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

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.

  • June Reedy

    that’s why electric forest is AWESOME.  i can count on coming out of that forest with 4 new favorites.  I can count on the fact that i have never heard of at least half of the acts but i love the other half. keeping it fresh.  Great article.

  • DenverDan

    Was there a point to all this?

  • Josh Colky

    Whole entire review seems to be pretty devoid of actual criticism. “These people, they’ve gotta stop seeing music they like, because, um… I’m not sure. Some very loosely strung together justifications because of the fact that I had a deadline in the morning.”  

    “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.”

    This is all without apparently any idea that SCI is releasing new material this year. Bands – definitely don’t tour for new music you’re creating, it’s a promotional disaster ;).

    What if it’s something we like, and have liked, for years? Peter Gabriel is touring for an album he released 30 years ago, and has been playing “Blood of Eden”  since then, without improv, but how much shit does he catch here. Plain and simple, this is more anti-hippie rhetoric. Go chase down Willey Nelson or Fletwood Mac or Neil Young and tell them to quit playing the same shit they’ve been playing for that long – their scene is stale, and apparently, so is the music…due to, I guess, it’s longevity or something. Thanks for the non-review, dude. 

  • Crispin Arthur

    Agree with the idea of diversifying taste, whether in music, literature, art, food, et al.  But, when you find something you really, really, really like, why not indulge yourself and put a perma-Smile on your face?  Also, to be fair, SCI has intriduced several new songs in the post-hiatus period (Song in My Head, Colorado Bluebird Sky, Rosie, Just the Way That it Goes, BollyMunster, to name a few), some of which were the result of solo projects each of the members explored during the lay-off.

  • Superfan

    Wow- Such insight! Your analysis reads like a 1st grade show and tell.  “I like this…you should too.” If
    I were you I’d continue to camouflage yourselves amongst the monotony of football, NASCAR, and baseball drones, and hesitate to comment on people who dare to be a bit different. Now that your sucked me into your vortex of bitching I should go. Peyton Manning Will You Marry Me?  I’ll put your name on my shirt.

  • Mercindloja

    Why don’t you worry about yourself Collin? If people want to see SCI three times, what difference does it make to you? You said it yourself you’ve seen 100’s of jam shows. You seem like a butthurt old man. Your opinion of music isn’t anymore important than that of an infant. If people want to see three shows, good for them. There are tons of bands I dislike, but I don’t waste my time trying to make everyone feel wrong for liking them. “jamband fans should stop going to jamband shows”? You should stop writing.

  • Chang

    I think I have My musical life under control, thanks. Have fun at your southern hip hop phenom and @$@ off please

    • Tjhurls

      Bwahahaha, totally!

  • Dan

    LOL… What a clown. Ticket sales buddy. Check it out. Friday and Saturday have been sold out for weeks and Thursday is probably not far off. Last time was also almost completely sold out. Article is stupid and the writer probably isn’t too bright either. Thanks for the laughs this morning.

  • Brandon Shepherd

    yeah because peter gabriel and the beach boys are both cranking out new material like crazy unlike cheese, if you’re gonna bash on a band just straight-up do it instead of this weasel-like b.s.

  • Tjhurls

    Well Colin, better face it dude.  You are not much of a jamband fan anymore then.  Which is fine, I know plenty of people who listen to more crappy indie rock today than the jam stuff they grew up on.  Just because something is “new”, doesn’t mean it is good.

    3 nights of SCI at Red Rocks will provide more interesting music, different styles, and takes on genres that most artists will even touch at the Rocks.

    I agree that people need to expand their horizons and listen to other stuff….but that doesn’t mean they have to like it.  I have listed to today’s indie crap over and over and over, just trying to get into it.  Most of it is garbage.  There is a reason Cheese still commands this following so long into their career:  they are that good.

    Do you think bands like Foster the People, MGMT, etc. will still be headlining the Rocks 15 years into their career?  Yeah, I don’t think so either.

    Stick with what you like people, it will make you happier.  Face it, if you haven’t heard it already it’s probably because you wouldn’t like it.

  • Valeriekmorris

    Colin St. John, you are an idiot. Seriously. Most jamband fans have very diverse taste in music. Trust me, we all know what we are doing going to see Cheese 3 nights in a row. Blech, I can’t even believe you are allowed to be a writer, if this is the kind of stupidity you are spewing. Now I’m off to dance my a$$ off for (gasp!) 3 WHOLE NIGHTS WITH THE SAME BAND!!!!!

  • Birdland

    hater. cheese happens to be my favorite band in the world. shut the hell up and go see bassnectar another 25 times becuase youve been through it all… i will forever love sci and no band makes me feel the way they do i will not return to your website ever again, you are a low-life hater. no reason to hate when music is about love. 

  • Don Moyer

    What a crap piece of journalism.  So they should have added a few more nights of Beach Boys who have of course been releasing albums left and right the last few years.  Jamband festivals have ridiculously diverse musical assortments. I guess in your eyes though it’s better to play the part of being eclectic by going to shitty shows instead of seeing who you like.

  • Dan

    Wow……what a horibble job.

    • Erobrobbins

      Wow . . . what a horrible speller.

  • Ocelot834

    So far there has been new material at all the Red Rocks shows. SCI is on fire and the jams keep getting better. I think someone is bitter that the shows sold out before he could get tickets…

  • Todd Brownell

    All of that experience and you actually still don’t understand what the definition of jamband is.  You’re  right about one thing, most of those fans need to stay home and get drunk and do E at home, so that they aren’t helping me waste my $60 dollars at the cheese show.  I have an incredibly diverse range of music I listen too, because listiening to bands like Phish, Cheese, and Umphreys has taught me and many others how to listen.  If you don’t have the attention span to listen to the jam after the five minute radio spot don’t come to the show.  Jam means taking a preset base or song and improvising off that structure.  The very definition means it’s different everytime and why miss two of the three shows when they don’t replicate one song or one jam.  

  • Erobrobbins

    Some jam band fans do have diverse musical tastes. However, I know some who only listen to jam bands, and even a few who only listen to Widespread Panic or Phish at the exclusion of all other jam bands. This column was obviously not addressed to people who like String Cheese in addition to other music. It was aimed at the jam band fans who cannot come out of their substance-induced haze long enough to give anything else a chance, and SCI fans, don’t pretend they aren’t in your ranks. Secondly, to those who say the writer shouldn’t be allowed to write, the dude’s job is to write his opinion. Just because he expressed his opinion sort of but not really ripping on your favorite band doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be able to have an opinion column.