Rothbury Day 2: The String Cheese Reunion
The String Cheese Incident officially reunited last night at Michigans Rothbury Music Festival for an extended two-set performance that stretched from 8:45 PM to 1 AM. Like its public sound check earlier this week, The String Cheese Incidents first set focused on the groups earthier and more bluegrass-based material, while its second set recalled the Burning Man-inspired spectacles that characterized the bands final period.
The sextet bookended its first set with Rollover, one of its signature tunes, dropping into Can’t Stop Now, the funky Miss Brown’s Teahouse, the beautiful Mouna Bowa, Love Is Like A Train, percussion-heavy Rain, Daryl, the groove-heavy Joyful Sound and Talking Heads This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) along the way. The band paused only briefly throughout its first set so that Bill Nershi could lead the audience in the traditional group hoot. Michael Kang also thanked the Rothbury staff and mentioned that one of the reasons [the group] decided to reunite at the festival was because they had so much fun last year.
Numerous glowing balloons were released into the sky as String Cheese took the stage for its second set to play a funky version of Outside and Inside with Nershi on electric guitar. As the band segued into an extended jam, the crowd erupted into a massive glowstick war, and the stage was filled with hula hoopers, dancers, acrobats and other Cirque du Soleil-like theatrics (including a few burlesque dancers that entertained the crowd from raised platforms in the field). The song slowly developed into a powerful Desert Dawn and then the staple Black Clouds. The band slowed things down for a beautiful rendition of Little Hands that featured fire dancers onstageand finally came to a close with Bumpin’ Reel, Close Your Eyes, Way Back Home, an extended drum segment and Texas, the last song that the band played before its hiatus.
String Cheese returned to the stage for its encore with Keller Williams to play the standout song from their collaborative album Breathe, Best Feeling. The band then closed the night with the package of Higher Ground and Restless Wind (a day earlier Keith Moseley joined Williams onstage for Thin Mint and Portapotty, while Moseley, Jason Hann and Kyle Hollingsworth sat in with the guitarist for Kidney in a Cooler and Breathe). String Cheese Incidents entire set was dotted with Michael Jackson teases, most notably Thriller and Beat It.
As of press time, String Cheese Incident has no other confirmed shows, though all of the band members were in good spirits throughout their reunion performance. Backstage before the show, Hollingsworth played two new solo songs on Relixs Cold Turkey with the help of Moseley and beat boxer LYNX. Hollingsworth mentioned that he had tossed around the idea of recording a String Cheese Incident childrens album with his bandmates, but that he plans to spend most of the fall on the road with a solo band that includes The Motets Dave Watts and Garrett Sayers.
The rest of Rothburys musical offerings placed a heavy influence on world music: the rising Michigan-based jamband The Macpodz, reggae-influenced folk singer Brett Dennen, a drumming workshop led by the members of Toubab Krewe, Afro-beat heir Femi Kuti and Nigerian bandleader King Sunny Ade and His African Beats. Bill Kreutzmann and Jason Hann were among the musicians who moved into the crowd to check out the latter musicians afternoon performance (Hes one of the performers I always wanted to see, but never had the chance before, Kreutzmann gushed backstage). Damian Jr. Gong Marley also played a set with world famous rapper Nas that leaned heavily of the pairs collaborative album Distant Relatives. I can smell the good [expletive] stuff, Nas proclaimed from the stage. I want to come back here every day.
Rothburys late night festivities primarily consisted of electronic music, ranging from reigning dance-punk king Chromeo to West Coast psy trance stars The Glitch Mob to the livetronica powerhouse STS9 (who sampled Michael Jackson during its encore). Girl Talk also turned in a 90-minute mixtape that sampled countless pop, rock and rap songsGirl Talk mastermind Gregg Gillis also referenced the festivals enchanted Sherwood Forest.
Other Friday highlights included G. Love and Special Sauce (who revealed that his first trip to his current hometown of Boston as a youngster was to see Rothbury headliners The Dead), Soulive (who brought along vocalist Nigel Hall and the horn section of Sam Kininger and Ryan Zoidis) and Broken Social Scene (who joked that some of their songs were a little slow to hula hoop to).
Rothbury continues today with performances by The Dead, Umphreys McGee, The Black Crowes, Les Claypool and Zappa Plays Zappa, among others.