Key String Cheese member debuts in Buena Vista

The Buena Vista music scene continues to impress as the recently opened Ivy Ballroom will host the Ark Valley debut of the Kyle Hollingsworth Band at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at the Surf Hotel.

Hollingsworth’s musical prowess encompasses composition, keys and vocals, and his versatility is widely recognized through his multifaceted contributions to The String Cheese Incident, one of the country’s best jam bands by any measure. In addition to SCI and KHB, Hollingsworth has collaborated and performed with a wide range of world-class talent, including Paul Simon, Bruce Hornsby, Bob Weir, Little Feat, Dead and Company, Phil Lesh, Warren Haynes, Mickey Hart and Bela Fleck.

Kyle Hollingsworth, right and on projection screen, plays keyboards as a member of The String Cheese Incident during a performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Hollingsworth will perform with his own band at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, in the Ivy Ballroom at the Surf Hotel (photo by Joe Stone).

Versatility sets String Cheese apart from other jam bands, with every SCI performance covering a wide-ranging realm of genres – rock, funk, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, jazz, classical, psychedelia, reggae, pop and more. Such diverse musical terrain is Hollingsworth’s playground: “In the jam world, where there are no set ways of doing things, we’re not afraid to move in and out of genres, and because of that I’ve learned to be creative, not only onstage but in the studio.”

Hollingsworth brings the same versatility to the Kyle Hollingsworth Band, which includes Brian McRae on drums, Paul McDaniel on bass and Arthur Lee Land on guitar, who “plays a country meets rock style … like Jerry Garcia,” Hollingsworth said. “It should be a great fit for BV.”

Much like String Cheese, KHB thrives on the improvisation that defines the jam band genre but with a distinctive progressive rock flavor and a funky dance vibe. Reviewer George Graham goes so far as to write that KHB’s recent album, 50, “surpasses the (String Cheese Incident’s) last album (Believe).”

Hollingsworth composed all the songs on 50, which was released in March. The band recorded the album at the SCI Sound Lab, The String Cheese Incident’s new recording studio in Boulder, and if music is Hollingsworth’s playground, the new recording studio is his candy store.

“When it was still in the early stages, I would grab the key from (Michael) Kang’s pocket while he was sleeping, and I’d go there and record,” Hollingsworth laughed. “I think it’s been good for String Cheese. … We have more creative control, and it’s awesome to have all that in-house, to be able to take your time and not worry about the bills.”

Based on the evidence of the new album, the creative freedom agrees with Hollingsworth, and he’s quick to concur. “I let the music dictate which directions I’m going. I let the muse speak to me.”

Hearing Hollingsworth talk about his early influences, it’s not a stretch to recognize the threads of those musicians and bands in KHB’s tapestry of music: The Beatles, The Cars, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Stevie Wonder, Parliament and especially Parliament keyboardist Bernie Worrell.

“As I listen to music I enjoy, I get inspired,” said Hollingsworth. “I heard Talking Heads and I was like, ‘Where do these sounds come from?’ Talking Heads turned me on to more African-based influences.”

Given Hollingsworth’s schedule for 2018, his performance in BV is an opportunity not to be missed. For starters, what was once known as Kyle’s Brew Fest has morphed into Rocktoberfest, slated for Oct. 13 at Upslope Brewing Co. in Boulder.

Hollingsworth said the event will feature over 30 breweries along with Euforquestra and, of course, KHB. The event also benefits Conscious Alliance, which supports communities in crisis through hunger relief and youth empowerment.

By month’s end, String Cheese will travel to Live Oak, Fla., to headline the three-night Suwanee Hulaween, an annual Cheesey tradition that pays homage to early Cheeseheads’ propensity for hula hoops.

Speaking of annual traditions, after a one-year hiatus, Hollingsworth said String Cheese will return to Colorado for a three-night New Year’s Eve run Dec. 28-31 at 1stBank Center in Broomfield, part of a multi-faceted celebration of the band’s 25th anniversary.

“We’re going super crazy blowing it out, figuring out a way to connect with people we’ve played with in the past, like Bruce Hayes, who was there in the early days,” Hollingsworth said. For the New Year’s Eve shows, “we’ll have a cartoon movie of our history that runs through all three nights, and we’ll have the old tour bus in the building.”

After the New Year’s Eve shows, String Cheese will head for the islands to headline the Jamaican International Incident Jan. 25-28 in Runaway Bay, Jamaica.

In the meantime, Hollingsworth said String Cheese is “always releasing new music based on when it gets mixed” with three or four songs currently ready for mixing.

So after 25 years, SCI and its members are still going strong, and Friday night at the Ivy Ballroom offers a rare opportunity to see a performance of this caliber in Buena Vista.