Words by Laura Lesya
Driving down to Seattle from Vancouver for the Colorado-based jam band The String Cheese Incident’s outdoor concert didn’t show much promise weather wise; grey clouds stretched across the sky, pregnant with rain. It was chilly, and the crowd that was gathered at the Marymoor Amphitheatre dressed for a hot summer’s day. The stage, planted down in the middle of the park, was surrounded by the greenest grass and elongated trees strung with golden lights. As soon as you entered the grounds you could feel the energy; everyone had the biggest smiles on their faces as they eagerly waited for Cheese to get on the stage.
The show was scheduled from 6 to 10 pm, and without an opener booked, the crowd was hoping for a full 4 hours of Cheese. 6:30 rolls around, and the audience started to cheer. The eclectic group of fans that showed up ranged from tiny toddlers running around with little fairy wings and tails to some committed dead heads with crazy long beards that could only be grown with 75 years of life experience. As soon as The String Cheese Incident came onto the stage the sky suddenly opened up, revealing blue sky paired with the sun that shone down through the trees. The night was about to be filled with two sets of their trademark genre-blended progressive bluegrass and neo-psychedelia, and the crowd could not be more excited. The band wasted no time as soon as they stepped bare-foot onto the stage, opening up with “Can’t Stop Now” which made its way into “Born on the Wrong Planet,” a track off their 1996 debut album. This really got the crowd going; everyone was happily grooving on their blankets, feeling the energy that the band was giving out with each song. Next up was “Betray the Dark,” followed by “Honky Tonk Heroes,” and “So Far From Home.” The first set ended up closing with “Dirk” and for the closer, “Valley of the Jig.” The band walked off the stage and the crowd was still buzzing from their final song of set one.
The set break felt like it lasted ages; everyone was anxiously waiting for the band to return, wondering what songs they would throw at them next. The evening was upon us, and the sun began to slowly set. Finally, SCI returned on stage, ready to tackle their last set. They opened up with a funky “You’ve Got the World” which really got the crowd grooving, then transitioned to “Mess Brown’s Teahouse” > “Dudley’s Kitchen.” The electro-funk became prevalent when SCI came down with a wicked “Joyful Sound,” with some thick and heavy underlying electronic effects thrown into the mix. The nighttime grabbed hold as “Sand Dollar” was accompanied by a beautiful deep blue lightshow, fascinating the crowd. “Let’s Go Outside” followed by “Just One Story” brought an epic set two to a close. Cheese left the crowd wanting more, and that’s exactly what they got. The band returned and dropped into “Down a River” and closed the show with a cheesy cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” Although the audience would have gladly listened to many more hours of Cheese, the show had wrapped up and the band was onto their next adventure
One of the best things about Cheese is the sheer amount of positivity their music emanates. It is impossible to immerse yourself into one of their shows without having the biggest smile stretched across your face. How they harness this incredible energy, I couldn’t tell you. What I do know is that it’s unlike any other band, and it’s a magical thing.