BROOMFEILD, CO - On March 10, 11, and 12th, 2011 at the 1st Bank Event Center, The String Cheese Incident, a jam-band based out of Boulder, CO, celebrated the winter and spring seasons by throwing a set of concerts known as The Winter Carnival.
The String Cheese Incident has performed Winter Carnivals in the past; however, this was the band’s first since March 2007. As a band that hasn’t “officially” been together since the summer of ’07, it was their first performance in Colorado since October of 2010 at the same venue for the Fourmile Canyon Revival show to raise money for the fire in Boulder Canyon. Because they play a few select concerts together a year, it makes their performances that much more appealing and special.
Anticipation for the Winter Carnival began in the fall of 2010 when rumors of the concert surfaced. Much like most ‘cheesy’ rumors, this one turned out to be true. The announcement was made and the tickets began to sell this past January.
The tickets themselves are unique and can be kept as a memory of the shows. Each of the three days had
a different appearance- each one showing a separate portrait of a winter, spring and summer visual inside a sunflower hologram. Each ticket had a bar code on the back, which you could later redeem for a free download of the live concerts. The Friday and Saturday concerts sold out.
As previously said, the String Cheese Incident helped raise over $300,00 for the evacuees of the Fourmile Canyon fire last fall. They also lend their helping hand to the organization known as the Conscious Alliance, which is based out of Boulder. At many of their Colorado based shows, an artist donates their art to the Conscious Alliance and they sell them at Cheese shows to raise money for a good cause.
At this concert, artist Phil Lewis designed a three-set poster addition that sold for
either $30 or a donation of twenty-five canned foods in order to help out Native American Reservations in South Dakota. The Conscious Alliance booth was set up outside of the 1st Bank Event Center’s entrance way and were there all three nights.
Over 13,000 pounds of non-perishable food items were raised as of the second night alone, at which time they also sold out of the poster set so had to mail the rest that were sold.
If you have never attended a String Cheese Incident concert before, arriving there can be a bit of a culture shock. As of the day you purchase your tickets, little cheese butterflies flutter in your stomach. When the day of the concert finally arrives, the feeling of excitement is overwhelming.
As you park your car and step your feet on the gravel parking lot, the smell of dust, grilled cheese (no pun intended), scented oils, dread locks, beer, liquor, marijuana, and cigarettes hit your nose simultaneously. The main parking lot, otherwise known as ‘Shakedown Street’, is a party. Hundreds of people mingle with anyone and everyone and are very welcoming. There is music set up and people dance and hula-hoop all around you.
A lot of the people wear baggy pants, long and flowing skirts, patchwork, T-shirts, tank tops, sandals, dread locks, long hair- the typical hippie look. Sting Cheese Incident shows are different from the other jam-band shows, however, because a lot of people wear costumes. Walking through the parking lot alone, there was a banana, an astronaut, a panda, some cows, a yellow submarine pajama set and people who just elaborated on their normal clothing.
As you walk through the main stretch of Shakedown Street, you can see people selling things to raise money for their concert ticket. Items such as food, beer and alcoholic drinks, sodas, water, t-shirts, hoodies and jackets, crystals, hemp necklaces, glass and rock beads, feather earrings, glass pipes, posters and even used books. This is the perfect place to get concert memorabilia from an original artist for a cheaper price than inside the venue.
There are also people who beg for money so they can attend the concert. One guy stood out there all three nights wearing a sign that said he needed a $40 ticket. I’m not sure if he ever got in. From the second you arrive to the show, there is never a dull moment- there is always something to do or someone to meet. The parking lot is just a glimmer at how unique the scene is on the inside.
As the clock ticks down, everyone works their way to the entrance of the venue together as a crowd. As you reach the security line, people are chugging the last half of their beer so they don’t have to pay $9 for the same kind. After you get completely patted down from your head to your toes, you finally make it inside.
One of the first things you see is two women in decretive clown costumes walking on stilts along with a man rolling his way in a ball while juggling. Pretty risky jobs considering how many people were there and how many of them had consumed alcohol. The carnival has begun.
