String Cheese shines at the Fox

Written by Mary Catherine D'Arcy / Photos by Ian Rawn

December 6, 2011

The String Cheese Incident
Fox Theatre
Atlanta, GA
11/26/11

 

The String Cheese Incident wowed 4,678 ticket holders during a special Thanksgiving weekend performance at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.  The sold-out show was the second stop on the band’s highly anticipated “Roots Run Deep” tour. Cheese was at the top of their game, doing what they do best: bonding with the audience through familiar favorites, wowing with improvisational jams and fresh covers, and possessing the stamina to stick around for a second encore.

Traveling west along Peachtree Street, the onion domes of the illustrious Fox Theatre come into view.  The theatre’s trademark Egyptian and Moorish architecture, originally built by local shriners as a gathering hall, is decidedly out of place among Georgia’s white columns.  The theatre is opulent, from the twinkling, starry ceiling and Bedouin canopy down to the patterned frescos in the lower level lounges.  It’s a perfect place for a String Cheese family celebration.

The band opened with a hearty “Restless Wind,” and the crowd chanted the chorus, “Roots run deep,” in tribute to the tour’s theme.  It was immediately apparent that the band was ready to deliver a high-energy show. “100 Year Flood” featured some flashy keyboard work by Kyle Hollingsworth, who was ever-festive in an iridescent jacket.

To the surprise (and pleasure) of the audience, “Flood” spilled over into Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On, Reggae Woman,” led by Michael Kang. Cheese had played “Boogie On” in Atlanta before, but this performance seemed fresh and interesting, perhaps because Cheese’s production included six state-of-the-art LED towers and a central giant LED screen. It is worth noting that the stage size allowed for the production – it was large enough to accommodate all six towers, six performers, three keyboards, two drum kits, and a variety of stringed instruments; the show that took place on the next night in Athens did not feature this elaborate light rig.

SCI took a poignant walk down memory lane with “Barstool,” a tune favored by those deeply rooted in the Cheese family. The crowd had a moment to reflect and to catch its breath before “Barstool” yielded to “Colliding.”

Next up was “Miss Brown’s Tea House,” a number that evokes sandy beaches and starry nights. It is one of those tunes that makes the fans and the band smile, and String Cheese seemed to have a lot of fun with this performance.  Bassist Keith Moseley, generally the most stoic of the band members, did a little dubstep footwork that really seemed to tickle Nershi’s funny bone.  The crowd sang along boisterously, volleying the energy back to the band.  The performance featured dynamic percussion trade-offs and more colorful work from Hollingsworth.

Closing out the first set was an impressive 18-minute “Shine” jam that showcased the talents of the entire band and sent the audience to set break with positive vibes and optimism for the second set.  Overall, the first set was totally solid in every way.

Cheese let loose to start the second set with “Southbound,” a tribute to Georgia’s own Allman Brothers Band.  SCI seems particularly suited to play this song – it’s a perfect opportunity for Kang and Nershi to exchange acrobatic riffs off a backbone provided by Moseley’s bass and Michael Travis and Jason Hann’s dueling percussion. About three-quarters of the way through, Kyle delivered an impressive and aggressive key solo, and the Colorado boys nailed the song, adding their own funky style to a hometown Southern rock favorite.

The second set was off to a great start; next came “Desert Dawn,” which really got the crowd cheering. Full of interesting crescendos, the song is a complex one, full of high-powered tandem percussion and a descending bass line. Just before the last transition, Kang took it somewhere a little trancy, as if to tease the fiddle-lovers ready for the “Bumpin Reel,” which came later in the set. When Kang finished the jam and went back to the lyrics, the crowd erupted.  Kang really owned this one, and by the end of the song, fans were congratulating each other on witnessing such an electrifying performance.

The off-beat reggae sound of “Sirens” provided an interesting contrast to Kang’s performance in “Desert Dawn.” Both were intriguing and showed the band’s musical dexterity. Then, Kang picked up his fiddle, and started into “Bumpin Reel,” which started as a whirling, Celtic-infused number backed by Hann’s tribal percussion. Half way through, Kang’s playing took on a Middle Eastern quality, which brought the entire venue to life.

Hollingsworth took the lead on the next song, “So That’s The Way It Goes,” which was followed by “Jellyfish,” and the second set closed with “Is What It Is.”

After a short break, the band encored with “Rolling in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” After an irrefutable call for a second encore, the band said good night with “Way Back Home.” Overall, The String Cheese Incident delivered a strong performance at what is perhaps Atlanta’s most prized venue. Atlanta cheese-heads really love those Thanksgiving holiday shows at the Fox, especially when the fare includes an Allman Brothers cover and Cheese at the top of their improvisational game.

 

Setlist

I: Restless Wind, 100 Year Flood > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Barstool, Colliding, Miss Brown’s Teahouse > Shine
II: Southbound, Desert Dawn, Sirens > Bumpin’ Reel, Way That It Goes, Jellyfish, It Is What It Is…
Encore: Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Way Back Home

To download the soundboard recording of this show, click here.

To download an audience recording of this show, click here.

 

More photos from the show by Ian Rawn