A slice of Cheese
String Cheese Incident to jam into Chico for a show at the Senator
These concert-goers ain’t no twirlin’ hippies. They’re more like hoopin’ hippies! The Hula-hoop is back, and über jam band The String Cheese Incident’s fans are leading the charge.
The group’s extended performances/jams leave their “normal” fans drenched in sweat from the dancing fury the band’s music inspires, but the hoopers, dancing to the circular rhythm of the plastic hoop, get downright aerobic! Chicoans will get a chance to experience this first-hand July 17, when the group performs at the Senator Theatre.
String Cheese’s musical fusion of bluegrass, jazz and funky rock first hit the scene in Colorado in 1993. Playing for ski-lift tickets early on, the band was formed by violinist Michael Kang, guitarist Bill Nershi, bassist Keith Mosely and percussionist Michael Travis.
To complete its rhythmic cohesion, the group added pianist Kyle Hollingsworth, who, even though he’s been with the band since ‘96, is still the “new” guy.
“The meaning of our band name is a secret,” Hollingsworth said, in a recent phone interview, adding, “It’s still a secret to me too. The guys said they would tell me after I had been in the band for 10 years—which is coming up.”
Hollingsworth described SCI’s music as a melting pot of bluegrass, calypso, salsa, Afro-pop, funk, rock and jazz, and he suggested the band might attempt to play anything “under the sun.”
What makes the Cheese rise above other touring bands is the close bond its members have formed with their fans. SCI has a hippie-friendly community that follows its every move—similar to how fans used to follow the Grateful Dead and currently do the same with Phish—around the country.
“From the beginning we have kept close with the String Cheese community; it is almost family-like,” Hollingsworth said. “They have helped spread our word by trading and passing tapes throughout their communities.”
Before SCI performs, there is a lot of work to be done. This is where the dedicated fans come in handy. Known as the String Cheese Pirates, these fans help to spread word of the band’s upcoming concerts by hanging posters or hyping up new CD releases. Over 10,000 pirates have signed up, via the band’s Web page, to spread the word.
SCI has even had fans follow it across the world. Each year the band hosts a concert outside of the United States, coined “an international incident.” The band most recently performed in Switzerland and has also jammed in front of its fans in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Mexico.
According to Hollingsworth, SCI’s goal in creating music is to inspire freedom and creativity through its audience, thus influencing the music with continuous fan support and contributions to the SCI community. The band has even created its own travel and ticketing agency to assure the cheapest concert tickets and affordable travel accommodations to shows.
SCI is extremely community-conscious, sometimes using concerts to help raise money for homeless shelters and continually holding canned-food drives at shows. At each stop on the band’s current tour, fans can get a different SCI poster if they donate 10 non-perishable food items.
Last summer, while hiking in Utah, fan Aron Ralston got his arm trapped under a boulder and was forced to cut it off with a small knife in order to survive. The band helped its fellow Coloradan raise money for his hospital bills with a benefit concert, called “Aron’s Incident.”
“Aron was coming to a lot of shows before his accident and is extremely outdoor-orientated, like the band, so we thought we would give back what he had given to us," Hollingsworth said.