Review: The String Cheese Incident at 1STBANK Center, with the Flaming Lips, 12/29/13

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STRING CHEESE INCIDENT at 1STBANK CENTER | 12/29/13 A true switch-up in the pace of the music and dynamics of the String Cheese Incident set came four songs into the set when the band called Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips to the stage for a cover of "Okie from Muskogee." This rendition of the Merle Haggard classic was charmingly off the cuff but also spot on with the spirit of a song many of us heard over the years; it was humorous and earnestly performed with reverence.

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Much of the rest of String Cheese's set had the flavor of a jazz and blues improv session, recalling an Allman Brothers live jam, only far more smoothed out. The opening cut, "BollyMunster," shifted from Middle Eastern tones and rhythms to a funky electronica piece, with strong, tribal rhythms. At other times, a hard funk informed the accents of the melody, like a call and response structure but between instruments, rather than vocals.

A calypso jazz feel also characterized a good deal of the music and there was a curiously even tempo throughout the show. There were no discernible builds and no dramatic tension. Where the dynamics of this band happened, interestingly enough, it was carried out within the textures and tones at play together between the musicians in a steady flow rather than in the structure of the songs. This allowed for the members of SCI to engage with each other more spontaneously in a way that was somehow chill and smooth while supporting intricate sonic detail.

The Flaming Lips opened the show with Coyne standing on a heap of fiber optic cables as they glittered with flowing, colored light. Largely pulling from The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Embryonic and The Terror, the Lips played the kind of show it often does in smaller spaces but it was balanced against the reality of the size of this venue, and the set ended up being somewhat intimate in spite of itself. "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" got a moody treatment without losing the sparkling energy of the song, and in doing so, the act made the Beatles' classic its own.

"Race For the Prize" was at a slower place and seemed cooler on the tonal range than the original, while "Turning Violent" was less aggressive than the album version but even more effective in conveying a sense of otherworldly desolation. "Do You Realize?" had its impact enhanced by the brilliant and evocative projections that painted the stage and the performers in a vivid and vibrant swirl of hues to perfectly suit the songs.

Coyne often gestured dramatically like a silent movie actor and held aloft various glowing props to reinforce the sense of the show as a shared moment of heightened reality. The audience apparently needed coaxing, as Coyne regularly beckoned, "Come on!" when he felt the crowd needed encouragement into greater levels of enthusiasm. The set ended with a surprising and hearty rendition of "Spoonful Weighs a Ton."


String Cheese Incident 1STBANK Center - 12/29/13 Broomfield, CO

01. BollyMunster 02. Somtimes A River 03. Rhum N Zouc 04. Okie From Muskogee [with Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips] 05. Song In My Head 06. Best Feeling 07. Restless Wind 08. Rosie [w/Tiny Universe horns and Steve Berlin] 09. Miss Brown's Teahouse [w/Tiny Universe horns and Steve Berlin] 10. The Chicken [w/Tiny Universe horns and Steve Berlin] 11. Impressions [w/Tiny Universe horns and Steve Berlin] 12. Bertha [w/David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin] 13. Barstool 14. Joyful Sound 15. [EOTO interlude] 16. Close Your Eyes [w/David Hidalgo] 17. Breathe [with Keller Williams - "Royals" interlude]


Personal Bias: I've been a fan of the Flaming Lips since Hit To Death In The Future Head.

Random Detail: Both SCI and the Lips had cool T-shirts at a reasonable price.

By The Way: Wayne Coyne told us that the last time the two groups played the song together was ten years ago, and that they had all assumed back then that America would have come to its senses and legalized marijuana nationally before another ten years was up.

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