String Cheese Incident, Sedona Cultural Park, Sedona, AZ- 5/24 & 25
The Other Red Rocks: String Cheese Incident Does Sedona Cultural Park 5/24 and 5/25, 2003
The setting was unique, in and of itself. They say that Sedona is one of the nexuses of the universe. And with its stunning red rocks and elegant desert environment, it isn't hard to believe that there is something special in the air. It seems appropriate, then, that the String Cheese Incident would have chosen such a singular location to house their Memorial Weekend Incident. It was an event to remember.
The first night, while thoroughly enjoyable, seemed to be a warm up for the second, and monumental, show. Highlights of the first set included an energetic "Come as You Are" and a glowing rendition of Keller Williams' "Best Feeling," which concluded just as the sun was setting. The former saw Bill Nershi momentarily trade in his acoustic guitar for an electric one. During the second set, the band acknowledged their long-awaited return to the desert, opening the set with "Desert Dawn," and rounding out the encore with Paul Simon's "Under African Skies." (incidentally, this song happens to mention Tucson, Arizona). Throughout the evening, both the band and its fans took some time to inure themselves to the elements of nature: Kyle Hollingsworth made some droll remarks about an assortment of insects landing on his keyboards, and many of the concert-goers spent time brushing red dust from their shoes and feet.
Night two, however, was a fusion of music, energy, and nature. They opened the first set with "Close Your Eyes," followed by "Sweet Melinda" and a rollicking version of "Shine." Mid-set, in anticipation of the upcoming Telluride Bluegrass festival, the band swapped their usual instruments in favor of assorted bluegrass gear.
The second set began on a relatively low-key note, kicking off with a "Land's End" jam that oozed into "Outside Inside." This mellow initiation was no indication for how the set was to continue. Rather, it allowed the momentum to build, and gave the audience a chance to soak up the scenery. I remember gazing at the stars during "Big Shoes," cushioned by the spongy grass. As I stared at the Big Dipper, an array of brightly colored glow sticks arced in and out of view, looking like so many shooting stars.
By the end of the set, The String Cheese Incident had blasted off. A stirring "Black Clouds" led into the closer, which turned out to be "Way Back Home." Things came to a climax when, after an encore including "Barstool" and "Boogie On, Reggae Woman," the crowd was not ready to say goodbye. After a few minutes of hooting and chanting, Michael Travis reappeared and sidled up to the microphone.
"We really were done," he said, "but you're such great fans, you deserve to get what you ask for."
Before I knew it, the band had launched into the first notes of "Rollover." The last time I had seen this tune played live was at the New Years show, during which a menagerie of larger-than-life tropical fish paraded through the aisles. Although there was no choreographed spectacle to go along with it, the "Rollover" offered during the second encore possessed a magic that no amount of planning could have created. In fact, the band seemed just as surprised to be called out for a second encore as the fans were upon seeing the members of String Cheese Incident reappear onstage. Even the crickets seemed to be moved by the music, as they swirled in and out of the light beams.
Whether or not Sedona is really a nexus of the universe, there must be something extraordinary embedded within those scarlet crags. It was truly a magical evening.
Rebecca Sodomsky is a recent graduate of the University of Arizona, and is currently seeking employment, freelance or otherwise. See you on Summer Tour.