The String Cheese Incident Delivers Epic July 4th Celebration in Atlanta July 5, 2016 14:50
Words and Photos by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
It is always a special occasion when The String Cheese Incident embarks on a lengthy tour, especially when said tour includes a handful of dates in the southeast. As soon as the band announced it's two-night July 4th run in Atlanta, there was no doubt as to what I would be doing on this Independence Day weekend. Following an unforgettable performance on Sunday night, Cheese returned to the stage at Chastain Park on Monday night for a July 4th celebration that we will be talking about for years to come.
The first set got started with "Valley of the Jig," a melodic bluegrass instrumental which featured some amazing back-and-forth moments from Michael Kang on fiddle and Bill Nershi on guitar, before transitioning into a somewhat techno jam. No band can pull off that concept quite like Cheese. "Got What He Wanted" was next; giving the lively Atlanta crowd a well-known sing-along early on. Another vintage bluegrass instrumental then came in the form of "Dudley's Kitchen," one which simply demands you to dance. Keith Moseley (bass/vocals) then took the lead on "Sometime's a River," another heartwarming sing-along.
The energy in Chastain Park went to another level with the jam-focused "Turn This Around," a tune that allows Kang to absolutely wail on the electric guitar. A seamless transition led into "Smile," and if that song doesn't make you feel all warm and fuzzy, you may have some issues worth addressing. The band then introduced Ms. Rhonda Thomas, who would be making her first of many appearances on stage. They wasted no time busting into a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" that will never be forgotten to close the first set. Fortunately, Moseley assured the crowd that we would be seeing more of Ms. Thomas in the second set.
After a brief intermission, Cheese returned to the stage and called upon Ms. Thomas for her vocal assistance once again. Kyle Hollingsworth led us into the super funky "Believe," and the second set was off to a blazing start. Moseley stepped up once again for "Sweet Spot," easily one of the catchiest, feel-good tunes in the Cheese catalog. That seems to be a bit of a pattern anytime Moseley handles lead vocals.
Rhonda Thomas stayed on stage for one more tune, and nobody saw it coming. The band busted into a cover of Vulfpeck's "Funky Duck," and it could not have been a better decision. If you haven't yet jumped on the Vulfpeck funk bandwagon, I recommend making it a priority. Nershi calmed things down a bit with "Farther," just before Kang led a raging "Howard" that pumped a new life into Chastain Park. I'd be shocked if there was a single attendant not singing along as the band worked through "Outside and Inside," the title track from the band's 2001 studio release (Outside Inside). The decision to cover the Allman Brother's "Hot 'Lanta" couldn't have been any more appropriate, and the ultimate buildup into "Let's Go Outside" was simply perfect. Hollingsworth left it all on the stage as he led the crowd through one of Cheese's newer, high-energy funk tunes.
Unfortunately, this "weekend" had to end somewhere, but not before an overwhelming encore. "Black Clouds," one of my all-time favorites from the Born on the Wrong Planet album, gave us one more chance to get down to the classic Cheese bluegrass vibe. Our old friend Rhonda Thomas then took the stage for one final appearance, which Moseley described as "the most patriotic song we could possibly play on July 4th." This version of "America, The Beautiful" was on another level, prompting a whole lot of hugs and high fives throughout Chastain Park.
I simply can't say enough about The String Cheese Incident and their ability to resonate such a warm energy with every song. After nearly 15 years of listening attentively to this band, this was only the fifth and sixth opportunity I have had to see them live. This weekend will serve as a constant reminder of why I fell in love with this band at such an early age, and why I plan on going out of my way to see them again whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Watch The String Cheese Incident and Ms. Rhonda Thomas perform Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" here: