Last night, The String Cheese Incident kicked off their first of three shows this weekend at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, and what a tremendous night of fun it was. With lots of extensive jamming, a couple of old school covers, and a live debut it was a case to be made for this NYE run to shape into one for the Cheese record books.
With the start of “Indian Creek” > “Eye Know Why,” Khang was amped and flying on his fiddle before some were even aware Cheese had kicked the party off, and the opening segment brought some spastically big energy right upfront. For the lighthearted ballad that it is, “Sweet Spot” became saw a great little build on the lead of some fantastic, dogged soloing from Michael Khang. If there weren’t smiles on all of the faces in attendance already, there were after this tune.
“These Waves,” coming next, brought the first real improv, and started off the mighty stretch of adventurous playing from the whole band that would come non-stop for the rest of the set. Beginning with Kyle Hollingsworth’s tenacious solo in the beginning of “Dijbouti,” the band dove into a pretty deep jam, and then took the Cap Theatre into a rolling landscape of funk, through “Pack it Up” and into “Born On The Wrong Planet,” that just never let up across the three songs. “Planet” in particular saw some extra tricks. The end of the chorus was met quickly with some drum and bass jamming, after which Hollingsworth took a quick opportunity to have some fun. Egged on by the crowd, he threw out fingers to his band members to prompt some start-stop action. This was matched by a neat segue trick of singing of “Planet’s” final chorus on the beat of “Search,” which Cheese took for a quick but strong burst to finish out.
The band grandly topped the first half of the night with a huge second set. After a “Hi Ho No Show” opener came a String Cheese live debut: “So Much Fun,” a Hollingsworth-penned number from their most recent record. “Best Feeling,” next, matched some other jams of the night in how quickly the band took a direction on it. The song amplified into a hard-rocking push through Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” This in turn melted through some space into what became a powerful, theatre-shaking version of “Flying.” Also from Cheese’s most recent album, the tune is epic in it’s own right, and last night Khang graced it’s peak to channel the ampitheatre-style guitar soloing of David Gilmour.
“Round The Wheel,” another sure pleaser, really kicked things into the hyperspace that would imbue the rest of the second set. String Cheese embraced here their more electronic sensibilities, turning Wheel into a pulsating, digital, forceful kind of dance jam. The jam cooled down into “Land’s End,” and the subtle, melting way it did so romanced The Capitol Theatre crowd big time. Land’s spirited ending ushered in beautiful segue number two, this time a less expected switch into the downbeat of “Desert Dawn.” The Capitol Theatre was reeling with collective joy in these moments. Dawn’s improv-heavy backside became just as weird as the jams before it. After playing some really cool and affecting slide guitar work, Bill Nershi became weirdo-commander of this cosmic ship. In the middle of a growingly jazzy jam, he took to the mic to voice-effect some inaudible, robotic croons, and the result was almost unnervingly peculiar. Bonus points to the band for getting creative here. Eventually, the jam hit a dramatic build for a return to the chorus, and Cheese ended the last set of the first night on a strong point.
At their last run at the Capitol, back in 2014, String Cheese gave a couple of nods to Jerry Garcia, with a “Shakedown Street” and a “Tore Up,” to follow. This time, the choice was a “Don’t Let Go,” which the band played at the perfect tempo, and which saw some impressive organ work from Hollingsworth. There may be more such nods in these next two nights to come, but if this first evening is any indication, the cheese side of this NYE weekend should be pretty special at the very least.
The String Cheese Incident takes on night two at The Cap tonight at 8pm.
12/29/17 — The Capitol Theatre — Port Chester, NY
Indian Creek > Eye Know Why, Sweet Spot, These Waves > Djibouti Bump > Pack It Up > Born On The Wrong Planet> Search
Hi Ho No Show, So Much Fun, Best Feeling> Exodus > Flying > Round the Wheel > Land’s End > Glory Chords > Desert Dawn
E: Don’t Let Go