String Cheese Incident bouncing back to Park City
Although individual members of the jam band String Cheese Incident have played in Park City, the band, as a whole hasn’t played Park City in quite a while.
In fact, madolinist Michael Kang isn’t sure when SCI last played in town.
"I’ve been there a couple of times in the past few years and various iterations of us and our individual projects have gone there a few times," Kang said during a phone interview with The Park Record from his home in Boulder, Colo. "Let’s see, I was at the Sundance a couple of years ago and then I was at Canyons with my buddy Chris Berry, but I can’t remember the last time String Cheese was there."
Kang won’t have to worry about that because the String Cheese Incident will return to Park City and play the Snow Park Amphitheater at Deer Valley on Tuesday, July 10, at 6 p.m.
Needless to say, he’s looking forward to the band’s return.
"We’re psyched to get back into the mountains and Utah," Kang said. "We remember when Park City was the most raging ski town we went to."
SCI, which regrouped after an extended break, chose Park City because the band members Kang, guitarist Bill Nershi, bassist Keith Moseley, keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, drummer Michael Travis and percussionist Jason Hann wanted to play shows in places they haven’t been for a while.
"These days we play so infrequently that normally we end up playing bigger shows and places, Kang said. "So, it’s fun for us to add a couple of these venues.
"We’re playing Park City this time and we’re also going to play Flagstaff, Arizona, where we haven’t been to in 10 or 12 years," he said.
Small ski towns are close to the band’s heart, Kang said.
"We love all those towns because we all live in the mountains so places like that are like our hood," he said.
Kang grew up playing classical violin, but his heart wasn’t into it.
"Since I was seven and up through high school, but I kind of knew that wasn’t my music," he said. "I was never super passionate about classical music."
So, he picked up guitar for fun.
"I lived in the Bay Area and I would listen to Santana and the Dead and the San Francisco rock scene," he said. "That opened up a whole new world and then I started playing fiddle again recreationally with a couple of friends in the early 1990s when I lived in Alaska being a river guide.
"That was the most fun I ever had playing music because I wasn’t sitting stiffly in a suit," he said. "And that morphed into what I’m doing now."
In 1992, Kang moved to Crested Butte, Colo., to ski, and that’s where he met Nershi.
"Billy and I got together and started playing some bluegrass and got free ski passes," Kang said. "That hooked us, because we could ski all day and play gigs at night."
Also, the Colorado music-festival scene added fuel to the fire, he said.
"The band is kind of like a lifestyle choice more than anything at times," he said. "When we started touring, our first stops were Park City, Jackson Hole and the other ski towns in the West. We did that for years before we played any real metropolitan cities."
The band developed a following and by the next year, Kang and the boys knew they had reached a crossroads.
"For a while, before we had management and booking agents, we played for fun and then it got to the point that if we really wanted to do it, we had to give it a go," he said. "So, we all moved to Boulder and committed to being in a band and bought a bus together. We all decided if we were going to make it work, we’d have to travel and ‘spread the gospel,’ so to speak."
String Cheese Incident forged its identity by being on the road and playing 200 shows a year, Kang said.
"It was trial by attrition to a certain degree," he said with a laugh. "We actually survived, and the music was strong enough where people caught on to the vibe."
With the popularity came the demands.
"It took us for a ride," Kang said. "We were like bystanders, but also participants. We held on and rode it out with a lot of intention."
As with any job, there comes a time when workers need a break, and SCI was no different.
"Anything you do for a long period of time, you find it’s easy to fall into a rut," Kang said. "We had played so many gigs together and it took a lot of time and energy to plan a tour and for it all to come together. So, basically, our lives were constantly planned a few years in advance and to a certain degree, we lost control of ourselves and the constant grind burned us out.
"I think we just needed to step away from it all and that was the first time in 15 years where any of us had a chance to not think about when the next gig was coming up," he said. "It was a tremendous relief to live our lives."
Members of the String Cheese Incident regrouped for the 2010 Rothbury Festival in Michigan after nearly a year of solo and side projects.
"We weren’t planning on playing more than that, but we had such a good time that we decided to come back and play shows and places we really wanted to play instead of playing to pay the bills," Kang said. "With that attitude, things are more enjoyable and the time pressure is not nearly as intense."
The past two years have been interesting for the band, because of the rejuvenated outlook.
"The thing is we’re also musically growing and playing new music, so it’s challenging and it feels different, because we’re doing something we enjoy again," Kang said. "It’s nice to be in control rather than to have the momentum of the band drag us around."
The band is even working on new music.
"We get together a month before we do a group of shows and introduce new songs to each other," he said. "While releasing an album isn’t a priority for us, but releasing new material is. We aren’t planning to release a new album, but we want to release some new songs. We do want to get the music out there, but we don’t feel it’s important to release and album and tour to support it."
So, the new works will be released in the form of two- to three-song extended play CDs or a CD single, which will be released every two months, Kang said.
"We feel it’s important to have that connection with our fans," he said. "We have a large fan base, but not like a pop band and most of our fans come to multiple shows. And since we’re not the type of band where someone sees one show and feels they have seen all we can do, we also try to make our tickets affordable. We have our own ticketing and record company to have that direct link to our fans.
"Our fans have treated us well and it is important to give something back to them," he said.
The Colorado jam band String Cheese Incident will play the Snow Park Amphitheater at Deer Valley on Tuesday, July 10, at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $49.95 and available at tickets.fteslc.com.
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