The Union Palace Theater, New York City
Photos by Kelsey Barrick
Expectations were extremely high on Friday, December 2nd, as The String Cheese Incident invaded New York City for the first time since 2007. Michael Kang (acoustic/electric mandolin, electric guitar, and violin,) Michael Travis (drums and percussion,) Bill Nershi (acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, and electric slide guitar,) Kyle Hollingsworth (piano, organ, rhodes, and accordian), Keith Moseley (bass guitar,) and Jason Hann (drums and auxiliary percussionist) came to town for a two-night run.
To open the show, the band busted into “Cedar Laurel,” a perfect choice that matched the crowd’s high energy immediately. Mid-song the band flawlessly transitioned into “Sitting on Top of the World.” Next came “Blue Bossa,” which introduced the first extremely tight jam of the night. Everyone could tell the boys were really feeling it.
After a fairly upbeat start, they slowed things down with “Windy Mountain,” which was spot on. The song placement and tempo did seem a bit odd after the upbeat start, and for anyone in the crowd seeing their first Cheese show, it may have been unexpected. This feeling remained as the band went into “The Way That It Goes” which, again, was executed well, but not with nearly as much energy as earlier in the set. Next up, the band went into “Song In My Head,” a 13-minute jam that showcased their genre-stretching talent. From here on out, it was a party. “It Is What It Is” closed out the set, which left everyone singing and dancing in arms. The technics and peaks were spot on.
The second set was far superior to the first set, and dare I say, the Just One Story>Sirens, Daryl opener was my favorite part of the weekend. This combination of songs left me speechless. The band got down, dirty and raunchy, while simultaneously sending the crowd into a blissful psychedelic world.
Following Dayrl, it was obvious that the band felt the magnitude of what they just accomplished on stage together. The aura in the building was electric as Bill yelled to the crowd, “You all love bluegrass, don’t ya!” He then got reacquainted with the family and friends in NYC by conducting a huge group hoot to the heavens, as we all stood in the church that was about to hold mass once the festivities let out. The band was feeding off the crowd, and the crowd was feeding off the band. The boys appropriately busted into “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance,” as Bill asked the crowd to help him sing.
After this, it was clear the band had enough joking around. They got down to business for the rest of the set. Dirk made everyone forget about the sing along, and one of their new songs, “BollyMunster,” followed. The tribal drums and sounds, reminiscent of Beats Antique, were executed incredibly by the entire band. I turned to the guy next to me to get his opinion and he exclaimed, “BollyMunster had me feel like I was running through the jungle.” And believe me, I was right there running with him. I am excited to hear the direction this song will take going forward. “Round the Wheel” closed out a fire second set. The boys came back out for a two-song encore that consisted of The Bridge>I Wish, a fitting way to end the night.
The setlist was a bit unorthodox with some new songs and odd placements, but I, for one, cannot complain. That’s what makes these shows so special. The String Cheese Incident has the ability to combine catchy choruses, funk, soul, bluegrass, electronica, and even hip-hop lyrics, not only into the same song, but also into the same jam. Despite a few instances of security hassling people, it was an all around great evening.
Kyle Hotaling, a man who I know to be dangerously cheesy, especially after attending every show this tour besides Baltimore, said, “The band is so tight right now. Friday’s show was so awesome…there was so much energy in there. I just think they are on fire and grooving so well with each other.” I also ran into Jesse Peltz who was doing a four-night run: “The first set was a massive build up to to the craziness that ensued in the second set.” It is not a surprise to see these two heading out to Chicago next weekend for the three-night run. I hope you guys have a blast.
I cannot wait for String Cheese to come around again. Crossing my fingers for a Summer Tour!
Keep it Groovin’ and Movin’
Cedar Laurel > Sittin’ On Top of the World, Blue Bossa, Windy Mountain, Way That it Goes, Song in My Head, It Is What It Is
Just One Story, Sirens > Daryl, Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance, Dirk, BollyMunster, ‘Round the Wheel
E: The Bridge, I Wish