The String Cheese Incident, Ryman Auditorum, Nashville, TN – 11/28
Photos by Derek Martinez
The String Cheese Incident’s Roots Run Deep tour, their first in over four years, made a special stop in Nashville, Tennessee. This much anticipated show promised an acoustic and electric set with the historic Ryman Auditorium being the ideal setting. The intimate affair sold out instantly and fans lined the venue on a wintery night looking for extras. Those lucky enough to have tickets celebrated the return of touring Cheese and discussed the prior three shows. The crowd was enthusiastic as everyone settled into their tight seats.
The boys took the stage a little past eight and got a huge welcome back ovation. Before a song could be played they introduced their special guests. Home-town favorite Sam Bush joined them on mandolin, as did the much acclaimed fiddle player Stuart Duncan and Andy Hall on the dobro. They opened the bluegrass-fueled set with Herb Peterson’s, “Old Train.” Fierce’s picking filled up the hall as they traded off smoking solos. Jerry Garcia’s “Catfish John” got a country makeover and was handled delicately. The rare covers continued with “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by The Beatles and John Harford’s, “Steam Powered Airplane.” The songs were polished, with the guests seemingly members of the band. Bad timing and other hiccups common with musicians unfamiliar with the material were nonexistent. All nine players were dialed in and feeding off one another. Sam Bush’s supreme mandolin playing drove the music to great heights.
The acoustic set continued to pick up steam with the instrumental “Yo Sé.” The song translated well to the unplugged format. Kyle Hollingsworth, who played the grand piano for the first half of the show, really shined on this number. He fearlessly led the group through the diverse musical terrain as the crowd danced with purpose. After a rousing version of “Colorado Bluebird Sky” the set came to a close with “Stingray.” If anyone was not aware of Stuart Duncan before tonight they certainly were won over. His unique approach do the fiddle was a joy to witness. The hall that was home to The Grand Ole Opry was the perfect venue for this timeless music.
By nine thirty the crowd was in a frenzy awaiting electric Cheese. Michael Kang did not disappoint delivering an extended “Rollover” to open the second half. The band sounded razor sharp as they produced the dance friendly reggae beats. The music was fresh as the band seemed reinvigorated by their time apart. After a solid “Lost”, Billy led the charge through a rousing rendition of Johnny Cash’s, “Ring Of Fire.” SCI took the relatively standard gem to interesting places, demonstrating why this band is so fun. For the last two numbers of the set, Cheese invited their guests back up, killing the vibe they worked hard to create. In another questionable decision, they closed the show with Sam Bush singing his song, “Same Ol’ River.” It was solid, but would have been better suited in the first set.
The encore more than made up for the anti-climactic ending with all nine musicians returning to the stage. The thirty minutes that followed was worth the four year wait. An unrelenting version of “Little Hands” soared, with every instrument being felt. To end the song, Michael and Stuart’s fiddles dueled on center stage, with the only clear winner being those in attendance. This madness gave way to the hypnotic odyssey “Rivertrance.” As everyone celebrated and moved to the beat it was obvious the boys were back. String Cheese was sorely missed over the last few years. They have a knack for mixing all forms of music and truly accomplish a sound all their own.