Capping off a two-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado’s String Cheese Incident returned to its home stage on Saturday in front of a sold out crowd. The band played through a first set downpour (bringing back memories of last year’s monsoon that delayed Friday’s show for two hours) before a packed second set fed off the energy of the soaked, elated audience.
SCI is a band of many varied moving parts: the folksy singer-songwriting nature of Bill Nershi, the electronic alter egos of drummers Michael Travis and Jason Hann (EOTO), the jazz-organ funk of Kyle Hollingsworth. While each of these pieces can be great in their own right, something uniquely String Cheese and noticeably better happens when they all come together. Saturday’s show was no exception.
The night saw a hit-filled first set that ended with a reggae segment of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” and a cheery “Roll Over.” Always trying to push the envelope of what is possible at Red Rocks, the second set opened with Travis and Hann shouting the “Circle of Life” Lion King intro while leading a percussion jam from the top of the towers on either side of the stage. Their back-and-forth drum battles would pepper the rest of the night.
After a “Rivertrance” fueled by Nershi’s lap steel guitar, the band sandwiched an unexpected bluegrass take of ELO’s hit “Don’t Bring Me Down” inside the hoedown “Johnny Cash.” “Bollymunster” and the hometown anthem “Colorado Bluebird Sky” rounded out the set.
New Orleans favorite Anders Osborne joined the band on vocals and guitar for an encore of J.J Cales’s “Round Midnight,” a tribute to the blues legend who recently passed away. The jammy take saw Osborne, Nershi and Kang all trading guitar solos before a second encore of “Way Back Home” closed out the night.
Through all the diversity, it was Jason Hann’s mind-blowing percussion chops that held the band together and stole the show on multiple occasions. Whether it was driving washboard train beats, djembe solos, or worldly accents with a talking drum, Hann tastefully filled the gaps and took the band to another level of musicianship.
To the joy of the crowd, bassist Keith Moseley announced that the band would be back in Colorado for New Year’s again this year, following up a three-night run at the 1stBank Center to ring in 2013.
Nate Etter is a Boulder-based musician and a regular contributor to Reverb. You can reach him at Nate@EcoVessel.com.
Dylan Langille is a Fort Collins-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his photos here.