Concert promises to be packed

Officials ponder possible incidents to come with Cheese

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— Since the Colorado band String Cheese Incident began playing music in ski town bars for lift tickets in the early 1990s, the five-member, high-energy group has developed a following that descends on the communities where ever the band plays.

On July 3-4, that following will descend on Steamboat Springs, as String Cheese performs two concerts that are part of the Independence Incident Music Festival. It may be unlike any crowd Steamboat Springs has seen in recent concert history, and everyone from law enforcement officers to event organizers aren't quite sure what to expect.

Jason Mastrine, ticket manager for the band, said the group's following is like a community akin to the fans who followed the Grateful Dead around the countryside before that band broke up in 1995.

Putting the String Cheese fans together with the fan bases of the other acts performing at Independence Incident, such as Ben Harper and Blues Traveler, will create a diverse throng of people in Steamboat Springs, said John Waldman, concert promoter for Mountain Events Inc. He expects up to 15,000 people for the concerts.

Waldman, who has promoted similar concerts, said there sometimes is a misconception about what type of people follow these bands around.

"It's a good community," he said. "They look out for themselves and they care about the communities that they are Coming From Everywhere

Joe Kboudi is selling tickets for the two concerts through his local music store, All That Jazz. He said the number of people buying the tickets are strong and they are mostly from out of town.

"There are people calling from all over the state and lots of calls from out of state," he said.

Waldman said many concert-goers will camp at campgrounds provided at the Meadows parking lot near the tennis bubble and in the Routt National Forest.

Ray George, district recreation manager for the U.S. Forest Service, said he is slightly concerned about the camping, mainly for sanitary reasons.

He suspects Buffalo Pass will hold a large number of concert campers, many of whom will simply pull to the side of the road.

Those involved with String Cheese Incident expect their following to be even larger this summer because the popular jam band Phish is not touring. The thousands of people who followed that group may be looking for another band to see.

"We are always wondering how something like that will affect our scene," Mastrine said. He added that with fan growth comes the impact those people will have on the towns String Cheese visits.

"We have been concerned about that," Mastrine said. "But we have the benefit of looking back on the Grateful Dead and Phish years and we are not trying to accept the inevitable."

Mastrine's concern is that fans who followed the Grateful Dead and Phish were occasionally not conscientious of their impact on the towns they visited.

Both groups were banned from Red Rocks Amphitheater on the Front Range, for example, because the large crowds had too much of an impact on the area.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said he and other law enforcement officials are putting as many officers as possible on duty during Independence Day, but he is optimistic things will go smooth.

"We don't know what kind of impact this concert is going to have," Warner said.

He said police officers would look for the obvious drug use and drinking and driving.

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