Fall outdoor shows are a gamble in Oregon, but the rain didn’t stop the hippies from enjoying a 3-day weekend with the String Cheese Incident. Local and traveling cheeseheads came out for three nights of music at the Cuthbert Amphitheater to celebrate 25 years of their favorite jam band.
Each show included two sets. Night one, possibly the wettest evening of the three, yielded an amazing “Falling Through the Cracks” with a cover of Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” embedded in the middle. After ending with “Bend Down Low” into “Beautiful,” those in attendance were thirsty for the second half, which also contained some impressive instrumentation. Night one finished with an epic exploration of “Melinda” into “So Far From Home” and encored with the Stanley Brothers’ “How Mountain Girls Can Love” and “Colliding.” The rain and the cold were never felt by the crowd, fueled and heated by their passion for the band.
Night two, Saturday, was actually fair weather. Not a drop of rain came down during the show, with a beautiful pink and orange cloudscape hanging overhead as set one began. In the first act, “Got What He Wanted” also contained a tribute. Kyle on the keys sang Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round in Circles” before venturing back into his own tune. Set one finished off with Kang singing and shredding his “Black and White” into “One Step Closer.” The second half presented some extra long improv sections for their originals “Black Clouds” into “Close Your Eyes” as well as “Shantytown” into “Desert Dawn.” Eugene deadheads rejoiced as SCI played their upbeat, rockin’ track “Sweet Spot” and followed with Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” for the encore.
Despite a bit more drizzle and chill, the Eugene “trippers- I mean, troopers,” as Billy jokingly called them, braved the final evening to enjoy two more sets of psychedelic Cheesescapes. The first act was catered to an earlier Sunday morning set. After jumping out onstage with a power stance and a full roar, Billy and Michael pulled out the wooden string instruments for a bit of afternoon “picking.” Twang echoed in the trees of the outdoor venue as Cheese rendered pickathons out of their hits like “Up the Canyon,” “Jerusalem Ridge,” “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” and even Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business.” A massive jam from “Eye Know Why” ending with “All We Got” followed and finished the set. “Just One Story” began the final act of the triple night run. The ecstasy of the performance never wavered for the band or their hypnotized fans. Eyes widened for “Looking Glass” into “Bollymunster” and jaws dropped with “Sand Dollar” into “Joyful Sound” into “Rumble.” SCI closed with “Colorado Bluebird Sky” and encored with “Under African Skies.” After playing five Eugene evenings in just over a year, it’s safe to assume The String Cheese Incident will probably occur there again soon.