Growing up in Chicago, the term ‘Cheese Head’ always had negative connotations. But when my good friend invited me to join him at Red Rocks to see the String Cheese Incident, somehow I knew this would be a positive ‘Cheese’ experience. I had never seen SCI before, they never come through our small town. However I have seen EOTO before, a dubstep duo consisting of SCI members Michael Travis and Jason Hann, and they completely blew me away.
We left early to make sure we could park in the South Lot, aka Shakedown Street, where all the pre-game fun happens. We each grabbed a beer and started our walk through the cars, keeping an eye out for cool posters, pins, stickers, koozies, artwork, etc. As we sipped our cool beers, my anticipation grew, I couldn’t wait to finally see this legendary band, and at my favorite concert venue.
The long walk up the ramps to the rocks took forever. Everyone was so excited, chit chatting with everyone else about past Cheese shows and what festivals they had been to so far this summer. I even met a girl with a matching purple Summer Camp hat from Grassroots. The line took FOREVER, but we finally got inside, just in time for Sometimes a River. The sun was setting and you could see everyone dancing as the beautiful sounds bounce off the rocks. They played a cover of Paul Simon’s Under African Skies that was so soft and magical, already this show was exceeding my expectations. As the sun dipped behind the rocks, the lights of Denver lit up behind the stage, but it was the light show that really caught everyone’s eye. With eight lit up towers glowing behind the band, giant panels of lights behind those towers, and an incredible octagon containing 20 individual lights (that moved like lasers). They ended their first set with a local favorite Colorado Bluebird Sky. The show was so much fun, I was mesmerized by the lights and the sounds, and was pleasantly surprised when they busted out an EOTO-esque electronic jam which somehow melodically transitioned into bluegrass. They ended night one with an encore of Whiskey Before Breakfast and finished with Outside and Inside.
Night One was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. After seeing STS9 at Red Rocks a few weeks prior, I had no idea that String Cheese could top that show. Not wanting the night to end, we got in the car to head to boulder, blasting a live EOTO show from when they played at the Belly Up in Aspen. I could not wait for Night Two.
Waking up on Saturday, I had butterflies in my stomach. But as we drove to Red Rocks, the dark clouds rolled in and the much needed rain began to fall, and it came down HARD. We weren’t too concerned, especially since there have been so many fires in Colorado, we were actually excited about the rain. I knew if we did a rain dance, the rain would come, and it only took one night of Telluride, Colorado natives String Cheese Incident to call up the rain gods and bring on the thunder. When we got to the lot, it was only drizzling, so we just stood under the trunk of my 4-Runner and waited for the sun to come out. When we got into the amphitheater the clouds had passed on and the band was ready to start off their second night.
They started their first set with Birdland mixing into Wheel Hoss back intoBirdland. As they began to play the song Rain I noticed that I couldn’t see the lights of Denver anymore, a HUGE gray fog was rolling in, and FAST. It filled up the valley leading up to the Rocks and it began to POUR! As if by magic, SCI actually brought in the rain. They finished the song, even as the rain came down harder and lightening filled the skies. When the song ended, the band announced that they were going to have a 45 minute rain delay. They told us that we could go back to our cars for safety and we would be let back in. We casually strolled out of the amphitheater and back toward the lot. I did not pack right for the occasion, my Denver Nuggets jersey and Summer Camp hat were completely soaked. I asked one of the fire marshals on the way out of the venue if we were gonna have to wait through security to get back in (because the line was so long to get in originally) and he told me that the show was cancelled. I refused to believe him. My mother always told me, “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado…wait five minutes”. Even though the heavens had literally opened up, I knew we just had to wait it out, it couldn’t rain all night, it was only 8pm.
Once we got back to the car, we scrambled to find dry clothes and get into them quickly. We piled into the car and put on Boulder natives The Motet. Their smooth bass filled grooves, combined with the car’s heater kept us warm. After about two hours the skies cleared, and people started walking back up to the venue. We were so stoked, THE SHOW WAS BACK ON! We ran with joy up the hill, which took so long earlier in the night. But we were so excited that we didn’t care about the steep hill and long journey up the steps. We finally made it back inside (no tickets needed, I’m sure lots of people got to see some free cheese that night) and ran up the steps into the middle and began to dance as the band came back out with Restless Wind followed by Water. It was so surreal.
Unfortunately I had to work on Saturday, so I couldn’t make it to Night Three, but by what I heard from friends it sounded amazing. They saved up the confetti and pyrotechnics for the last night of the weekend. Pictures looked like a spectacle. The whole weekend was amazing, the smooth sounds of Michael Kang’s violin, the exciting drum solos between Michael Travis and Jason Hann, it was all just so mesmerizing and exciting. I don’t think I stopped dancing the entire time. All in all it was a very successful weekend, and I hope that I can see the String Cheese Incident again in the near future. The entire spectacle was simply jaw dropping and their stage show can only continue to progress and impress us in the future.