String Cheese Incident: Winter Carnival

Feb 17, 2011 by

String Cheese Incident: Winter Carnival

Cheese-150x98Winter Carnival
The String Cheese Incident’s three day mid-winter Colorado run 

By Jenna Stecker

Carnival: 1) an instance of merrymaking, feasting or masquerading 2) a traveling enterprise offering amusement 3) an organized program of entertainment or exhibitions

It’s hard to argue with any of these definitions when thinking of what The String Cheese Incident has created over the many years that they have held- Winter Carnival. And with no immediate plans for future touring, it’s easy to see why the SCI fans were thrilled to hear that the famous carnival would again take place, this year at Broomfield’s hot new venue- 1st Bank Center on March 10th-12th.

For the Cheese faithful, this is a welcome run. Since coming off their hiatus SCI has only played a limited amount of shows, although 2010 did provide to be diverse and entertaining. The first three shows was a weekend of music held at Red Rocks Amphitheater on July 23rd, 24th, and 25th.  Then the band headed out to the famed Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon for a mystical four nights in the woods. On October 9th The Four Mile Canyon Fire Relief Concert was a bonus show and a good cause for Cheese heads to rally behind. And to round out the year they played a ‘Hulaween’ weekend on the 29th and 30th of October at the Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia including a three set shakedown on Friday the 30th. But for the Cheese heads there could always be more.

From 1998 – 2007, with the only exception coming on the hiatus of 2006, the String Cheese Incident has played multiple dates strung together and billed as “The Winter Carnival”. SCI and various guest artists played multiple dates in Colorado either first at the Fillmore Auditorium and then up in the mountains, typically in Vail and/or Telluride over the years. Yet when Cheese announced their hiatus from touring in early 2006 fans wondered if they would ever have another Carnival again. Lo and behold, the time has come. As Bass guitarist Keith Moseley says, “Winter Carnival has always meant playing fun local shows with very special guests during the ski season. It was a great tradition for us for many years, and when the opportunity arose to do it again, it was an easy decision for us.”

A longstanding tradition, The Fillmore Auditorium had been the gold standard for the shows on the Front Range in years past.  However this fall SCI headlined a show at the 1st Bank Center to aid the local volunteer fire department and victims of the Four Mile Canyon Fire, a raging wildfire that scorched more than 6,000 acres in Boulder this summer. The Four Mile Canyon Revival Benefit brought together String Cheese along with Colorado musicians Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Yonder Mountain String Band and Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon. The four members of Phish, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Trey Anastasio were also honored guests.

So by gaining a comfort level with the new stage and almost triple the seating capacity, the move to a new venue made sense. While there are no high country dates for this year’s Winter Carnival there is a cause. The Conscious Alliance Food Drive is something that everyone in the SCI community has come to expect. For 2011, a 3 panel event poster will be designed (one panel for each night).  As always, the limited edition posters will be made available to concertgoers who contribute 10 non-perishable food items per panel, or 25 items for the complete set. Food collected at Winter Carnival 2011 will benefit the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Visit for more information.

As most people already know, Carnival isn’t just the String Cheese Incident. It’s a gathering of splendid musicians from all sorts of backgrounds that have a chance to interact with SCI which in turn usually makes for some powerful collaboration’s. Some of the powerhouse list of former special guests  ranges from Los Lobos, Spearhead and The Funky Meters (2000), Bruce Hornsby, Blind Boys of Alabama, Little Feat, Del McCoury and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (2001) to Stanton Moore, Angelique Kidjo, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Dirty Dozen Brass Band (2002). 2003 saw King Crimson, Martin Sexton and the John Cowan Band, while 2004 was JJ Grey and Mofro, back then known just as Mofro along with David Lindley and Wally Ingram and the late Vasser Clements. SCI has always chosen bands that are as diverse from one another as the music they play themselves. And this year will be no different.

And as always SCI brings with them a range of special guests to start the night and warm up the crowd. Accompanying String Cheese in their 2011 Winter Carnival Incidents will be Ott, JD Crowe and the New South and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk which is as diverse a choice of openers as you can get. The Thursday night opener is Ott, a music producer from the UK. For those of you not up on your music lingo: music producer is what artists formerly known as DJ’s are calling themselves now. Ott’s music is a combination of the Dub, Electronic and the Psychedelic music styles. He is definitely more in line with SCI’s “Untying the Not” days. Friday does a 180 with JD Crowe and the New South tuning things up first. JD Crowe is one of the most progressive bluegrass banjoists from the 70’s. His ever morphing New South Lineup has over the years been a platform for many musicians to begin their careers and continue on to further success. The New South is the bluegrass SCI has their roots soaked in.  And on a turn for the funky, Saturday night gets kicked off by the personal favorite of this writer, Dumpstaphunk. Dumpstaphunk is the New Orleans brainchild of Ivan Neville who put the musicians together in 2003 in order to play a solo gig. They have grown from a mere side project to becoming known as one of New Orleans funkiest exports.

