Fans flock to Independence Incident

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— Die-hard Blues Traveler fans baked in the 90-degree heat Tuesday afternoon, while other concert-goers found every bit of shade available while awaiting the arrival of The String Cheese Incident.

"It was 90 in Denver," one fan said. "I came up to the mountains to get away from the heat."

Swarms of people many devotees of The String Cheese Incident subculture and others just music fans in general surrounded the stage at the base of Mount Werner as the two-day music festival, The Independence Incident, got under way.

Matt Irvin of Tennessee arrived in Steamboat Tuesday for a birthday celebration with Blues Traveler, which opened for String Cheese Tuesday, that he hasn't missed in six years.

Irvin travels every year near the Fourth of July to see Blues Traveler at Red Rocks in Morrison he's been a traveling fan for 10 years.

"I've easily seen 75 shows. I love John Popper," Irvin said. "It's their edge, like you feel like they're going to explode."

Irvin said he hasn't seen Popper, lead singer of Blues Traveler, since Popper's recent surgery that helped the singer shed much of his weight.

"He looks great. He used to have this vest that was lined with pockets for his harmonicas. I don't know why he isn't wearing it. Maybe it doesn't fit anymore," Irvin said.

As fans twirled their hula-hoops and danced barefoot in the grass as Blues Traveler performed, Popper reminded the crowd that water is a necessity in the altitude and heat.

Todd Gledhill, nurse intern at Yampa Valley Medical Center, said he saw people come into the EMT tent for sunscreen and inquiries about the free water stands.

"There's a free water tent and a mister over there spraying people with water," Gledhill said of a water hose under the Headwall chairlift.

One fan who goes simply by the moniker "Traul" said the water hose is helpful but complained that there are not enough free drinking-water stations.

"I like that they spray you down while you're waiting, but you're waiting 15 minutes," Traul said.

Traul, like other residents of Steamboat, has never seen a festival this large in Steamboat before.

"I think String Cheese brings a really good crowd. It's a little weird seeing a big group like this in Steamboat," Traul said of the crowd and the bands.

Traul has attended about 30 String Cheese shows and said he hopes this year's event will go well enough that the festival returns next year.

"They're so fun. You're dancing with like 10 to 15,000 people and you're all moving together. You connect with some of them in a way," Traul said.

Traul complained about the traffic the festival has brought to Steamboat, but local law enforcement said the event is going rather well considering the thousands of people the event has drawn.

"Things have been good. No problems," said officer Ken Johnson of Craig, who stood with his partner near the top of the crowd. "We just make sure everybody's OK."

Regan Fox with Event Security Management of Denver said she watches to make sure there's no underage drinking and fans don't sneak into the concert.

"Obviously, every show you have someone (doing those things), but this is nothing out of the ordinary," Fox said.

Vendors tried to hawk everything from food to clothes at the event, but found their setup near the top of the Headwall not exactly what some had expected.

Carla Lewis of Charm School said vendors typically set up camp near the entrance for fans to see the merchandise as they walk by.

"There's a lot of people here, but we're kind of removed from them," Lewis said. "There's no reason for them to come up here. We should be doing a lot better."

Lewis said she's digging the concert and enjoys the shade, though she wishes her booth could be a little closer to the crowd traffic.

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