String Cheese Incident: Untying The Knots
Originally published in the August of 2007, this piece looks at String Cheese Incident at the moment when the band made its decision to take some time off the road. The group has since returned to the stage together and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, however this piece examines some of the issues that led to the group’s hiatus.
There is one topic about which the members of the String Cheese Incident are in absolute accord.
When asked to pinpoint what they hope others would identify as the group’s legacy, the six musicians to a man respond, “community.”
Bassist Keith Moseley’s thoughts on this subject echo those of his band mates: “I hope people would say that String Cheese has been an instrument to bring people together in a safe, supportive, loving environment, helping ideas to connect and flourish while building community.”
Beyond that things get a bit fuzzy.
Whether the final assessment of that legacy should begin in August 2007 after the group’s four night stand at Red Rocks or whether the end will come five, ten or even twenty years later is a matter of conjecture. So too, which members of the current band will be part of that future, and possibly even the very name of the collective.
Indeed, as Moseley adds with a chuckle, “Now that you spoken to all of us, I think you probably have a good grasp of what’s going on. You’ll pass it on to your readers and then we’ll read about it and we’ll know ourselves.”
What can be said with some measure of certainty is that shortly following the String Cheese Incident’s late October performance at Vegoose, the group issued a statement explaining that after the summer of 2007, the band’s co-founder, Billy Nershi, would be leaving the group and that there were no immediate plans for String Cheese beyond that point.
While the band members uniformly take pride in the music they’ve created over the past fourteen years as well as the web of relationships they have fostered, all of this has emerged against a backdrop of intense interpersonal exchange, accommodation and compromise. The process has proven exhilarating yet also enervating and it certainly has taken its toll.
The story of the String Cheese Incident’s decision to step away from the stage for an indeterminate period of time, raises a number of issues specific to the personalities and circumstances of this particular group. Yet the forces that are tugging at it are those faced not only by this band but most every band a decade and a half into its career. Moreover, these very concerns resonate with just about anyone, artists and audience members alike, advancing in years and coming to terms with the seemingly inevitable questions regarding commitment and contentment in relation to family relations and fiscal freedom.“It used to be we’d just play music and rehearse and put all our energy into that. Then people started feeling the responsibility of having a business and having to pay their mortgages and some of the rehearsal time turned into pow-wows about what was going on with people’s lives and what needed to happen. I was starting to feel I wasn’t necessarily doing it for the ya yas anymore more but rather to maintain the level of responsibility to all these people who were working with us, not only the band members but the crew. Sometimes going on tour felt more like a weight than the expression of joyful freedom that it used to be.”
The author of that statement, is not, as one might expect, Bill Nershi but rather Michael Kang, as he reflects on the current state of the group. Indeed while Nershi has certainly taken the initiative and without question is the architect of SCI’s current path, a number of his band mates share his sentiments on the issues that have come to the fore.
“There are many factors,” the guitarist affirms, “as to why I’m taking a different path from String Cheese. There’s probably 5 or 6 different reasons all balled up. I won’t paint a rosy picture of what’s going on, it’s real. I don’t want people to say that everything’s groovy and that we just need to find ourselves. It’s gritty stuff.”
Those who nonetheless might wish to view his proclamation as a potentially-reversible whim, should understand that this is not the first occasion in which Nershi has wrapped his shaggy head around these issues and reached a similar conclusion. As he recalls, “Three years ago I told the band I didn’t want to continue to play. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. But my family and the band members talked me into continuing.”
This time Nershi’s inner circle was not so persuasive and to understand why, it is necessary to look back at the group’s origins.
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