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Despite its growing popularity, Colorado's String Cheese Incident remains rooted.

World on a String

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The String Cheese Incident might be the biggest band you've never heard, but to an ever-expanding many, SCI is the biggest band in the world.

Made up of guitarist Bill Nershi, mandolin/violin extraordinaire Michael Kang, keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, bassist Keith Mosely, and drummer/percussionist Michael Travis, the Colorado jam quintet is currently undergoing a popularity surge the likes of which has not been seen since Kiss put makeup back on. Over the last few years, SCI has gone from playing bars and clubs to top-draw theaters and amphitheaters across the country. But one gets the impression that this is only the beginning of the ascent.

Since its formation in Crested Butte, Colo., in 1993, the band has remained independent. The members have created a miniempire with their own record label (which produces numerous other artists as well as SCI), merchandising company, ticket and travel agency. In the past year they released a full-length documentary-style video "Pura Vida," which follows them on their latest "International Incident" in Costa Rica. They have a DVD coming out that chronicles their New Years Eve "String Cheese Odyssey" from last year. They also just put out their fifth album, "Outside and Inside." As if their plate is not full enough, they have a touring schedule of about 95 shows this year, down from around 200 in years past.

And through it all, the soft-spoken boys in the band seem remarkably unfazed. Bassist Keith Mosely maintains their success feels like "a natural progression of things." This, he says, is what the band expected all along. "It's still about connecting with each other and putting out the same amount of energy, and really letting the music do its thing," he says.

And for those in doubt, the music does indeed do its thing. Originally a bluegrass outfit, SCI has expanded to incorporate jazz, funk, zydeco, reggae, trip-hop, space-techno and, of course, rock 'n' roll. "The one thing you can count on is that it will keep evolving, and we'll keep pushing new directions," Mosely says.

The growth of the band has led to bigger sound, bigger lights and bigger production, and the transition has been quite easy. Mosely acknowledges a loss of intimacy outside the club setting (where they still play on occasion). But playing to larger crowds adds something else. "The collective energy of a group of 8,000 is a powerful thing," he says, while the support of the crowd gives the band "an extra confidence to kind of go for it."

Since SCI's fan base ranges from fortysomething Deadheads to baseball-capped frat boys, the predominant atmosphere facing the stage is one of peace, love and boogie. As with most improvisational troupes on the road today, SCI is quick to credit the fans for its success, and in light of recent national tragedies, is happy to be doing its part in the healing.

"I think being able to come do our thing and spread some positive vibes, and provide an opportunity for fans to get together and have a sense of community is a cool thing, and I think we feel really thankful that we can do that," Mosely says.

SCI has conquered the East Coast, the West Coast, Colorado, the Midwest and Texas, and has played in Mexico, Jamaica and Costa Rica. Plans of an overseas tour for early 2002 are now on hold, but given the band's passion for travel, it will most likely happen sooner than later.

"Travel is a part of what really drives us to get out and tour," Mosely says, "we get to get out and see different parts of the world." When asked about the band's relentless schedule and business ventures, Mosely chuckles and says, "I don't think we mind putting in the extra time to control our own destiny a bit. It can be trying, but we're finding some free time here and there."


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