11/04/10

String Cheese Incident Gets Back to Work

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It’s no surprise that the String Cheese Incident contributed an awesome track (“Eyes of the World” from the Greek Theatre in L.A., 8/1/2001) to the Rex benefit CD Jerry Jams; the band and its members have been strong supporters of Rex for many years. Four of them–Michael Kang, Keith Moseley, Bill Nershi and Jason Hann –were on hand for the now-legendary “Comes a Time” tribute to Jerry Garcia. When Keller Williams rocked Denver’s Fillmore for Rex, Moseley was there. And Panjea, one of Kang’s side projects, was a big hit at the Sweet Music Everywhere benefit in 2008. In 2004, the band joined with Railroad Earth to play a concert celebrating Rex’s 20th anniversary.

band photo

The String Cheese Incident--L- R: Keith Mosely, Bill Nershi, Jason Hann, Kyle Hollingsworth, Michael Kang, Michael Travis. Photo: Taylor Crothers.

Culminating a return to touring in 2010 after a three-year hiatus, they played a pair of Halloween concerts October 29 and 30 at the fabled Hampton Coliseum, with part of the price of each ticket benefiting Rex and Rex grantees HeadCount and Conscious Alliance.

We caught up with Moseley a few days before the shows.

Rex Foundation: How’s the reunion going?

Keith Moseley, String Cheese Incident: We’re in rehearsal right now for our Halloween shows. We enjoyed some great shows this summer together — it was just time to do it again.

I think everyone’s intention in 2007 was not to walk away for good, but to give it a break. We’d been on a pretty regular schedule for many, many years, and various members had other projects pending.

There’s nothing like taking a break and reflecting on what you have to give you some good perspective. Everyone’s really fired up to get back together again; it’s been super positive musically and interpersonally to come back after doing some other things, and to put our energies back in one place with String Cheese and see what we can come up with. We’ve got some new songs we’re playing out, and working on some special treats for the Halloween show as well.

Rex: Is this a brief reunion, or are you back for a while?

SCI: We’re looking at a limited schedule in 2011. We’re not going to jump on the bus and bang out a bunch of dates, but we definitely are planning on playing a little more in 2011 than we did in 2010.

Rex: You’ve also just launched an archival series of live show releases.

SCI: Rhythm of the Road: Volume 1, Incident in Atlanta – 11.17.00 is part of an archive series.

Obviously, most of the shows have been available over the years for download or purchase. We’re taper friendly and always have been, and that’s a big part of the scene for us. But we’re kind of going back through the old shows and doing some re-releases of some of the fan favorites, the ones that have surfaced as favorite shows among some of the hardcore listening audience. We’re dragging out the old multitracks and giving them a remix, remix the master, and releasing them again in an updated, better-sounding format. Even though they’re fan favorites, a lot of them are not widely circulated, so we’re kind of excited to get those out to the fans.

Rex: Why did you pick this show to kick off the series?

SCI: We’re near the tenth anniversary for this show, and in some circles of the super fans who have collected a lot of shows, this one is often listed as one of the favorites. We thought it certainly merited a remaster, and being that it’s 10 years removed it seemed like a good time to do it.

Rex: Speaking of live tracks, you guys contributed a lovely one to Jerry Jams.

SCI: “Eyes” is a tune that we’ve done now and then. We played it again this summer at Horning’s Hideout and everybody got lost in it and played some great guitar.

The Greek version in LA was Jerry’s birthday. That’s something that I kind of try to keep track of–any time we have a show on Jerry’s birthday we definitely try to pull out a Jerry tune and pay some homage to one of our favorite all-time greatest singer/songwriters.

It was our first time to play at the Greek in LA, a monumental venue, and we were doing our best to tip our hat to Jerry, who has been a huge inspiration and a favorite to all of us for many years.

Rex: A lot of the Jerry Jams performances seem to have some great stories attached. I was talking to Brad Serling at Nugs.net, who put the collection together, and he says when Phish played “Terrapin Station” on August 9, 1998, they had never played a Dead song in public before. Apparently people are still talking about how the whole audience was in tears.

SCI: It’s a testament to Jerry and Robert Hunter. We’ve done plenty of their songs over the years; the songs stand the test of time. That’s why the Furthur project is still so popular now, I think–of course people like to see Bobby and Phil, but the bottom line is, it’s great music, great songs that stand the test of time, and people like to hear different interpretations of songs that have become American classics.

halloween 2001

Halloween 2001: A long tradition of Strange Cheese Incidents commemorating All Hallows' Eve...

Rex: You just recently played the Fourmile Canyon Revival benefit. What was that?

SCI: Most of us have lived in Colorado for many years. The Fourmile Canyon Fire was a big fire in the Boulder area, right around Labor Day weekend. Many people in the Boulder foothills lost their homes. There was a huge evacuation area; I lived in the evacuation area, though we were fortunate and our neighborhood was not burned.

It really had an impact on the community, so naturally we started brainstorming–hey, let’s do some kind of benefit to raise money for the victims and the volunteer fire department and people that were affected. That rapidly snowballed into a big event that included other local artists–Yonder Mountain String Band, Big Head Todd and The Monsters, Leftover Salmon–and then the Phish guys became involved as well.

As we found a day for the event, it turned out to be the day before Phish was going to do a three-night run in Broomfield nearby. They showed some interest in wanting to play as well, so Trey and Mike did an acoustic set and Page sat in with Salmon, Jon Fishman played with Yonder, and Trey sat in with us. It was great of those guys to lend their support.

I believe we raised over half a million dollars for the fire relief fund, and the event brought the community together  in a real celebratory and healing way. I felt great that we were able to be part of something so large and make an impact helping people who lost so much. (Sets from the benefit are available for download here).

Rex: You’ve also got Halloween shows coming up, with Rex among the beneficiaries. What’s that going to be like?

SCI: Hulaween 2010 is coming up at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton VA–kind of a legendary venue that we’ve never played.  It has a long legacy of some great Dead shows, some great Phish shows.  The fans on the East Coast love going to the Hampton Coliseum, so we’re looking forward to that.

After our tradition of Halloween, we’ll have a middle set on the Saturday night. It’s going to be a costume ball; we always have some theme that we run with, and a bunch of fun cover songs that we like to throw into the mix. Fans should expect the unexpected–see the Cheese get some crazy costumes and playing some fun covers.

We’re really looking forward to it–it’s the first time we’ve played the East Coast in many years, since 2006 or ’07. It’s been a long time.

The summer shows were a lot of fun. I think everyone in the band feels reenergized about playing again, excited about the upcoming Halloween shows. Look for the band to play a little bit more in 2011. We’re excited and thankful to be back, and look forward to reconnecting with some old friends and fans along the way.