'String Cheese Incident' Mixes Styles In Tasty, Intimate Space

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Andy Zrike and Bryan McQuade Staff Writers

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, Colorado’s String Cheese Incident performed the second show of their extensive North American tour at Club Soda in Montreal. The two set performance fused bluegrass, rock and roll, jazz, multi-ethnic-flavored percussion and lengthy improvisation – a refreshing addition to the live improvisation-based genre that has gained overwhelming popularity in recent years.

The band’s roots go back to the ski town of Crested Butte, Colorado, where the musicians spent their days skiing and nights performing in bars and clubs. Since then, the String Cheese Incident has become a nationally acclaimed act, playing at renowned amphitheaters including Red Rocks, Deer Creek and Alpine Valley. In recent years, their popularity has increased dramatically, making the opportunity to catch an “incident” in an intimate venue quite a rarity.

The Montreal show at Club Soda, which is the smallest venue on their current tour, was packed to capacity. Being the smallest venue, the street outside the club was filled with fans not fortunate enough to get one of the 750 tickets available for this intimate performance. Those able to get in were treated to three hours of music ranging from acoustic guitar-based bluegrass standards to renditions of modern favorites like Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic.”

Greeted by a welcoming audience, the five barefooted musicians took to the stage and quickly jumped into one of their signature unes, “Lonesome Fiddler Blues.” After a quick introductory portion, the song’s trademark bluegrass-tinged groove emerged. The chemistry between band members and especially between acoustic guitarist Bill Nershi and fiddler/electric mandolin player Michael Kang quickly became apparent. Nershi and Kang provided much of the String Cheese Incident’s unique sound, Nershi supplying the bluegrass roots on his acoustic guitar and Kang adding some explosive licks on the fiddle and electric mandolin. As the opening song continued to develop, the virtuosity of the group became evident as the band made a transition into a reggae oriented riff. Before the song was over each band member took a brief solo, giving those in the audience a glimpse as to what was in store for the rest of the performance.

The first set provided an hour of classic String Cheese Incident tunes, but the defining moment of the show came during the first twenty minutes of the second set. A set opening “Texas” quickly developed into an amazing improvisation, which proved to be the highlight of the night. Anchored by the rich, full sound of Kyle Hollingsworth’s Hammond organ riffs, the tune took many unique turns before segueing into an energized version of “On the Road.” During both songs, Hollingsworth’s ability to guide the group through some of their more improvisational tunes became evident.

Continuing with tunes like “Cedar” and “Shine,” the ninety minute second set had the crowd on their feet, dancing and smiling, start to finish. A cheering audience brought the band back out for an equally impressive encore performance of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic,” which was a surprise, coming from a band known for its bluegrass roots.

After departing the stage for what seemed like the last time, the band pleased its fans by taking the stage for a second encore, where they closed with some traditional instrumental bluegrass tunes. Throughout the three-hour performance, the String Cheese Incident did not disappoint.

The String Cheese Incident will be playing additional dates in the area over the coming days. For more information on the concert, including additional color photos of the concert and audio samples from the show, visit http://community.middlebury.edu/~bmcquade/sci/

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'String Cheese Incident' Mixes Styles In Tasty, Intimate Space