And as always there is more to be excited about this year than just watching and listening to music. If you are a SCI devotee then you look forward to dressing up in costume or even simply look forward to everyone else in costume. There will be costume contests as well as a volleyball tournament with multiple prizes for best team name and best team costume.

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As I write, I am listening to the Fillmore show of March 22, 2007 on Internet Archive- and I am flooded with memory. As the band pauses between songs and the others prepare for the next song I can hear Kyle Hollingsworth playing a chord in staccato “1 and 2 and” eighth notes over and over, an obvious tease to the next song. It makes me smile to hear the first three notes of that song played in full and the collective gasp of delightful realization from the crowd as they launch into one of their favorite covers, Keller Williams’ “Best Feeling.” It triggers in me one of my last Cheese show memories.


Fillmore Auditorium- Denver CO


Set 1: Johnny Cash, Round The Wheel, Black And White, Farther, Black Market > Mona Bowa, Close Your Eyes
Set 2: Ride Captain Ride*, Best Feeling > Can’t Stop Now, 45th of November, Solution, Joyful Sound, Way Back Home
Encore: Outside and Inside > Jessica

*with Polyphonic Spree

That memory comes from a show only a few short days after the March 22nd one. It was my last Incident with Cheese (for the time being), but it also was my first show ever at Dobson Ice Arena in my new mountain hometown, having just moved to Vail a few months before from Minnesota. I was in a new town, a new state, one thousand plus miles from what I had come to know as home. I was in uncharted territory with new friends about to do what I love to do the most; going see live music. The air of possibility around me was so fresh and charged there was no way this show could be less than a great time. Now just under four years later the memory hangs clean and unblemished in my mind.


Dobson Ice Arena – Vail, CO

Set 1: Magic Carpet Ride > Rhythm Of The Road > These Waves > Suntan, Dirk > Shakedown Street > Come As You Are

Set 2: Big Mon*, Tangled Up In Blue*, Sand Dollar, Under African  Skies > Missin’ Me, Looking Glass > Howard

Encore: Jellyfish > Black Clouds Reprise
Encore 2: Boo Boo’s Pik-A-Nik > I Know You Rider

As do the fans, the members of Cheese have their Winter Carnival stories as well. Moseley says, “One of my favorite memories of Winter Carnivals past was the blizzard of March 2003. We played two shows in Vail and then struggled for 6+ hours to get back to Denver to play the Fillmore. Denver had over three feet of snow from that storm and Nederland was hammered with six feet! It was quite a conquest for everyone to make it to the venue and make the show happen. When we finally arrived at the Fillmore, our manager was on the roof with the promoter and several others shoveling the roof to prevent it from caving in. I remember the band, fans and crew being totally exhausted, but rising to the occasion with a super high energy show. That’s Winter Carnival!”

So what is your favorite Winter Carnival memory? With these dates ahead in March everyone will be able to create and save new and treasured memories. It’s a time to meet new friends, revisit with old friends conjuring up old memories and listening to some incredible new music along with the classics. Crazy costumes and crazier people! These are all things the String Cheese Incident’s 2011 Winter Carnival promises to bring.

While there are no more set dates for The String Cheese Incident to tour this year Bill Nershi announced in October of 2010, “[They’re] also planning on doing something next summer at the Rothbury site such as play online casino sites. That will be a weekend festival with a lot of String Cheese sets. It’ll be different from Rothbury in that it will be more like our thing at Horning’s, where String Cheese plays every night, and it will include bands in [the] String Cheese family with art installations and that kind of thing” With that in mind, if you plan on making your own personal stamp on the string cheese family in our state, now is the time to do it.

This run has had some time to build momentum behind it and with a new venue and an amped up band the stars are aligning. Carnival is usually something special and from what Keith Mosely has said- you can tell that this year is not going to disappoint.  “I am really excited about the chance to gear up for a three night run in an awesome venue so close to home. We have plenty of practice time scheduled and I think we will be comfortable and ready to let it rip!”

So dust off the costumes, break out the hula hoop and get down to the Broomfield incident.