go first: Who’s got a beat on the hot screamo metal show this week? Or maybe a KYGO-sponsored country square dance? Actually, forget the latter. I’d rather go see String Cheese.

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Colin St. John is a Denver-based writer and merrymaker. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog.