Tag Archives: Bill Nershi

Everyone Orchestra, 5/18/13

Everyone Orchestra
Oriental Theatre

Denver, Colorado
May 18, 2013

 

One never knows what to expect with the Matt Butler led Everyone Orchestra, an ever-changing variety of some of music’s finest that has likely already been at a festival near you; each year he is tasked with assembling a cast of players for All Good Festival’s annual Rex Jam, a benefit for the Rex Foundation.

If you are still unsure, think “madman, top hat, dry erase board and random talent being directed by said madman on said dry erase board.”

Indeed at first site it appears that what Butler has managed to do is pull off the title of “successfully traveling musician with the lightest load-in ever” for over a decade. In effect, he has. But along the way, his knack for being fully willing to fall on his face coupled with an obvious sense for where to go next, has resulted in him hosting notables from virtually every standard bearer on the circuit and in the meantime, raise money and spread the message for and of worthy environmental causes.

This night would be no different when bluegrass heavyweights – guitarist Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident), violinist Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and Dobro ninja Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass) – and members of some of Colorado’s finest musical exports took the stage before a sold-out crowd at Denver’s Oriental Theatre.

Honest Tune’s Brad Hodge was on the scene to bring back images from the action.

 

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Brad Hodge

(see below the gallery for the evening’s full cast and audio)

 

 

 

Everyone Orchestra | 5/18/13

Cast: Matt Butler- Conductor, Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Dave Watts (The Motet), Jans Ingber (The Motet), Kai Eckhardt (Garaj Mahal) special guests Tanya Shylock and Bill McKay

 

 

Rex-A-Vision has a few words with The Travelin’ McCourys (Video)

The Travelin’ McCourys are as steeped in the heritage and traditions of bluegrass as any band has ever been, and their traveling Bluegrass Ball tour Is the raucous distillation of the form. Sired by legendary guitarist Del McCoury, one of the fathers of American bluegrass, brothers Rob and Ronnie McCoury have taken to the road with band mates Jason Carter and Alan Bartram to test the musical waters with artists from a vast array of backgrounds; from recording merged albums with the southern fried and gospel tinged Lee Boys to an upcoming album and tour with the one man jam band troubadour, Keller Williams.

 

Being that they step into the studio and onto the stage with many, the Ronnie and Rob occasionally call up their buddies, who happen to be some of the finest pickers in the business, to join them for a night or three.

 

This is exactly what happened in early January when the four “Travelin'” members joined up with guests, Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident) and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) for three nights in the three Midwestern cities of Bloomington, IN, Chicago, IL, and St. Louis, MO.

 

Honest Tune’s Rex Thomson caught all three nights of the stellar run and took the opportunity to sit down and chat with the guys. Spliced with recorded footage from the much sought after tune, “Death Trip,” that was performed in Bloomington, have a listen as the McCourys discuss their open stage policy, their plans for the forthcoming year, the experience of growing up under the direction of Del McCoury and much more.

 

Rex-A-Vision has a few words with The Travelin’ McCourys

 

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For more on The Travelin’ McCourys, log on to www.TheTravelinMcCourys.com or follow them on Facebook

 

 

 

An icy night in Bloomington is warmed up by Bluegrass Ball with McCourys, Austin & Nershi

The 2nd Annual Bluegrass Ball
The Travelin’ McCourys w/ Billy Nershi & Jeff Austin
(with The New Old Cavalry & White Lightning Boys)
The Bluebird Nightclub
Bloomington, IN
January 20, 2012

 

 

 

As an icy mixture fell from the sky, coating the town of Bloomington, Indiana and turning it into a twinkling ice covered wonderland, the folks at The Bluebird transformed the venue into its own wonderland for the 2nd annual Bluegrass Ball — a night of continuous music — hosted by the Travelin’ McCourys and friends Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band), Billy Nershi (Emmitt-Nershi Band & The String Cheese Incident) and opening acts: White Lightning Boys and The New Old Cavalry.

 

The normal vibe of The Bluebird had been electrified, the twinkling iciness from outside was met head on by the twinkling lights that hung from the ceiling of the normally dark venue —  giving a feeling of being instantly tucked away into a late night private set at Horning’s Hideout.

 

The White Lightning Boys opened the evening, their picking breathing its own life into a unique blend of traditional and original bluegrass straight from the hills of the neighboring Indiana county that also is the home for the Bill Monroe Music Park. As the White Lightning Boys’ set ended, the front of the venue began to bustle as The New Old Cavalry filled the venue once again with American roots music.

 

Everyone had been primed, the salt had been thrown and as the Cavalry fired its final shot, The Travelin’ McCourys made their way onto the venue’s main stage — on every other night, it’s only stage — and opened with a stellar rendition of Del McCoury’s, “Quicksburg Rendezvous.” With that, Ronnie McCoury on the mandolin alongside brother and banjoist, Rob McCoury, and band mates Jason Carter (fiddle) and Alan Bartram (bass) sunk the night into overdrive.

 

As the night progressed, so did the foot stomping and twirling, and as planned, SCI’s Billy Nershi joined the ensemble for “Smokey Mountain Memories.” The picking continued into (not the Elvis Presley rendition of) “Devil in Disguise,” and a fan requested tune, “Delia.” Following in his legendary father’s footsteps, Ronnie took some time to engage the crowd with a little back and forth conversation, at one point, gesturing to several couples and asking them if the fellers would marry the ladies they were with. This element of showmanship and downright genuineness is something that never fails to create for an environment where one could see himself just as easily standing around a campfire with these musicians as he can looking up to them on stage.

 

After a short break, the second set opened up with a nine minute round of dueling mandolin players between the aforementioned McCoury and YMSB’s Jeff Austin, who battled over leads in the Yonder number, “Snow on the Pines,” before their comrades (including Nershi) rejoined the stage for a ripping rendition of  the Danny Barnes number, “Pretty Daughter” that gave Austin a trip on lead vocals.

 

Following a Nershi led “Heart of Saturday Night,” the lead was passed back to The Mccourys for a haunting, “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” who maintained their pole position with another tradition number, “On the Lonesome Wind,” the harmonies of vocal and strings ringing brilliantly through the Bluebird — proving once again how the blending of these three elements of the bluegrass genre under one roof on one stage was brilliant.

 

Following the traditional style of The McCourys, Austin’s ability to rage a mandolin like a madman on a murdering spree took front and center as the night was heated  nicely with “Five Hundred Miles” and Nershi subsequently kept things on an equable groove with his beloved brand of Cheese-psychedelia infused grass and the dearly loved number, “Jellyfish.”

 

The McCourys took things back with, “Rocky Road Blues,” into “Raleigh and Spencer” into “Think of What You’ve Done” before closing out the night with a change in the setlist that was all too befitting for the treacherously icy road conditions that awaited the Ball patrons, “Death Trip.”

 

The ball wrapped up with the New Old Cavalry playing to folks as they made their way to the icy streets, providing nightcap for one of the best nights of bluegrass that one could hope for.

 

 

Download an audience recording of this show here.

 

The Travelin’ McCourys with Jeff Austin & Billy Nershi – “Pretty Daughter” (Danny Barnes)

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Amber Jennings

(Scroll down for the gallery from Aaron Lingenfelter)

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Aaron Lingenfelter

 

 

 

The Tradition Continues at Chicago Bluegrass and Blues

Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival
Auditorium Theatre
Chicago, IL
January 21, 2012

 

 

The blues runs through Chicago’s sonic jugular. The city’s history is steeped in the genre. However, the music of the mountains curries nearly the same favor in the present day Windy City — running through its streets and clubs in near stride with its grassless brother. The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival is testament to this.

Chicago Bluegrass & Blues is not the typical festival. There are no tents, Flaming Wok, or extracurricular activities. In fact, the only thing about the event that resembles a modern-day festival is the fact that its bill runs from morning through evening with multiple acts slated on multiple stages. In short, it is a music festival in the most purist sense of the phrase.

Over the course of two days spanning two weekends at two venues, CBB marries two distinct styles (see the name of the festival) of music for purveyors of multiple persuasions; and it was these purveyors’ search for the sound that kept both local and traveling fans undeterred by the fact that visibility near Chicago had dropped to a quarter of a mile due to hazardous weather and a threat of a repeat of 2011’s “snowmageddon”  on the day before the festivities.

This past weekend was the bluegrass phase of the event, and throughout the day the venerable walls of the Auditorium Theater rang with the echoes of bluegrass legends, both living and passed.

Majors Junction started the day’s tunes off with a deeply country-influenced set that included raucous covers of songs by Johnny Cash, an artist whose influence was plain to see; the Man in Black’s tonal attitude continuously reverberated through the room.

Utilizing the lobby as well as the venue’s main stage of the venue provided the perfect environ for the simplistic instrumentation of mountain music. A great example of an ensemble that utilized this well was Jonas Friddle, who played without amplification but had no vocal trouble as they sung above their instruments to the chagrin of the smiling group of gathered onlookers.

Strongly stating Chicago’s case for producing quality bluegrass music was the Windy City’s own Henhouse Prowlers. Favoring the awry take on the traditional bluegrass approach, the Prowlers were dressed to impress, and their play came across in the same manner. Mixing originals and covering masters like Bill Monroe and John Hartford, HHP did their part by both amply honoring and adding to the rich tradition of sharing the song.

Keeping the homegrown feel of the festival going, The Giving Tree Band brought their brand of amplification and percussion oriented music to the stage, along with a rabid local fan base who reacted very vocally to their onstage appearance. While far from traditional, The Giving Tree Band held the music’s core spirit tightly in their grasp while they delivered one energetic and spirited song after the next, ably lifting the audience to new heights. Obvious crowd favorites, the band would later return to back up the second half of singer/songwriter Joe Purdy‘s set.

Mandolin player David Grisman has earned a stellar reputation as both a band mate and leader. Equally at home whether sharing the load or leading the way, Grisman was an integral part in the way that bluegrass reached new ears over the years, primarily through his work with the unlikely supergroup Old & in the Way, alongside Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan and John Kahn.

Through the years, “the Dawg” has worked with virtually every acoustic notable, from Doc Watson to Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs and countless others. His current quintet, which spotlights a jazzier lean, was the outfit that took the stage in Chicago.

From the set’s inception, the CBB crowd was hushed and enthralled by tunes Like “Dawg’s Waltz” and “Midnight Moonlight.” Adequately demonstrating that instruments can be used to play any type of music when placed in the proper hands, Grisman picked and strummed with a mixture of force and dexterity that showed the mark of a true master.

Following the Grisman set would be a daunting task for most, but not to another true king of bluegrass who was in the theatre… living legend, Del McCoury.

For more than fifty years, Del has been making his living with a strung up box, a falsetto croon and a sense of style and composure that has become famous in its own right. Dapper as always in his customary tailored suit, Del was joined by his band that features sons Rob and Ron on mandolin and banjo, respectively.

Whatever talent-bestowing force there is in the universe, it has truly blessed the McCourys. Throughout the set, and per recent tradition, Del called out for requests halfway through his set, wowing the crowd with the sheer number of songs at his command. For most who exhibited a move like this, it would be deemed as grandiose, but no so for Del. For him, it is simply the showmanship that courses through his soul and his consummate desire to always leave his audiences knowing that they got a bargain when they bought their ticket.

The elder McCoury embodies a musician that, even with over half a century in, remains grateful and humbled by the fact that people come to see him play. His sons are following directly in his footsteps, creatively their own people but possessing the same instrumental mastery and genuine demeanor of their dad. The set was, as it always is, beautiful.

To close out the evening, there was not a living bluegrass act who promoters could place atop Grisman and McCoury on a lineup. Therefore, the two living giants participated in a resurrection of the sound created by the man credited as being the “the father of bluegrass,” Bill Monroe, with a set dubbed “The Big Mon Jam (a Tribute to Bill Monroe).”

Monroe’s ghost haunts stages across the world when banjos, fiddles and such are taken up in song. David Grisman and Del McCoury are two men who respect this significance and chose to honor him with a combined set of tunes written by the master.

Starting out together alone on the stage, Grisman and McCoury were joined by Del’s band, and brought the house to its collective feet by the end of their tribute to the man who would have been 101 years old this year; and while living over a century would have made him remarkably well aged, that lifespan is nothing compared to the length of time is songs will live, written into the fabric of bluegrass’ soul.

When Del McCoury is not of a mind to go a’wandering, his sons and band mates venture out as the Travelin’ McCourys. Without their patriarchal leader on guitar, the band drafts the finest talent in music to help them thicken out the sound and thereby provide a sonic diversity to keep things fresh. The Travellin’ McCourys even recorded an album with the gospel-tinged sacred steel sound of The Lee Boys. On this auspicious occasion, they recruited no less than Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident / Emmitt-Nershi) to play guitar and added Yonder Mountain String Band front man and mandolin player extraordinaire, Jeff Austin, into the mix for good measure for the CBB’s proverbial “late night set” coined The Bluegrass Ball Jam.

Easily the energy highpoint of the night, Austin traded runs with Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury sped through blistering leads, and Travelin’ violinist Jason Carter bowed and sang with wisdom and gravity. The smiles traded between the players matched the grins on the faces in the Auditorium Theatre throng to perfection, and their choice of the set-closing SCI number, “Jellyfish,” had the band running and jumping in place while the crowd gave the appearance of an ensuing joy filled riot.

With a noticeable looks of disappointment the band said goodnight, while casting longing glances at their instruments, obviously wishing for one more chance to play, not just for the people, but for themselves.

With their goodbyes and the blinding house lights, the audience began the herding shuffle out into the cold Chicago night, having been warmed from the inside all day long. There was much chatter as the mass made its exodus, but one topic reigned high above the rest: Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival weekend two at the Congress.

Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the fest by Rex Thomson

 

 

 

Enter here for a chance to win Bluegrass Ball in Indy & St. Louis tickets…

 

 

Two things that we absolutely love here at Honest Tune truth in music and contests! So, we have decided to combine our love of the two by bringing an opportunity for you to catch some of the finest  bluegrass pickin’ — courtesy of The Travelin’ McCourys, Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident, Emmitt-Nershi), and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain string Band);

The events will bookend Chicago’s Bluegrass and Blues Festival and many fans are taking the opportunity to take in all three events. Well, we are pleased to present you, yes you, the opportunity to do so at the grand total of zero dollars (sans travel and other associated costs)

Over the past year, we have found ourselves in some unique positions with these artists, gathering exclusive footage for the ages (see below). So consider this a celebration of sorts… a celebration in the joy of giving.

But first, let’s have a look at who will be playing. (Bios courtesy of the artists)

 

 

The Artists

 

The Travelin’ McCourys

 

The Travelin’ McCourys do not stand still. They are on the road–and online–entertaining audiences with live shows that include some of the best musicians and singers from all genres. It’s always different, always exciting, and always great music. No other band today has the same credentials for playing traditional and progressive music. As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue their father’s work-a lifelong dedication to the power of bluegrass music to bring joy into people’s lives. And with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, the ensemble is loved and respected by the bluegrass faithful. But the band is now combining their sound with others to make something fresh and rejuvenated.

 

Jeff Austin

 

Jeff Austin is best known for his many years playing mandolin for Colorado heavy hitters, Yonder Mountain String Band. Yonder has always played by their own set of rules bending bluegrass, rock and roll, and countless other influences. While most known for his playing with Yonder Mountain String Band, Jeff has played with countless musicians and is sought after by countless musicians and festivals alike.

 

Billy Nershi

 

From the saloons of Telluride to the some of the most sought after venues in America, Bill Nershi has delighted countless fans as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and founding member of the String Cheese Incident. A seasoned veteran of flat-picking and a variety of acoustic styles, Nershi adds a unique, colorful perspective to virtually any musical situation he encounters, and his enthusiasm and playful spirit encourage an interactive, participatory experience for musicians and fans alike. His most recent forays into dobro, bass, and lap steel playing, as well as his accomplished songwriting contributions with Honkytonk Homeslice & the Emmitt-Nershi Band, prove that his musical horizons will only continue to expand.

 

 

Event Details

 

Who: The Bluegrass Ball featuring The Travelin’ McCourys, Jeff Austin, Bill Nershi and Head for the Hills

 

Where:

NIGHT ONE:  January 20, 2012 at The Bluebird – Bloomington, IN

NIGHT TWO: January 22, 2012 at The Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO

 

 

The Contest

 

 

What you are playing for:

1) You are entering to win a pair of tickets to The Bluegrass Balls hosted by The Travelin’ McCourys on 1/20  (in Indiana) and/or 1/22 performances in Missouri.

2) There will be two winners; one for 1/20 and one for 1/22. You can enter for both nights, but cannot win tickets for both.

 

How to enter:

1) After reading the eligibility requirements below, go HERE to enter for the pair of 1/20/12 tickets or HERE to enter for the pair of 1/22/12 tickets.

 

How a winner will be chosen:

1) All of the entered names will be copied from the survey site and pasted into a computer generated random name picker. All of this will be videotaped so that nobody can cry foul. To see examples of us using this tool, click here, here or here. Unfortunately, we cannot get Col. Bruce to pick names out of a beer pitcher every time. We would be a lot cooler if we could.

2) The deadline for entry is Thursday, 1/19/12 at 11:59 PM EST (for the 1/20 tickets) and 1/20/12 at 11:59PM EST (for the 1/22 tickets)

3) Good Luck!

 

 

Eligibility requirements

 

1) No previous or current Honest Tune editor/staff may enter.

2) Contributors may enter.

3) Only one entry per person (per date) will be allowed and IP Addresses are logged on the survey site.

4) Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and from within the continental United States.

