It was a long trip back to see String Cheese Incident at Horning’s Hideout. The last time I saw them here was in 2007, and they were about to take a three year hiatus. At the time, I didn’t know if I would ever see them in this magical place again. Horning’s Hideout is one of those places where once I enter, all of my problems and worries disappear for the four days I am in this sanctuary. So it was only fitting that the first thing one of the volunteers said to me as I drove in was, “Welcome Home.” Yes, I was at home, with my Cheese Family.
Much of the first day is spent setting up your camp grounds and exploring. Thursdays are a perfect time to get your bearings at Horning’s. A lot of the time is spent walking around in the dark, so it can be really easy to get lost if you haven’t been here before. This is also a great time to catch up with those friends whom you haven’t seen in a while. But Thursday night was all about the music, and the bands on the main stage didn’t disappoint.
The first band up was The Drunken Hearts. This band is based out of Colorado, and can throw down with the best of them. The hour and fifteen minute set seemed way too short, but it was the perfect way to start the weekend off. Next up was The Contribution, which is Keith Moseley’s side project. These guy’s, and gal, put out a very soulful sound that just keeps you moving. Jeff Miller tore up the guitar licks, and Tim Carbone really shined when singing and on the fiddle. This all lead in to a set of the Kyle Hollingsworth Band, moving the sound from rock to funk. It just started getting dark, and the crowd really poured into the bowl. Smiles from every side, the sound Kyle’s keys making everyone just want to jump up and dance. But this was all a warm-up for the last band of the night, EOTO. EOTO has been killing it on the dance scene since Cheese took their break, getting better every year at their form of completely improvisational dub step. Michael Travis and Jason Hann use looping, computers, and drums to make a form of dub step jamming that keeps the crowd dancing their asses off. The skies opened up during the beginning of their set, with the rain continuing into the next morning. Stanley Jordan joined them up onstage while people were wildly dancing in the rain. It was such a great night, and only the beginning of a magical weekend.
The rain tapered off around mid-morning on Friday. Poor Man’s Whiskey was the first band to start on one of the side stages. Their jammy bluegrass sound always gets me smiling and tapping my toes. Honkey Tonk Homeslice was up next. This band is comprised of Bill Nershi and his wife Jillian, along with one of Horning’s favorites, Scott Law. Sitting in on the set were Jeff Miller of New Monsoon and both Jason Hann on drums and Keith Moseley on stand-up bass. A little taste of Cheese before the main course later that night. Right as Homeslice ended, Ivan Nevilles Dumpstaphunk came onto the main stage. This group really wants to make you move. They get down and dirty, and even in the heat of the day, almost the entire pit was filled and dancing. Toots and the Maytals came on next, who were ok but didn’t really do much for the energy of the crowd. But that was good, more time to rest before Cheese.
Friday night’s show started with a tribute to loss of a fan and friend earlier this year. To show their support for the family and friends, the band wore purple shirts with TEAM GEWALD all night. The love and support that this band and its community give each other is just incredible. All of this emotion that was flowing through the crowd was perfect with the opener of Outside the Inside, bringing smiles to people’s faces. Cheese kept tearing it up with favorites like Can’t Stop Now and Water, but really killed it when they brought out all of Dumpstaphunk to play Hey Pokey Way. This was just great, two of every instrument on the stage just jamming. Song in My Head was next, followed by Best Feeling. They finished the set with one of their new songs, Let’s Go Outside. The crowd seemed primed and ready for set two and the rest of the weekend.
With the two fan favorites of Shantytown and Howard starting the first set, I knew we were in for a great night. When they started into Restless Wind, the crowd just went crazy. Flashing lights and hoops, the fans were grooving to this Classic Cheese song. This led into Lands End and then into a great jam called the Peacock Jam. When Jason and Travis start their version of drums, I rarely see anyone take a break like at other shows. They really can keep a crowd going at the edge of exhaustion, and wanting more. When the rest of the band joined them back on stage, they busted into Magic Carpet Ride. The set ended with a really funky Rosie, with the crowd screaming for more. The encore was This Must Be the Place into the finish of Restless Wind. Epic first night, with two more left to go.
Saturday just had two bands on the main stage, The Infamous Stringdusters and Cheese. The Dusters were a perfect way to get the night going, killing it with the bluegrass twang that makes you want to stomp your feet. But the real treat this night was going to be the second set of Cheese, where the band is the background music to a fire and water theatrical show in the bowl of the amphitheater. But we had an entire set to go before this could happen.