On the north side of the venue, there was a photographer at a photo station. He was taking pictures of everyone wearing costumes. The String Cheese Incident website had set up a costume contest for the first two nights of the shows. The contest was a winter clan and a spring clan. The winner was to receive free VIP upgrades to the last show, they got to walk in the costume parade on Saturday night and received free tickets to the Electric Forest Festival which takes place June 30-July 3 in Michigan. The String Cheese Incident is scheduled to play three nights at the festival. The female winner was dressed as winter and the male winner was perceived as spring. There were many other elaborate costumes including a peacock, care bears, and fairies.
The 1st Bank Event Center has sort of stadium seating. There are rows and rows of seating areas, some box seats, and a very crowded floor area. The floors area was so crowded at times that they wouldn’t let you back in until someone else left because they were at maximum capacity.
As the lights dimmed, the energy of the audience is so thick you can pierce it. Everyone is ecstatic and wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else in the world at that time because that is the coolest place to be. The legendary members of The String Cheese Incident: Keith Moseley (bass guitar), Michael Travis (drums and percussion), Kyle Hollingsworth (piano, organ and accordion), Jason Hann (percussionist), Michael Kang (acoustic/electric mandolin, electric guitar, and violin), and Billy Nershi (acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, and electric slide guitar). As they finally arrive on stage and play their first notes, the crowd goes crazy because they know they are in the presence of something great.
The music is adorned with over a thousand dancing people that are visible from the awesome stage lights. Thousands of glow sticks are broken open and worn as jewelry or thrown deeper into the crowd. Girls with hula-hoops that glow with LED lights hang out in the back of the floor area and dance hypnotically to the rhythm.
Some of the more memorable songs they performed during the shows include: Rivertrance, Ramble on, Barstool (all from 3/10), Just One Story, Jellyfish, How Mountain Girls Can Love, Las Vegas (all from 3/11), Valley of the Jig, Way Back Home, Ring of Fire, and Black Clouds (all from 3/12).
The stage was set up as a big hula-hoop looking circle in the middle where they played visuals to go along with each song. Along sides of the circle were the sunflowers that appeared on the tickets. The colors on the almost metallic looking material changed all the time. There are screens that are always set up on the sides of the stage for a closer view of the band and above the stage for more visuals. Looking from the highest seat in the house, the staging lights lit up the audience that looked like an ocean of people.
The coolest and more carnival-like night was Saturday, 3/12. During the set break on Saturday, woman on stilts came walking through the audience, along with a man on pogo-stick shoes that performed back flips in a designated area. When the band returned, and broke into “Way Back Home”, the costume parade began. It started on the back of the floor with a river of people lit up by the staging lights that were holding large and colorful sticks. As the song progressed, they made their way to the center of the floor where four platforms lifted high revealing woman dancing to the song. The crowd went wild, but turned crazier when the ribbon dancers were released. They dropped from the ceiling rails- two in the back and two on stage- performing acrobatics high in the air. It was reminiscent of The String Cheese Incident’s Rothbury show in 2009. There were also hula-hoopers performing in the front of the stage. As the song proceeded to peak, yellow confetti dropped from the ceiling and glimmered in the light. This was a very memorable all-out-cheese-moment. The only thing missing was fire.
As they encored with “Black Clouds”, two massive beach balls (similar to their Rothbury performance in 2009) were released into the audience. As we bounced the balls all over, the concert came to an inevitable end. Everyone was left wanting more, but they never came out for a second encore.
The String Cheese Incident’s 2011 Winter Carnival was a cheesy success. It was truly a carnival with the costumes, the acrobatics and the visuals around you. It couldn’t have turned out any better. The only problem was that it left you yearning for more. I guess we will all have to attend Bonnaroo or The Electric Forest Festival in Rothbury, Michigan and join hands once again.
Review by: Melissa Hawthorne
Photos by: Brian Spady
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