Beware of spinning dreadlocks—String Cheese Incident is coming to town 

It doesn’t matter if you can’t pick a mandolin with mind-numbing speed and grace, or slap 20 pieces of percussion with coordinated tenacity and rhythmic focus. You don’t even need to dedicate countless hours of practice, organize schedules with your pot-smoking musician friends or wait for an opening at a local open mic night. Instead, take the opportunity to enter an elite league of musicians by lugging your hide to one of the String Cheese Incident’s next Garden City shows.

The only instrument you’ll need to sit in with this Crested Butte, Colo., jam band is the multi-cellular organism that you call yourself. The band will create a dynamic resonance that sucks you in and keeps you gyrating, all the while planting permagrins on any mug within earshot.

Indeed, the best way to experience the Cheese is to bring your instrument directly to the front of the theatre, and be prepared to dance. Any shape or size of instrument will do, as they all harmonize beautifully into the rich orchestral experience of an Incident. That’s really the reason people dance and spin at shows anyway—to join the band in the only way possible.

Even though you won’t be on stage, the intimate audience interaction will have you feeling like a member of the band; all the while cranking the Cheese-wattage and seamlessly rolling the song into an even speedier tune. But beware of the spinning dreadlocks, thick as baseball bats and coming around like Babe Ruth.

The Cheese haven’t always been selling out venues that bring in thousands of people. In the spring of 1997, fewer than 50 people showed up at Jay’s Upstairs to hear this quintet, at that point virtually unknown here in the Northern Rockies. Four years and more than 600 shows later, they’re performing in Missoula for the fourth time, hot off the release of their live double CD, Carnival ’99. This world-beat/jazz-grass compilation showcases live performances from across the country, including two raging tracks from their March 1999 show at the University Theater.

SCI started off in 1993 playing shows for ski lift tickets in Colorado, culturing a following of Cheeseheads, or “Pirates,” wherever they went. Four CD’s and seven years later, they’re still true to their roots: This year’s tour is centered around towns with ski areas. Indeed, their ski tour this winter brings them from Bozeman, and then they’re off to Spokane, Boise and northern California. According to Greg Keeler, music buyer at Rockin’ Rudy’s, “It’s a ski town tour, and they’re here for two days so they can ski the ‘Bowl.”

So although you may never be able to let your fingers run away from you down the frets of a six-string or thump away on a bass guitar, you can bring your body down to the Wilma for two nights of jamming defined.

The String Cheese Incident will be playing at the Wilma Theatre on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door.

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