Review: So here I am, a couple of days removed from what was probably my last Winter Carnival at the Fillmore here in Denver and I’ve got say it’s a bit sad. Say what you want about this band but they always delivered their trademark bouncy sound in a manner that made nearly every face in the venue break into a huge grin.
Whether your passion be Bluegrass, Funk or Electronica, Cheese has something to offer each one of us and they are to be commended for that. Sure, the last couple of years haven’t offered the consistently stellar performances that were the norm between 2000 and 2003, but we have to remember that this is a group of people just like you and I that are changing and evolving everyday. I myself have never been in a band but I can only imagine what it takes to hold it together and persevere as a unit for nearly 15 years.
When Nershi announced last fall that he was moving on after the Summer of 2007, a noticeable ripple passed through the SCI community. I got phone calls from friends around the country and began checking in with the SCI website more and more frequently to ensure I didn’t miss the announcement of the dates for Winter Carnival. When they finally posted I was thrilled that I would be in town and I would get to be there when they said goodbye to the hallowed hall that is the Fillmore Auditorium.
When the Thursday show finally arrived I walked up to the Fillmore from my house and was greeted by a familiar scene at the corner of Colfax and Clarkson, hundreds of fans milling about muttering sweet nothings and holding fingers in the air. While it wasn’t immediately clear that these shows were the end of era, it was great to see the community pull together in support of their boys.
In traditional Winter Carnival fashion SCI had invited several special guests to join them in their celebration and the guests of honor on Thursday were The Polyphonic Spree. While their trademark gowns have recently given way to a more severe army costume, their psychedelic gospel sound has remained intact. It was a shame that so many fans chose the Colfax shakedown over the revival that was going on inside the Fillmore, but I suppose it’s understandable, after all the incident doesn’t really begin till Cheese takes the stage. That being said, by the time the Spree’s 18 members took their bows and said goodbye I was eagerly awaiting the ritual collaboration with SCI later in the night. As it turned out I wasn’t to be disappointed.
As we waited for the boys to appear the excitement in the venue increased dramatically. By 8pm the floor of the Fillmore was packed and people were still streaming in. At ten after 8 the lights went down and the crowd went through the roof, what a welcome home!
Any doubts of a great evening were immediately smashed when the bluegrass stomp of “Johnny Cash” filled the venue. A rare opener from the old days, it’s songs like Johnny Cash that so many of us fell in love with. It is a great old timey song that has been given the SCI treatment. It was quite a treat it was and it certainly signaled a hell of an evening to come!
The highlight of this show for me came at the beginning of the second set when Tim DeLaughter and the horn section and chorus from the Polyphonic Spree army joined SCI on the stage and added their psychedelic gospel sound to mix. There were some puzzled faces in the crowd when the band broke into the smooth 70’s sound of Blue Image’s “Ride Captain Ride,” but all faces showed recognition when the chorus rolled around. While the song may not have been chosen for it’s lyrics they sure were appropriate for the vibe that the String Cheese Incident manages to conjure up everywhere they go.
“Ride, captain ride upon your mystery ship, be amazed at the friends you have here on your trip. Ride captain ride upon your mystery ship, on your way to a world that others might have missed.”
Nershi’s vocals were a little rough at the beginning but everyone was warmed up by the time DeLaughter and his disciples took the reigns for the chorus. His voice fit in perfectly and the acapella breakdown that wrapped up the tune featured the crowd singing so loudly they almost drowned out the band. It was one of the moments where everything seems to fall into place and I wondered why these two bands waited so long to share the stage.
Set 1: Johnny Cash, Round The Wheel, Black And White, Farther, Black Market > Mouna Bowa, Close Your Eyes
Set 2: Ride Captain Ride*, Best Feeling > Can’t Stop Now, 45th of November, Solution, Joyful Sound, Way Back Home
Encore: Outside and Inside > Jessica
* – w/ Members of Polyphonic Spree
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: A