William Munoz

(Missoula Current) Back in Crested Butte and Telluride in 1993, three musicians – Michael Jang, Bill Nershi and Keith Moseley – began playing together. Influenced by bluegrass and rock, they took on the name The String Cheese Incident, SCI (the significance of the name is known only to these three original members).

Kyle Hollingsworth, who joined the band a year later, told me they would let him know how the name came about after they had performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater 50 times, a feat that will happen this July12.

Their first album, "Born on the Wrong Planet," has songs the band continues to play to this day, including the title song that they played at the Kettlehouse 'incident' June 30.

While you might think a band who is still playing the same song 28 years later very well might be stuck in a rut, with SCI the opposite is the case. Each show is unique; the song from 1996 is played differently in 2024. This is what distinguishes SCI.

“Musically, we explore every evening. That in itself in a unique incident, so you never hear the same song the same way twice,” said Hollingsworth.

This musical exploration is what makes jam bands like SCI so interesting and able to generate loyal and often huge followings like the Greatful Dead, Phish or Umphrey's McGee. These bands are also inspired by a wide range of musical genre, but for String Cheese Incident this includes rock, electroncia, calypso, country, funk, jazz, Latin, reggae and psychedelia.

If this seems to be a recipe for confusion you'd be wrong. They don't plan what they will be playing each night. Having been together from the beginning, each member knows and trusts the others that they “know” what they are doing with a particular song on a particular night.

“We are planning to explore and planning to get lost on a nightly basis. That's what makes it unique, our willingness to go out on a limb that not only makes it exciting for us but what the fans want to see,” said Hollingsworth.

Each member of the band brings his own latest musical obsession to the others who, with the years of trust, makes the song come alive with a different vibe that the others are willing to follow. They encourage people to record the performances much as the Greatful Dead did. They also live stream the concerts. Both may not be good business models, but they're great social and musical experiences for the fans.

Hollingsworth observed that music creates “something that is deeper than just your favorite song on the radio. It is something about the gathering to hear music, maybe it's a tribal thing, a community bringing together. You're generally with your favorite people and start to generate memories of that time that you want to relive every time you go to see music.”

A sense of unity is created at most live concerts. The fans of String Cheese Incident were certainly united this past weekend at the Kettlehouse Amphitheater.

String Cheese Incident

Gallery Credit: William Munoz/Missoula Current