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Published: 2013/12/29
by Ray Bowden

The String Cheese Incident, 1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO- 12/28

Photo by Larry Hulst

String Cheese Incident began the first of their three-night New Year’s Eve 2013/20th Anniversary Celebration run at the 1stBank Arena in Broomfield, Colo. with a weighty three-hour concert anchored by complex jamming and introspective lyrics. The band surprised the audience by opening the first set with the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – the lyric’s “It was 20 years ago today” capturing the meditative mindset of the band throughout the evening.

The theme of the night seemed to be reflection on the passage of time. In SCI’s case, their days playing mostly bluegrass in small clubs and ski lodges are over; they’ve now become one of the leading bands on the jamband circuit, a group now able and willing to explore virtually any musical territory on the map. Through their obvious connection as friends and musicians – and more than a small dose of inspiration from their thousands of dedicated fans – the band has weathered its storms to become an impressive mainstay.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” led into “Just One Story”>”Little Hands,” the latter two songs connected by a knotty, percussion-driven jam. SCI capped their first set with “Black and White,” a treatise on human experience and learning, followed by Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” with special guests Karl Denson of “Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe” on saxophone and “Tiny Universe’s”’ Chris Littlefield on trumpet adding to a blistering layer of funk to each of the song’s deep grooves.

Denson and Littlefield stuck around for set two, lending their talents to “Can’t Wait Another Day” Jellyfish” and the set closing “Dirk” > ”Jungle Boogie” > Dirk” sandwich. The second set also featured a sprawling “Rollover” followed by bassist Keith Moseley’s plaintive “Struggling Angel” and Bill Nershi’s “Looking Glass.”

A three-part encore then took the audience through a quick tour of the band’s history. Guitarist Bill Nershi stepped by himself for a solo acoustic drive “Down the River.” He was then joined by the band’s other original members, drummer Michael Travis, singer/violinist/mandolin-player Michael Kang and Moseley, forming a quartet to perform a lively “Lester had a Coconut. Hollingsworth and percussionist Jason Hamm joined their bandmates on stage for “Round the Wheel,” the final song of the night, reflecting the state of the band in 2013, two decades after it all began with two shows remaining in this run and a new album slated for 2014.

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