 

Yonder Mountain String Band : Live, Backstage & Unplugged
(An Honest Tune Exclusive)

Emmitt-Nershi Band : Live, Backstage, & Unplugged
(An Honest Tune Exclusive)

The fine print: This contest and its management is the sole responsibility of Honest Tune. The contest is not endorsed or sponsored by The Travelin’ McCourys, The Bluegrass Ball, Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival or any artists represented herein . Any costs associated with the event (included but not limited to: lodging, travel, food, parking) will be the responsibility of the winner. IN other words, we are giving you the tickets and the rest is up to you. Honest Tune reserves the right to (at its sole discretion) disqualify entrants based upon lack of conformity to the entry process or other ineligibility as described in “Eligibility Requirements.” Tickets are not transferable. Odds of winning are based upon number of entries and the total value of each prize is $50.00.

 

 

The Infamous Stringdusters : We’ll Do It Live

When I last put pen to paper to review The Infamous Stringdusters, the band was in a state of flux.  Their 2010 release, Things That Fly, was a sonic departure for the sextet, a bold suggestion that the band refused to be pigeonholed by its traditional bluegrass instrumentation.

Normally, a band that begins with such promise – keep in mind that the Stringdusters won three IBMA awards with their first release in 2007 – sees no need in diverging from a path of obvious success.  But the Stringdusters yearned for a different path.

We’ll Do It Live, the first live release from the band – and the first record on their new record label, High Country Recordings – is proof positive that the ‘Dusters have found that new path. Indeed, it’s a path of their own creation, one they are blazing hell bent and on their own,  ignoring the guard rails and free to choose from countless destinations.

The thirteen tracks that make up We’ll Do It Live were culled from four shows recorded in the spring of 2011. Included in the collection are live renditions of tunes from all three of the band’s studio releases, along with a couple unreleased tracks and some tasty covers by songwriting stalwarts Benny Galloway, Shawn Camp, Danny Barnes, and John Hartford.

We’ll Do It Live shows that the ‘Dusters have commenced to pummeling preconceived notions of what acoustic instruments can do in a live setting; the band’s live shows are now less Bill Monroe and more Bill Nershi, punctuated by extended jams that are now the rule, not the exception.

“Poddin’ up,” as the ‘Dusters call it, has been pivotal in the evolution of the band’s live show. The Stringdusters have abandoned the traditional “six across” stage alignment for a more fluid, dynamic presence. Each band member slides and shuffles, focusing their collective energy on jam sequences, creating cluster plucks and the perfect musical communion between ferocity and virtuosity. The intensity in these jams is palpable throughout the record – take a listen to Andy Hall’s dobro work on “Masquerade,” Andy Falco’s guitar run on “Hitchhiker,” the full band give and take on “Well, Well” and “Echoes of Goodbye,” or the stratospheric crescendo in “No More To Leave You Behind,” and you can virtually see the boys poddin’ up to tear it down.

Give We’ll Do It Live a spin – you’ll soon realize that when The Infamous Stringdusters do it live, there are few who do it better.

We’ll Do It Live is out now on High Country Recordings.

The Festy Experience: Exclusive Acoustic Sessions, part I (VIDEO)

This past weekend, a diamond in the rough was found when we stumbled upon The Festy Experience. With a picturesque setting, the site that was nestled in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountain range played host to not only some of the finest bluegrass, Americana and roots music, but also to an impeccable vibe where strangers greeted strangers with smiles, courtesy and warmness.

In the middle of it all was a beautiful large house that we asked artists to pass through for a series of exclusive acoustic sessions with Honest Tune. Fortunately, they agreed and what happened within those walls was pure magic.

In this first part of the series, we are graced with stellar performances from Emmitt-Nershi Band, Sarah Siskind and Toubab Krewe.

Acoustic Sessions at The Festy : Emmitt-Nershi “This House”

Acoustic Sessions at The Festy : Toubab Krewe

Acoustic Sessions at The Festy : Sarah Siskind “Take Me”

The final Incident: SCI at Red Rocks

String Cheese Incident 
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Morrison, Colorado
August 12, 2007
 
Words/Photos by Thomas Walsh

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Try as they might, there was no way the parking attendants were going to hurry anyone out of Red Rocks’ parking lot the night Bill Nershi departed the String Cheese Incident.  Elated yet tranquil, the audience had been through such an emotional peak that evening, it was simply impossible to leave at a moment’s notice.

If the parking attendants had been there to witness what the SCI community had just experienced, then perhaps they would understand.

Maybe they would understand if they knew about the giant octopus squirming above the amphitheater during the opening acoustic set.

