This year marked the 25th anniversary of The String Cheese Incident and the 80th birthday of Del McCoury. The two celebrations converged at Red Rocks Amphitheater on July 21st, when The Del McCoury Band opened for SCI and later joined them on stage for a colossal multi-genre (and multi-generational) jam session.
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Del and SCI
We saw two of SCI’s three-night stand at Red Rocks. The previous night featured Keller Williams performing with SCI, followed by two full sets of Cheese. We thought this night would be the same format, but instead, The Del McCoury Band opened the show by themselves. Still, I had a feeling that Cheese would invite Del on stage during part of their show, but in the meantime, we enjoyed a set of The Del McCoury Band, which included three generations of McCourys: Del, his two sons, and his grandson.
Del told the crowd that the band takes requests, and he immediately noticed someone in the audience holding a sign that said, “Same Kind of Crazy was our wedding song,” so they played it. The Del McCoury Band rarely uses a setlist; they just play what they feel like playing or what the audience requests. Del says, “It’s more interesting for the band, for me, and for the audience because nobody knows what’s coming next.” (That’s one of the reasons we like jam bands, right?) At one point, someone requested Rain and Snow:
Bluegrass isn’t everyone’s cup of Jim Beam, as it were, but regardless of one’s musical preferences, you have to respect a guy who’s been around as long as Del McCoury, and who’s spawned multiple generations of great musicians. Also, keep in mind that older musicians like Del influenced our generation of jam bands. If not for Del McCoury, there may not be a String Cheese Incident, so show a little appreciation for the elders. And if nothing else, you’ve gotta respect the musicianship of this jam:
The band wrapped up with “All Aboard,” as Del showed that his voice can still hit the high notes and his fingers are nimble, even at 80 years old. The crowd joined in on the chorus, “All
SCI Hits The Stage
After a short break, SCI came on stage. Guitarist Bill Nershi acknowledged a great set by Del’s band, and told the “parking lot stragglers” that they missed a great performance. (They did.) He also thanked Del for his willingness to hang out with “hippie jam bands like us,” when some bluegrass purists might say, “That’s not our scene.”
After a few songs, they brought the entire Del McCoury Band on stage and sang “Happy Birthday” to Del. (His birthday is in February, but he said he’s celebrating all year.) Then, the two bands collaborated on some serious fingerpicking, with the musicians trading solos all around. It was spectacular to witness!
At one point, SCI started a reggae groove, and Del’s band went with it. As I contemplated the surreality a bluegrass legend playing reggae, the guy next to me said, “Dude – Del McCoury is playing reggae. Wrap your mind around THAT!” I’m guessing we weren’t the only two people who were blown away by that fact. Eventually, the song evolved into a full-on bluegrass jam, showing that all forms of North American music have a common link. The two bands then closed out the set together with an amazing multi-genre jam session.
As the rain clouds moved in, Cheese opened their last set with “
It rained on and off for the rest of the evening, but that didn’t put much of a damper on the music, as SCI blazed through another great set. The earlier start time left room for an encore, a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Shaking the Tree.”
Worth the Splurge
When we first scheduled our trip to Red Rocks, we planned to only see the Saturday show. Then Lisa twisted my arm and convinced me to splurge on a second night (as you can imagine, she didn’t have to twist very hard), and I’m so glad we did. Both nights had their share of magic and both provided memories that will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to go back!
Check out our article about the Red Rocks Concert Experience!
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