String Cheese Incident - Red Rocks July 2017

I finally saw ‘the Cheese’, and I am a bit late to the game.  Being a near life long Deadhead, I have been aware of this band for decades.  I have long cited and applauded their PearlJamian battle with Ticketbastard.  For what they did fighting TM, and what they exposed... they are HEROES!  They also got a lot farther than Pearl Jam in their battle.  This is a VERY important story, so I want to tell it real quick.  Back in 2012, the band was selling tickets to shows for $49.95.  A fair market price by all accounts.  They did not want their fans to have to pay an extra $20 per ticket in fees.  So, they took their band's cash and went to the box office and bought up ALL the tickets.  This was back when you could get tickets at a box office for no fees (a practice long gone now).  So, they bought up all the tickets so they could sell them to their fans at exact face value.  Ticketmaster no likey.

With money advanced by the band, each person had enough to buy eight tickets at $49.95 apiece for the group’s show in July. Once all tickets were in hand, almost 400 of them, they were carried back to String Cheese headquarters in Colorado and put on sale again through the group’s Web site — for $49.95.
“We’re scalping our own tickets at no service charge,” Mike Luba, one of the group’s managers, explained in an interview last week. “It’s ridiculous.”
and that isn't the first time they have fought TM on behalf of their fans.  They sued TM years ago when TM made it a LAW that fan clubs can't sell more 8% of a venues' total tickets.

So, having never even heard a single song, I love these men.  These are good men fighting the good fight.  This is what they said, and it's devastating simple and pure.  It is also the exact reason Pearl Jam took them to Congress.

“If the tickets are 49 bucks, we want them to be 49 bucks when the kid buys them at the end,” Mr. Luba said.

They are, by all accounts, ‘jam band’.  By that I mean, all very very talented instrumentalists.  To me, it also means wavering from strict structure and setlists.  It means ‘we allow taping’.  It means ‘we have no idea what is going to happen at tonight’s show.  You’ll be the second to find out!’.  This was the third night of a 3 night stand.

These are all very good attributes in a band.  I, we actually, very much enjoyed the first set.  It was a fusion of bluegrass and folk and just general hippy jambandness.  We also really, really appreciated the crowd.  All very young people, all on acid.  It was just terrific to watch the joy and silliness all around.  It reminded me of seeing the Dead tours nearly 30 years ago.  Seeing the Dead in ’89, I was usually the youngest around.. at about 18 years old.  Now, when I go see the Dead offshoot bands (Bobby, and Phil, etc etc etc) I am still often among the youngest.  This show, though, everyone was at least 25 years younger than us… and that was a good thing.

The older guy with the white hair and beard on acoustic guitar... he was INCREDIBLE.  He was playing beautiful and perfect acoustic the whole show.  Biggest thing for me (as an acoustic guitar player) was the complexity of the music he was playing.  This was not a concert where anyone got to 'phone it in'.  This was a master class in musicianship.  Also, watching him hop around all night like a gleeful 18 year old was even more refreshing.

Though I didn't know a single song, we still really really enjoyed the music.  Well, ok... I knew one.  They covered the Dead's 'Brown Eyed Women' at the end, so that was pretty cool.

So… the show so far is just perfect and wildly enjoyable.  For the set break, they brought out a comedian.  BRILLIANT!  Why has no one ever done this?    Seriously, no one has ever done this even once in the hundreds of shows I have been to.  For the record, my band tried to do this, but our comedian dropped out last second.  Another thing to the band’s credit… they kept everything local.  The ‘Cheese’ is from Boulder Telluride, as was their amazing opening band (Grant Park) and so was their comedian, Josh Blue.
We get to the second set.  It’s dark now.


The second set was an ear bleeding shit show.  The second set was simply designed for people who are tripping.  It was a great light show, but musically sucked ass.  What you had was all these folkies finding their distortion pedals and just going nuts making noise for the light show.   Being both a musician and jam band fan… allow me to be even more specific.
It is nice if a song has a big crescendo at the end.  This is where the song builds and builds to something, and then the end is that release.  You don’t want something like this to go on for more than a minute or two.  Not the building… the building can go on for sometime… but the spazzy and energetic crescendo should be brief.  The Allman’s were masters of this, and you can listen to ‘in Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ for a perfect example of how it’s done.  Same with ‘Whipping Post’.  Problem with the Cheese was… they literally did this for 2 hours.

Playing, and especially jamming, should be a give and take.  The first set was perfectly that. What you don’t want is 6 amazing musicians playing their dicks off all at the same time, as fast and loud as they possibly can, for 2 hours.  I think the Dead played it too safe in this way, only teasing the edge.  I think Phish does a great job in using these dynamics, as well.  The Cheese just punched the gas pedal to the bottom and redlined the engine for the WHOLE fucking second set.  This wasn’t music, it was noise for the drug show.  We weren’t on drugs, so maybe that is why I found it tedious.  I also get I am not the target demographic.  I get the over the top light show, and crazy fun noise, for the trippers.  the Dead used to do the same thing with Drums/Space.  However, I am super glad I was not tripping, as that second set would have laid me bare and broken.

I would see them again, in a heartbeat.  Thing is, I’ll just bail at the set break.

Bonus coolness, that shirt up there is from the guy sitting next to us.


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