Stringing Together Some Thoughts: Michael Kang on the Incidence of Incidents
DB- In terms of cover tunes, is there anything you look back on now and characterize as, let us say, a brilliant mistake?
MK- One New Years Billy did “Little Red Corvette.” I don’t think we’ve repeated that since.
DB- When the band started playing what were your expectations? Did you think that you would be where you’re at now?
MK- No, it was more haphazard. We started because it was fun, and it was a good way not to have to work during the days in a ski town. It kind of chose us in a lot of ways. At first we traveled around Colorado from ski resort to ski resort and then we started playing out at surrounding ski towns Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, and Salt Lake City.
At one point about two years into it people were thinking about doing different things and we had to make a commitment. Then we all moved to Boulder and just made it happen from there. It’s really taken off and started creating its own momentum.
DB- From my perspective it seemed like you were very popular in the east before you even made it out here. To what would you attribute that?
MK- Our first east coast wasn’t like that. We came out in the fall almost two and a half years ago. We played the Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey and maybe fifteen people came. There were a lot of empty shows but still some word had made it east from Telluride Bluegrass. At that point back west we were selling out the Great American, so word traveled traveled especially through the internet. Word travels pretty far that way. The New Years Eve show with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead helped out quite a bit as well.
DB- What did you think of that experience?
MK- I had gone to a fair amount of Dead shows, so to be involved in something of that magnitude, and to be included in the Grateful Dead family- I felt privileged and honored to be a part of that. It was incredible to share the stage with that wide a range of different players.
DB- I heard many great things about your late night set.
MK- That was a lot of fun. We’d played in front of big crowds before but to do it in that kind of setting that early in the morning was really something special. Over the years a couple of late night shows have really gone to the extremes of solidifying the vibe of the band and I feel that was one of the landmark moments.
DB- I’d like to hear your thoughts on the role of the audience. First off, do you find that audiences vary from one region of the county to another?
MK- Definitely. When we’re in Colorado or California I think people are often a bit more familiar with the music in terms of the genres that we play. Out here, we’re still sharing our music with people who may not have heard some of the styles of music that we play. I think they like it but we’re used to really having people get up and boogey. We find people out here are standing around watching that’s going on, taking it all in. I can tell that they’re enjoying it but we really thrive off the dance energy that we can create at a show. It happens eventually. Ever single time we come out here it gets better.
DB- Fans like to hear that we are a part of the music. It often feels that way to us.
MK- It’s very much a circular energy exchange between the band and the audience, especially when you do it like we have over 150 days a year.
DB- How does that impact on your studio work? If you feed off that energy do you find that it is difficult to achieve performances that you’re happy with in the studio?
MK- The studio is a challenging thing. We’re so used to being a live band that going into the studio has been a challenge for us in terms of recreating the energy of our live performances without a crowd. I think the live album captures the energy of our shows. With this album we decided to use the studio, incorporating some overdubs and bringing in guest musicians to make it special. I think it came out well. I’ll also say that every time you go into the studio I think you become a better musician and you hone your craft. I also think that the studio is very much a science in its own right.
DB- Along with your New Years eve show, I know that many people were very happy with the Hoodoo Bash. What are your memories of that tour?
MK- That was probably one of the best things that has happened for us on the east coast, sharing the stage with Strangefolk and moe., and playing in front of that many people. We got exposed to a lot of people who never would have heard us before, and we’re still seeing the repercussions of that.
DB- One final question- as the band become more popular and you’re exposed to more and more people around the country, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the scene?
MK- We started out as part of a crossover scene. Most of our fans in Colorado are older fans, in many cases bluegrass fans, not necessarily a Deadhead type. it has kind of become that because we go out as as much as we do and try to bring many different experiences to every show. Over the last year and a half the crowd has become more of a younger crowd but there’s still a healthy mix of older bluegrass fans. I’ll tell you there’s really a healthy respect between crowd and band. Right now we feel that if the scene gets bigger it’s going to bring up some issues. We’re going to do whatever we can to keep it as healthy as possible because we try to live pretty healthy lives ourselves and don’t necessarily want to be dragged down with any negative connotations with drugs. It’s a tough thing to do because obviously music and psychedelia share quite a bit but that’s something we’ll have to cope with. But if there ‘s a message we can put out there, it’s “have a healthy respect for all the people around you and make it an experience that everyone can be comfortable at and share together.”