Or maybe the fan-orchestrated slideshow the band watched throughout “Rhum N’ Zouc” would make them smile.

Maybe the fans could have mentioned Keller Williams’ hula-hooping his way to center stage, or the second encore for which the crowd faithfully pleaded, welcoming “Texas” to the historical footnotes as the last song The Incident ever played.

Or perhaps the parking attendants would have understood things on a more personal level, a more emotional level.  Because, more than anything else on August 12th, each and every fan attending String Cheese Incident’s final show, the final “Incident,” got peace of mind.  They got the closure they’ve long since awaited.

The finality of Cheese didn’t really register until the start of the third set at Red Rocks.  Granted, the audience knew this was the last time SCI was going to be playing together for the foreseeable future, but when creatures with eight tentacles are floating overhead, the mind really isn’t in touch with any sort of “reality.”

The party continued throughout the second set, especially when Keller Williams shared The Best Feeling In The World.  The amphitheater was bursting with so much excitement; Keller postponed his vocal delivery, causing the crowd to erupt with even more euphoria.  It was like 9,000 kindergarteners had been told that recess was extended fifteen minutes!

But by the time the third set started, the end was apparent, and String Cheese Incident knew it too.  They had no reservations about making the message clear either.  The lyrical content of songs like “Restless Wind,” “Looking Glass,” “Rhythm of the Road,” and “Shine” took on deeper meaning, each with purposeful intent.

There was no denying the truth anymore.  And if somehow the message wasn’t getting through, the music was just as reflective of the sentiments that evening.

The band extended the jam in “Shine” just a little further than one of them originally intended, pulling Michael Kang’s leading mandolin back into the melee before they all ransacked the climax together.

Afterwards, there were tears.

 

 

For those still unphased, an incredibly intimate jam out of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” occurred during the first encore, a jam so delicate it surely woke up anyone who was not conscious of Cheese’s waning mortality.  The train was pulling out of the station, and the band wanted us all aboard for the finale.

“Good Times Around the Bend” could not have been a more appropriate choice for closing out SCIt’s career.  “The roller coaster has got to roll to the bottom if you want to climb to the top again.”  Even in the face of overwhelming reality, The String Cheese Incident had taken everyone to the top again, however bittersweet this last trip had been.

And now, looking back up at an amphitheater whose lights had been turned off, the SCI community realized that it got what it wanted.

They had closure.

So perhaps the best thing would have been to tell those parking attendants that one of the most beloved bands in America had just closed their last show with unparalleled style and grace.

That the catharsis everyone experienced during the last two hours was still running strong, and that the calm, peaceful mood in the air was a fleeting experience, and that nobody wanted to let go anytime soon, heartbreaking as it was to hold on.

Hopefully they would understand.

 

 

Set 1: Lester Had a Coconut, Long Journey Home, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Walls of Time, Panama Red, Hobo Song, Stingray

Set 2: One Step Closer > Rhum n’ Zouc, Sirens, Come as You Are, Indian Creek, Best Feeling* > Fuel for the Road*, Way Back Home

Set 3:  Restless Wind, Piece of Mine, Looking Glass > Drifting, Rain, Rhythm of the Road > Bumpin’ Reel > Shine

Encore:  Fearless, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Good Time Round the Bend

Encore 2: Texas

* w/ Keller Williams

Berkeley’s Greek Theatre bids farewell to the Cheese!

 

String Cheese Incident
William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre
Berkeley, California
July 21 & 22, 2007

 

 

After August 12, 2007, the String Cheese Incident (SCI), a beloved band 15 years in the making, will be no more.  But before that fateful day arrives, SCI will give many concerts in some of their favorite and most frequented venues across the United States.

Fresh off the plane after performing at the 10,000 Lakes Festival as the replacement act for scheduled headliner Trey Anastasio, SCI performed two shows at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre.  Nestled into the lush green hillside of the University of California – Berkeley campus, the venue known locally as the Greek Theatre gives off a warm, welcoming energy to all who enter her gates.  Tall, venerable eucalyptus and pine trees surround the venue, which dates to 1903 and some college kids are even lucky enough to have a view inside from their dormitories.

 

Saturday, July 21

 

Upon entering the classic Roman outdoor amphitheatre mid-afternoon on Saturday, July 21, concert attendees noticed the unique open-air loading and equipment area on stage, the large combined capacity (8,500) of the floor, as well as seating and grass sections.  Opening acts the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) were allowed rather long sets, filling in the floor area with their fans.

