Alas, all good things must come to an end – but for fans of Colorado jam-band favorites String Cheese Incident, it might have come too soon. It was sudden, and as if some sort of cosmic alignment dictated the band should call it quits. At a time when those on the far right lost their Rumsfeld, those on the far left (musically) will have to find a new band. “I’m kind of sad about it,” said Brett Cropp, a longtime fan and Brown University junior. “Maybe it’s a sign I need to move on and have different priorities in life – at least musically.”String Cheese Incident (or SCI to diehards) formed in 1993 in Boulder, but in the beginning they often played ski resorts in exchange for lift tickets. They were one of many bands who took up the Grateful Dead’s road-weary mantle and toured constantly, building a fanbase out of dedicated fans who followed them like Deadheads. “I haven’t been to their shows in a while, but I always had a great time,” Andrew Harley, Summit Daily Web editor, said. “Shows were filled with a positive beat, and everyone there seemed like generally kind individuals. The crowds they attracted were what attracted me, not their music – I liked their scene.”Many fans echo this sentiment – though they were avid live patrons, they’d be hard-pressed to name a song.
“Their shows were awesome, but I’d see how they wanted to move on,” said Dan Glickman, owner of the Get Hi Gallery. “I don’t really know the songs by name – the concerts are definitely where it’s at.” SCI gained a reputation for taking the jam-band formula – extended solos and jams built around musical improvisation – and attaching it to a bluegrass foundation. Many fans give glorious testimony to their bluegrass covers of non-bluegrass songs, like Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice.” But in recent years, SCI moved away from bluegrass and perhaps alienated some fans in the process. “They lost me with ‘Untying the Knot,'” said Thomas Heriot of Mojo Records in Avon. “I have so many great memories of going to Incidents, but after that last album, it’s like they wanted to go darker and more emotional.” “I was more attracted to their early style,” Cropp said. “Recently it’s been more electronic and less eclectic, which leaves less room to expand creatively. It seemed like they were trying to break away from bluegrass to form a separate identity.” Most SCI members are engaged in side projects, and their impending end in 2007 means they can concentrate on those non-Cheese projects.
“They all have their own projects,” Harley said. “I’m sure they’re excited to work on individual stuff.” But band breakups take on a different meaning in the jam-band world. Phish has performed from time to time since their “demise,” and rarely do jam bands break up with the same acrimony as most rock bands. The breakup message left on SCI’s Web site mentioned only that guitarist and unofficial band leader Bill Nershi will leave in 2007, and SCI doesn’t have any shows planned after that. Because of precedent, fans have reason to be optimistic about future Incidents. “They’ll probably get back and play a reunion show,” Harley said. “They may be more excited about their side projects, but they’ll get back together when they feel like it,” Cropp said.”You build up such a strong relationship in a jam band,” Glickman said. “You almost have an instinctual calling – cheesy as it sounds – to come back in and jam with the same people. In three or four years, if they’re going to jam with each other, why wouldn’t they want to share it with everybody?”
Arts & Entertainment Writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado