The String Cheese Incident: Halloween Thoughts

By: Dennis Cook

Tickets for SCI's October 29th are available here. Tickets for the October 30th show can be purchased here.

Moseley as SRV :: Halloween '02
By Todd Radunsky
The String Cheese Incident hasn't played a Halloween run since 2006 in Las Vegas. Hunger for a fresh All Hallows' Eve Incident amongst their faithful, ever-colorful flock has been strong for years, and the band will soon feed that appetite on October 29-30 at the fabled Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, VA.

We snagged bassist-singer Keith Moseley to discuss the upcoming show, what the holiday means to SCI, the band's new archival Rhythm of the Road series, and the group's future plans.

JamBase: When did Halloween become such a big deal with you guys?

Keith: I think probably from the beginning we've always tried to make Halloween something special with the idea of being costumed and throwing in a bunch of fun cover tunes we don't ordinarily do. We've often run with a theme and had special guests, but it's always been about getting a little wacky and doing something special for the fans on Halloween.

JamBase: Is it fun for you to get into costume? It's not something one does at most gigs.

Keith: We love it! It's a chance to get silly and break from the norm. I'm thinking back to the year we did the Shrine in L.A. and did the dead rock star theme. I did Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kang did Hendrix and Travis was Freddie Mercury. When else do you get Travis up front with fake buck teeth and tights singing Freddie Mercury? It's always a blast to do that kind of thing.

Travis as Freddie :: Halloween '02
By Todd Radunsky
Has it become a challenge at this point to keep coming up with new angles for Halloween?

A little bit but there's a huge library of fun tunes to cover and we're pulling in some fun ones this time for sure. It's always fun to prepare a special event and we don't seem to have run out of creative ideas yet. We still have some fresh ones this year!

What is it like to preside over a giant size event like this, with enormous balloons and acrobats and so on? What is it like to be onstage making music while all this wildness goes off around you?

It's super cool. We get to be the party hosts for the coolest gig in town, wherever we are, be it a Halloween show at Hampton or a New Year's event. It's pretty amazing to get to host that sort of event and know we're blowing peoples' minds over & over again with a fantastic show.

What's the level of fan involvement in these sorts of shows? There's no question that String Cheese has one of the most loyal, engaged fan bases out there.

We do, and Halloween, as far as fan involvement, has traditionally been that they come dressed. Put on your funnest costume and be ready to have a good time. A huge majority of the fans in attendance are in costume, so it becomes a larger than life event. At Hampton to have 10-12 thousand people in costume plus what the band throws out there, well, you can't go wrong. It's a guaranteed good time.

I've talked to a lot of musicians about this and the consensus is that there's something different about playing to a costumed crowd. You can't do your normal show when there are ghouls and devils and fairies riding the rail.

It just ups the fun factor. The crowd gets into a headspace where they want the band to be different and take chances. At least for us, they definitely expect something different and maybe silly or risky from the band. And we won't disappoint. We're not afraid to laugh at ourselves on Halloween. We're all about high entertainment value.

Is it freeing as a musician to have a space like this, where you can think, "Well, I might fall on my face but I've always wanted to try this musical idea."

Sure. For us, on Halloween anything goes. We've covered Nirvana to Queen to Phish to The Doors. It definitely ups the fun for everyone.

SCI Halloween Show :: Vegas '05 :: by John Smirtic
How is it playing as String Cheese now that you're only performing together a handful of times each year as compared to years & years of being road dogs?

It's kind of fresh and exciting to have taken a break from the Cheese and then come back to prepare for Red Rocks and the Horning's run. And we've been in rehearsal for a couple weeks now for the Halloween run. It feels great because nobody's burnt out. At this point, we've reestablished a large part of our catalog from the tunes we played this summer and we're reeling in even more of the tunes for this Halloween run, which will feature even more tunes we didn't this past summer. So, it's been great to feel we have a handle back on a lot of the catalog. And that coupled with the new tunes for Halloween, it just feels really fresh and exciting.

From what footage I've seen of the Cheese's recent performances, I've picked up on a palpable sense of brotherhood onstage when you're together now. There's something going on in the way you look at each other, and you all seem very grateful that this experiment you started a long time ago is still going.

Absolutely. There's nothing like taking some time off to give you some perspective on what you have. We've gotten out of the grind of being out on the road and playing a 100-plus shows a year and being away from our families. Now we're at a really unique place where we're able to just do select events with lots of prep time for the shows. I think we do look at each other onstage like, "Wow, I'm really excited to be part of this, to be part of such a great scene and great band." Since December '93 when we first started doing this, we do look back and think, "Wow, look how far we've come. Isn't a treat to still be together and hosting events like this."

It's gotta be a kick in the ass to think you're staring down 20 years of this thing.

It really is cool. In the beginning we only dreamed it would be something like this, that it'd be a career that would span this many years, this many shows and so many friendships along the way and incredible memories. It's something you dream for and to realize it makes us feel super thankful and appreciative of what we've got.

The flipside of that is we absolutely know we have to come out and deliver now. There's absolutely no room to play a bad show or have an off night. We know that by only doing select dates we have to come out and hit it out of the park every night. So, we're trying our best to do that.

Kang Halloween Show :: Vegas '05
By John Smirtic
This situation also provides the band a chance to reflect on what's come before. I just listened to the first installment of the new Rhythm of the Road series. It's gotta be fun to look back and decide what shows you want to represent you as a band.

Right, right. That one's the Tabernacle from Atlanta in 2000, and that was has always been a fan favorite in terms of older shows. I had heard that and when I went back and listened to it as we mixed and mastered it, I realized there was a LOT of energy in that show. I can see why it is a fan favorite and I'm proud to put it out. That was 2000 and we were breaking into some bigger venues. My wife Kristen and I had just had our first kid, and that was her first show coming back after retiring from being the merch lady. So, I was really excited to see her again. We had our buddy Tony Furtado sitting in. We've been friends with Tony forever and he can really bring it! I think there's a lot of obvious enthusiasm and energy to that show and I think people are gonna love having a chance to revisit it.

What do you see as the studio future for the band? I think the past couple studio albums by the Cheese are easily your best thus far.

I do, too. I think we're all just maturing as musicians and songwriters, so the last couple albums have been really satisfying for us. I'm hopeful we'll be able to get into the studio in 2011 and do a release. We do have new material. We featured a couple new songs this summer and we'll continue to work new material into the repertoire. We're all excited about bringing in new material and working it up.

You guys have a real nose for good material lately, the kind of tunes you'll be able to play with and evolve over a long period of time.

That's just part of the maturation process. When you've been doing it as long as we have you naturally begin to filter things out and you learn what you like and don't like and maybe get more of an ear for a crafty pop hook or what's likely to make a great jam. It's exciting to bring new stuff in and see what the band do with it.

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[Published on: 10/20/10]

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