As SCI took the stage, an ethereal glow enveloped the area as the sun passed behind the columned background of the stage.  Thousands of ecstatic, colorful Cheese fans gave a loud welcome to the band as they began to play the jubilant Jean-Luc Ponty song “Mouna Bowa.”  The song was a perfect opener for the evening, complementing the ideal temperate climate and lighthearted energy of the crowd.

Bringing out the Stevie Wonder classic “I Wish,” SCI elevated the energy into a groove only a Stevie song could inspire.  Moving into bluegrass, Billy Nershi led the band with crisp, quick vocals on “Love is Like a Train” with Kyle Hollingsworth pounding out some saloon-inspired piano.

The very elegant Latin jazz influenced Hollingsworth song “MLT” was absolutely flawless (even with Nershi grinding the air with his hips) making the crowd focus on the quality musicianship of the band.  Giving Cheese fans a (figurative) dose of ecstasy, SCI played a ridiculously fast-paced version of the traditional bluegrass song “I Know You Rider” with percussionist Jason Hann playing a washboard, into Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up” and back into “I Know You Rider” to close the first set.

Unfortunately during the second set some audio-related problems could be heard randomly through the speakers, but by the end the problem had been resolved.  The first highlight of the second set came during “Desert Dawn” when Aron Magner and Jon Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits joined SCI, adding electronica and distortion elements into the mix of the 15-minute version of the song.

The second highlight came with fan favorite “Way Back Home” into the instrumental “Birdland,” which displayed Hollingsworth’s abilities on keys, Keith Moseley’s steady funky bass rhythms, and Michael Travis’ perfect time on drums.

Up on the highest level of the amphitheatre – the grass area – another world opened up to fans.  Backlit by the silver shining crescent moon, dozens of hula hoopers displayed their graceful dance.  The band played tribute to their friend and sometimes musical guest Keller Williams with a solid performance of “Best Feeling,” which blended back into “Way Back Home.”

During both sets, Hann was all smiles, bursting with positive energy and making a real connection with the crowd.  SCI ended the show with the fan favorite “Search” displaying Michael Kang’s mastery of the violin.  The crowd couldn’t have been more satisfied, giving loud applause and shouts of approval, but then again, most in attendance were also looking forward to the next show.

 

Sunday, July 22

 

Showtime on Sunday, July 22, was much earlier with the contemporary bluegrass group Hot Buttered Rum String Band (HBRSB) taking the first opening slot around noon.  Nershi came on stage with his acoustic guitar for the band’s final two songs, “Honkeytonk Tequilia” and “Cumberland Blues.”

The floor area filled as the seasoned second opener, Railroad Earth (RRE), took the stage following HBRSB.  The band, with their heartfelt lyrics and delicate bluegrass sound, always touches audience members in a rather unusual way.  Nershi, on his electric guitar, joined RRE on their last song, “Mourning Flies.”

The sun was high and the air was hot as SCI took the stage on Sunday afternoon.  The energy of the crowd and band was intense and quite different than on the previous evening.  Murmurs of hope for a bluegrass-focused show could be heard amongst the crowd.  SCI opened with the mellow “Shine,” allowing the crowd and the guys a chance to ease into the glorious day.

Cheese fans were treated to some of their favorites such as “Jellyfish,” “Black Clouds,” and “Farther” during the sets.  Throughout the show, SCI invited members of the opening bands and later the entire bands up to share the stage with them, heightening the onstage energy to a level most in the crowd had never experienced before.

Watching each band member’s mutual adoration and appreciation of one another’s talents was almost enough to make onlookers tear-up.  The culmination of the show and various collaborations came at the end of the second set when SCI announced that they were going to have “A Hot Buttered Railroad Incident.”

SCI couldn’t figure out where HBRSB members had disappeared to saying, “No, it’s the Hot Buttered Guys who are all drugged out and wasted.”  Once they emerged, the never-before-seen Incident played a bluegrass version of the classic Christian tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast” about which Nershi commented, “This is what you call a cluster pluck.”  The intense breakdown jam at the end was too fast to keep up with dancing.

The Incident went right into The Carter Family tune “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”  With so many people onstage, Nershi or Kang signaled to the individual musicians for their solo parts.  The multi-vocal harmonies and insane interweaving of instruments proved that a huge group of immensely talented musicians can come together with precision.  SCI thanked the other bands and played “Smile” as the second encore of the show.

SCI was much more in touch with the crowd on Sunday night.  Before the second encore, Nershi gazed out at the crowd as the fans stood in disbelief at what they had just been part of and witnessed.  As the night concluded, the crowd felt overjoyed when he said, “You guys seem to think we’re pretty cool. But … watching all you guys just let go and dance your asses off, you are the true heroes.”

