Photo by Jeremy Williams
Friday March 3
The String Cheese displayed their Roots Run Deep mentality thru this year’s Winter Carnival in which they plotted a 12-date run throughout the mountains that would mimic the Carnival days of yore. They booked shows at rooms like the Belly Up in Aspen and the Eldo in Crested Butte which boasts the microscopic capacity of 175. In the early days, this band was much more about hitting the slopes than hitting the stage. This run would give them a chance to do both.
The tour kicked off in the band’s hometown of Boulder at the famed Fox Theater. The Fox is currently celebrating their 25th anniversary with a slew of monumental performances from bands that have played there over the years starting with two nights of The String Cheese Incident.
On Friday, the line stretched along 13th Street; fans peddled pins while others walked up and down the line with fingers pointed steadfastly towards the sky. Doors opened at 7 PM and the show began with an eloquent introduction by AEG’s Don Strasburg just after 8:40 PM. It had been announced earlier in the week that String Cheese would be throwing it back with acoustic opening sets and lots of classic tunes. They also let us know that they would be recreating that magic from The Fox 20 years prior by playing A String Cheese Incident in its entirety. The five members crouched together on the lip of the stage, acoustic instruments in hand as they opened with David Grisman’s “Chili Dawg” a song they have not performed live since Rothbury in 2011. For their first set they focused on rare covers and fan favorites including Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Don’t It Make You Want to Dance.” The energy was palpable as everyone in the room felt privileged to be in attendance. Towards the end of the set they transitioned to electric instrumentation and closed with a huge Kyle lead “Rosie.”
Their next set was something special. Lots of bands recreated albums live, but rarely is it on the same stage where it was recorded initially two decades prior. A String Cheese Incident represents the early era of the band with a focus on bluegrass instrumentation and intricate compositions. The recreation was authentic while still incorporating some of the stylistic changes of the intervening years. The beautifully picked “Land’s End” was the obvious highlight of the entire evening. They encored with the now famous electro-grass version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” Fans flooded out of the venue on an absolute high. About half would make it back for night two, while the rest would have to watch the stream from their couch.
Saturday March 4
The Roots Revival Tour stormed on with night two at the Fox Theater. This 500-person room was a proving ground for The String Cheese Incident in the early days. They updated the stage with another classic tour backdrop before the band got started around the same time as the previous evening. Again, the first set was an acoustic affair featuring lots of rare covers and interesting song choices. They opened with the Bill Nershi sung “One Step Closer.” Keith Moseley took the vocals on an incredibly rare cover of The Band’s “Ophelia.” They continued with a pair of Bill Monroe tunes “Blackberry Blossom” and “Walls of Time” before letting Kyle sing a spirited “Outside and Inside.” Michael Kang took the reins on the set-closing “Just One Story.”
The energy was less anticipatory this evening. People were just utterly excited and the band fed off that most noticeably during the second set. After a bouncy “Can’t Wait Another Day” they went into the title track from the forthcoming album Believe. The “Rivertrance” was an explosive highpoint, which was followed by the live debut of “My One and Only.” The “Round the Wheel” was huge before they closed with a prodigious “Let’s Go Outside.” Billy returned to the spotlight acoustic guitar in hand for a beautiful rendition of “Barstools” before they got funky on the show closing “Texas.” This pair of performances will go down as a reminder of why we got into The String Cheese Incident in the first place. They are never one to stray far away from their roots and this Winter Carnival celebrates everything that has come before and all that has happened since.