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Published: 2012/07/06
by Dean Budnick

"Can’t Wait Another Day": Back on Tour with the String Cheese Incident

Photo by Larry Hulst

After returning to the road this past fall for its first tour in over four years, the String Cheese Incident is at it again this summer. The group is following three nights at the Electric Forest festival with three more at Red Rocks and then will head west before bringing things to a close with three nights at Horning’s Hideout. On Thursday morning, just prior to the sound check before the first night at Red Rocks, the group’s Michael Kang took a few moments to discuss the current run of dates, which saw the band debut a new original song, “Can’t Wait Another Day,” with more to follow…

Tonight you open your three show run at Red Rocks. Can you talk about the venue has meant to yourself and the band over the years?

Being a band from Colorado, Red Rocks is kind of like the holy grail of gigs in a lot of ways. I mean, you can work your entire career and feel like that is the culmination. Just all the lore and the history there.

For us, moving to Boulder and where we stand with it now, in a lot of ways it’s kind of a homecoming for us. Over the years, we’ve been pretty lucky to have arguably the best live music venue in the country right on our doorstep and get to call it home. It’s been a progression. One of the first years we played, we were the opening band on this thing called “Telluride on the Rocks.” Beginning in the early ‘90s, it seemed like for us everything that happened at Red Rocks was pretty much the zenith of everything that we could’ve imagined happening to us. So, 20 years later, to be able to go into it and feel like it’s a homecoming is a pretty awesome feeling.

You mention that it’s like a homecoming, I’m sure there was all measure of excitement that first year and for your first headlining gig. These days how do you approach the Red Rocks shows?

When it comes down to it, Red Rocks is a marquee gig in so many ways and every time we do it, we enter it with a level of excitement and nervousness. It’s always great when people get to go there but we want to feel like we’re not just doing the same old thing, that every time we go there, we’re bringing something new to the table. You’ll have to ask me in a few days.[laughing] Right now, we’re getting ready and about to go up for sound check so we’ll see.

There’s an added intensity with it being a hometown gig where a lot of our family members and people come out, so a lot of times we have to insulate ourselves from a kind of mayhem that comes with the territory because we have a lot of friends and family in the area and it can be a lot of energy to manage. So a lot of times when the band gets together we’re just trying to get into our regular gig-mood and do what we have to do to put on a good show. But yeah, even for me, I have a 20-month-old and both sets of grandparents are coming, so I’m definitely ready to kind of hide from all of that.

Your summer tour includes three marquee runs, which you kicked off at Electric Forest. Can you talk about your experience, the memories you’ll take away from this year’s event?

Well, you know, our management company Madison House [produces the event] and when our band took a hiatus in 2007-2008, I was working on production crew and was responsible for helping bring a lot of artists that were there doing a lot of installation art. So in a lot of ways, what it’s become now is a culmination as a joint effort to create what we envisioned a while ago at Horning’s Hideout and bringing it to a place in the middle of the country that people can experience.

It’s been working out great. There’s definitely a shift that’s happening in the jamband scene these days in terms of all the kids that are coming out who are definitely more versed with electronic music and all of the DJs. That is probably the biggest transition that’s happened in the music industry in the last 5 years, in terms of the jamband thing, anyway. So it’s pretty cool to see the amount of energy that they bring to the whole thing and then watching people like Lorin [Ashton aka Bassnectar] and knowing that I kind of introduced him to the whole jamband scene after finding him at Burning Man close to 10 years ago—just seeing how big he’s gotten.

It’s awesome to see because it’s a lot of our friends carrying the torch, and for us we’re like the elders in a lot of ways of this scene. I look out there, and I’m 41 now, and I see these kids that are like 17 probably just checking out String Cheese for the first time or even beyond that, they may be just checking out a live band for the first time. So it’s cool to see the worlds meet and knowing that it’s all born out of the same intention behind creating transcendental gathering spaces for people. It’s good to know that we’re all still involved in that.

Are you continuing to do your work outside your role as a musician in terms of art and other projects?

I try to help my artist friends get hooked up with festivals, but I’ve been super busy with building my own house and I have a baby now, Also, with String Cheese, even though we’re only playing 14 shows this summer, I’ve been either in rehearsal or getting ready ever since the beginning of May So, even though the number of shows isn’t a lot, the time commitment is actually quite intense. Especially now because I live in California, so for anything having to do with String Cheese I have to uproot and come to Colorado, and basically I’m on tour, whether or not we’re doing a show. So I haven’t really had that much time for other stuff. I don’t even get to go home until the end of July, so it’s pretty much two months on the road for me.

When I interviewed Kyle earlier this year, we spoke about rehearsal and he mentioned that last fall, some of the experience was as much about going on hikes together as it was about performing and getting up to musical speed. Can you talk a little about what the process was like this time?

Well I think whenever we get back in rehearsal, our most important intention is to try and polish up new songs and get as much creativity involved in the process as possible. There’s a certain amount of what I call regurgitation, or just having to get your chops back up with old stuff, but we don’t spend too much time on that. We spend a lot of time arranging and making sure that the new songs we put out are sounding good. Then there’s a fair amount of just hanging out, too.

We’ve been rehearsing up at Billy’s place because he has a studio, so we’ll just kind of hang out and get reacquainted. But the thing about us is we’ve known each other for so long that it’s not like there’s a big time period that it takes for us to get back on track. When we took two years off, when we came back and saw each other, two years is nothing when you have a 20-year relationship with somebody. We may not have even talked to each other for a couple of years but when we saw each other, it was hardly like any time passed in a lot of ways.

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