The first set started with old favorites like Miss Brown’s Teahouse, Sitting on Top of the World, and Mauna Bowa. This really set the tone for the night, which was we were going to dance the night away. In the middle of the set they went into Birdland, an instrumental piece that sandwiched two great jams. The set ender of Rollover got the crowd primed for the spectacular that was about to happen.
The pit of the amphitheater was closed for the preparations of the spectacular. As Cheese came on the stage, they went into a slow building jam that would accompany the show. From the right of the stage, and large boat rolled into the pit, with pirates searching the shores. As the jam built, the pirates seemed to be fighting Sirens, fire flying everywhere. At one point, a flaming dragon was flying around the fight, causing havoc. When the boat left the stage it was carrying the Sirens, the winners of the battle, leaving the Pirates to sink down to the bottom of the sea. This launched into the water sequence of the show, where a Sea Dragon came floating out along with glowing jellyfish. The choreography of the show was great and the props showed so much imagination and flare, as a whole this was incredible. The best part was a huge floating Jellyfish, made over top of a huge helium balloon. This jellyfish floated what seemed like 50 to 75 feet in the air, moving up and down and giving the feeling we were in the ocean. As the jam peaked, the gates to the pit opened and the crowd flooded into the bottom of the amphitheater. This is why you go to Horning’s Cheese, because nowhere else do you get a show and a concert like there.
Cheese flowed directly into one of their new songs BollyMunster, an incredible mixture of Bollywood type music and Celtic jams. With the huge jellyfish still floating in the crowd, the band started a very pyscadelic Jellyfish. This flowed into Desert Dawn, a great Las Vegas, and then into Joyful Sound. The set closer of Colorado Bluebird Sky was epic, where the band jammed the song for close to 20 minutes. The night finished off with an encore of Could You Be Loved, a nice mellow way to end the night where many will be up until dawn for the bubble show on the lake.
The bubble show wasn’t the only thing that was happening on Saturday night, there was also a silent disco. This entails DJ’s spinning while the crowd wears headphones to hear what they are playing. Jason Hann came out to spin for about an hour and a half, keeping the fans dancing well into the night. This is an odd sight, about a 100 people dancing hard in almost complete silence. The night turned into dawn, and we shuffled down to the lake to see the bubble show. I wish the wind would have shifted, because all of the bubbles were popping on the ground before they could get to the lake. This didn’t stop the crowd from hooting and hollering for the bubbles before they popped. All I needed at that moment was to sleep, and prepare for one more night of Cheese.
Sunday morning was overcast and drizzley, letting the partiers sleep that extra bit so we could get down later that night. Sam Bush’s band started the afternoon off right with some incredible jammy grass. As it was the last day, there seemed to be more people in the lawn than in the pit, but they were still dancing hard. It’s amazing how much energy this crowd had after three nights of music, still dancing that frantically to the opening act.
Sam Bush joined Cheese for the first four songs of the set, adding that little extra to one of my favorites Whiskey Before Breakfast. He also killed it on a really jammy MLT, helping bring the energy of the crowd up that much more. One Love was next, a great way to settle down after all of the jamming. This led into the SEG Jam then Lonesome Fiddle Blues. Struggling Angel was a song dedicated to their lost friend and Super fan Sarah Elizabeth Gewald. There was a lot of emotion going through the crowd when they played this, tears and hugs all around. The sense of community here is awe inspiring. Cheese finished the set with Galactic into Smile, bringing the energy back to the dancing crowd.
The final set of the night started of strong, and just built until the end. Black Clouds was first, followed by an incredible Rivertrance with Sam Bush on the Mandolin, and Kang tearing up the stage with his fiddle. This all lead into Eye Know Why, and then they played Late in the Evening, a song I’ve been dying to hear them play for ten years. All I have to say is that it was AWESOME. It Is What It Is was next, then into a truly jammy Big Shoes. The set closed out with a sandwich of Close Your Eyes/Rocket Man/Close Your Eyes, a fun way to end an incredible weekend. The encore of Just One Story was a perfect cap to the festivities, with people all around hoping this will happen again next year.
It is hard to summarize such an amazing experience with so many little things that made the whole shebang incredible. To have a festival go off this smoothly with mostly volunteers is astounding. Horning’s is a place for reunions of friends and families, with the music used as a soundtrack to the time we all spend at this magical place. It was great to see all of the old friends, and make a few new ones. If Cheese does it again next year, I will most definitely be there making new friends and relaxing in the beauty of the Northwest.