North Plains—It’s Saturday. Day three of String Cheese Incident’s four-day festival in the woods. There are forest nymphs, people on stilts, Kesey’s bus, hula-hoopers, and DayGlo freaks of all kinds gathered to hear Colorado’s premier jamband in the cozy country setting that is Horning’s Hideout.
We arrive at 5:00 pm and take a shuttle from the top of the hill to the show. Jazz guitarist, Bill Frissell, is already on stage, working his deep dark magic on the crowd which is still recovering from Friday night’s showdown.
Today’s show opens with the invocations of poet and friend of Cheese, Lester “Boom Boom” Babbitt. “Continue living, wilderness. Continue living, wilderness,” he chimes at the end of his poem. The opening notes of “Black Clouds” gets the crowd moving moments later.
After a few songs, Bill Frissell joins SCI on stage for two numbers. His work on “Freedom Jazz Dance” is particularly striking.
Between sets fans clear the dusty floor and move up the hill to find a spot to watch the Saturday night spectacle unfold. The band comes back and goes into “Rivertrance” while characters dressed as Japanese warriors take the floor and do an interpretive dance. Flame-wielding jesters enter the mix and a giant peacock is wheeled in front of the stage. Then a spaceship appears from the forest and hovers over the area, apparently suspended by a cable, but who cares? The performance is one part Burning Man, another part Cirque du Soleil. A collection of balloons–also fixed to the earth by a cable–is introduced in tandem with the spaceship. Dangling from these balloons on long white “scarves” is a high-flying acrobat, doing artful moves with her body 150 feet above the ground (with no net beneath, should she fall).
She doesn’t fall, nor does the music. The band closes the second set with “I Know You Rider” and comes back with a double encore, ending the show with “Texas,” a song which brings me back. Turns out, tonight is my 29th Incident and first since Telluride Bluegrass in 2003, but I’ve never seen anything this good from the band and its community of fans and co-workers before.
Here’s the full set list courtesy of Friends of Cheese:
7/31/2010 Horning’s Hideout – North Plains, OR
Set 1: Black Clouds > Rhum ‘N Zouc, One Step Closer, County Road Blues*, Freedom Jazz Dance*, Way That It Goes, Cedar Laurels, Ring of Fire > Black Clouds….
Set 2: Rivertrance, Joyful Sound > It Is What It Is > Orion’s Belt > Piece of Mine, Search > I Know You Rider
Encore: Sirens, Texas
* with Bill Frissell on guitar
The show is available for download on LiveCheese.com.