Three-peat: Incidental Animals migrate to Lake Tahoe

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Jennifer Hartswick and Steve Adams, pictured at the 2014 High Sierra Music Festival, are reunited in Tahoe onstage with the Incidental Animals.
Tim Parsons/ Tahoe Onstage

The Crystal Bay Casino on Saturday for the first time will be crawling with Incidental Animals.

A band made up with members of the Animal Liberation Orchestra and the String Cheese Incident with a little Phish on the side, Incidental Animals plays four shows this week including a Lake Tahoe concert in what is dubbed “West Coast Weekend.”

ALO’s bass player Steve Adams, guitarist Dan Lebowitz and drummer Dave Brogan are teamed with String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth and Trey Anastasio Band singer Jen Hartswick. This is just the third time the players have collaborated as Incidental Animals.

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Jennifer Hartswick, left, Ross James, Dan “Lebop” Lebowitz and Ezra Lipp on the Big Meadow stage at High Sierra.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

The band coalesced in the fall of 2013 when Mike Greenhaus, the editor of Relix, a New York-based music magazine, requested ALO play at his wedding. However, ALO keyboardist Zach Gill wasn’t available, so, as is the band’s wont, it improvised.

“We said, ‘He’s the editor of Relix, we have to get someone good,’ ” Adams told Tahoe Onstage. “Let’s think high here. We might get mentioned (in the magazine).”

Hollingsworth, a fan of ALO, was happy to join, along with Hartswick and trombonist Natalie Cressman from the Trey Anastasio Band. (Anastasio plays with Phish.)

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Lebo and Steve Adams watch Kyle Hollingsworth do his thing at High Sierra.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

With players from the well-known bands, Incidental Animals was able to land shows around the time of the wedding in three good venues, including a headlining night in the Brooklyn Bowl.

“It was successful. We received some good press and there were a lot of tickets sold,” Adams said. “It was super easy and super fun and we got along really well.”

Incidental Animals played together for the second time at last summer’s High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy.

A couple of months later when Hollingsworth released his third solo album, “Speed of Life,” he told Tahoe Onstage two of the CD’s songs came from ideas he had during Incidental Animals jams.

Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

Dave Brogan plays drums for ALO and Incidental Animals. Here he is during ALO’s February show at Crystal Bay Casino.

Lebowitz, better known as “Lebo,” has recently become close with Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead bassist who has built Terrapin Crossroads into a cool, casual Northern Bay Area music hub frequented by two generations of the Dead’s family and friends, including notables Anders Osborne, Luther Dickinson and Eric Krasno.

After the Incidental Animals were invited to play a couple of shows at Terrapin Crossroads, dates at Crystal Bay and Petaluma were added.

The group plays solo material from the respective members, ALO and String Cheese songs and “fun covers.”

“Jen is the best singer in the band,” Adams said. “We all sing but we all thought maybe we shouldn’t sing so much because Jen’s really good,” Adams said. “We decided we should give her the mic as much as we can.”

A fourth Incidental Animals get-together is imminent.

Hartswick this week was added as an artist-at-large to the 2015 High Sierra Music Festival lineup, which includes ALO and the String Cheese Incident.

“The Incidental Animals name really implies that it could be something beyond us three and just Kyle and just Jen,” Adams said. “It could be a whole ALO-String Cheese mash up.”

Thanks for the news scoop, