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String Cheese Incident is movin’ on up

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Percussionist Michael Travis said the goal of his band, the String Cheese Incident, was always to be successful.

"We had a vision of making it big," Travis said during a telephone interview from his bedroom in Boulder, Colo. "We always dreamed of playing Red Rocks (amphitheater) and working hard to get to that point. What has happened now is, all the details are falling into place."

Travis, bassist Keith Moseley, guitarist Bill Nershi, pianist/accordionist Kyle Hollingsworth and mandolinist/violinist Michael Kang — collectively known as the String Cheese Incident — will play two nights, Feb. 23 and 24, at the Val A. Browning Center at Weber State University in Ogden. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale at all TicketMaster outlets and at Fred Meyer and Graywhale CD exchanges. Tickets are also available online at www.sfx.com or can be charged by phone by calling 325-SEAT.

"Other than the goals we had, I personally didn't have any idea that I would be playing music for a living," Travis said. "When I first started playing hand drums 15 years ago, I had enrolled in a class at (University of California) Santa Cruz. And it got me into beats and rhythms. I was into bands like Santana, which was a change from the others I was into before, like Pink Floyd."

When Travis moved to Crested Butte, Colo., he began playing in a real band. "It took me by surprise," he said. "I knew that I'd rather be playing in a band than flipping burgers, or whatever I was doing at that time."

Shortly thereafter, Travis hooked up with another band, which they decided to call the String Cheese Incident.

"One of the biggest challenges of being in the band is getting along with the other people," he said with a laugh. "When you're in a band, you're in a marriage. And it's hard to be together when the others are driving you crazy!"

Another challenge was trying to shake the "jam band" label.

"We're a rock band that plays a lot of improvisational music," Travis said. "A jam band is basically, at least to me, a band where someone will solo for a long time and the band will back that soloist. We're different because we play together as a band and move in different directions together."

But that aside, Travis said the band has remained true to its goal of playing bigger and better places. "All the people we've played with have been like a dream," he said. "We are very lucky to be where we are today."

A band that has made a big impact on the String Cheese Incident is Los Lobos. In fact, saxophonist Steve Berlin produced the new SCI album, which is due out in May. "We played with Los Lobos last year and he liked what we were doing. We told him if he liked what he heard, then maybe he'd be interested in producing the new album."

Having Berlin on board marks the first time in SCI's history it has used an outside producer. "It was like putting on a comfortable slipper," Travis said. "Steve knew when to push an issue and when to back off. I, personally, am really psyched for the new album."

Although it's a new album, Travis said SCI fans who have followed the band will recognize the songs.

"We play them live all the time," he said. "But they were never put on our own CD."

E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com