 

7/21:

Set One: Mouna Bowa, I Wish, Love Is Like A Train, Sometimes A River, Turn This Around, MLT > Drums > Rain > I Know You Rider > Stir It Up > I Know You Rider

Set Two: Eye Know Why > Looking Glass > Desert Dawn*, The Way You Do The Things Yo Do > Way Back Home > Birdland > Best Feeling > Way Back Home

Encore: Search

* with Jon Gutwillig and Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits)

 

7/22:

Set One: Shine, Little Hands > Dudley’s Kitchen, I’ll Fly Away*, The Walls Of Time*, Black Market > Jellyfish > Black Clouds

Set Two: Piece Of Mine > Bumpin’ Reel, Farther, Long Way To Go^, Sweet Melinda^ > Lovelight Jam > What A Day That Was > It Is What It Is

Encore One: Whiskey Before Breakfast*^ Will The Circle Be Unbroken*^

Encore Two: Smile

* with Hot Buttered Rum String Band

^ with Railroad Earth

 

String Cheese Incident, 7/21-22/07 || Berkeley, CA @ the Greek Theatre

All photos by Keith Berson / keithberson.com

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Carnival Time with String Cheese Incident

The String Cheese Incident

Winter Carnival @ the Fillmore

Denver, Colorado

March 22 – 24, 2007

 

The String Cheese Incident performed their annual Winter Carnival this past week in Denver, and while I was only able to catch 2 of the 5 shows they did, by all accounts the band is playing with a renewed interest in the music that has been missing in years past.  In turn, the audience is responding with an infectious enthusiasm that irresistibly permeated The Fillmore over the course of the weekend.

The Fillmore’s crowd was much more festive than what I’m used to seeing down South.  Costumes were donned, glitter was sprinkled, and color-changing roses were dispersed during Friday night’s intermission.  Combine this celebratory attitude with a well practiced and focused band, and the results were nothing short of explosive chemistry.

Musically, String Cheese proved that if these are indeed their final days, they will end things with an exclamation point.  At times the jams were tighter then they have been in the past, as evident by the techno-driven “Big Shoes” that was more succinct than normal.  Regardless, the band still managed to be cerebral; the Egyptian-inspired jam out of “Shine” was completely original.

We were treated to many a surprise, including a couple of Jerry Garcia Band staples (“Midnight Moonlight” and “The Way You Do The Things You Do”).  However, others were novelty and probably won’t hold up for listeners who did not attend the shows, such as the hysterical Michael Travis-led bluegrass rendition of Devo’s “Whip It” that included costumes and red hats.

But even though the chemical reaction between attentive band and joyful crowd made for some of the best music I’ve ever heard String Cheese produce, a shadow looms over my thoughts when I look back on my experience in Denver.  Despite the undeniable positive aspects of this year’s Winter Carnival, or rather, because of it, I cannot help but wonder why Bill Nershi would withdraw from the band at a time when they just seem to be getting things back together musically.

Obviously the answer is on a personal level that only Nershi can truly understand.  He must do some soul-searching on his own before he continues any further.  And I for one completely respect and support this decision.  If Nershi needs to take some time off from The Incident, than by all means, go right ahead; we all saw what happened to Garcia when personal time took a back seat to upholding a juggernaut.

But no matter how often I reassure myself that Billy must go do his own thing, I’m left “banging my heart against some mad bugger’s wall.”  Even if he wants to get away from the huge crowds and continued electronic experimentation SCI drifted into the past couple of years, there is something unsettling about his decision.

While playing acoustic bluegrass in more intimate settings with Honkytonk Homeslice can and hopefully will be very therapeutic for SCI’s unspoken leader, there is still a certain adventurous spirit that only The Incident can harness. 

It’s the kind of energy that Michael Kang unleashed at The Fillmore during his electric-Celtic jam in “Valley of the Jig,” or the unexpected accordion solo Kyle Hollingsworth did masterfully before launching into “Little Hands” beautiful midsection.

It’s even the sincerity of Nershi’s own “Smile” and musical build up before its refrain that pulls on the heartstrings just right.

Whatever Nershi’s intentions, we all wish him the best and support the decision he makes.  I just hope it is the best decision. 

With only a handful of months remaining, our time with SCI is limited.  If the band continues with the vigor they displayed during Winter Carnival, we’re in for some spectacular performances.  And when Billy ventures off on the road by himself, I just hope he knows we’re tending the light for him at home.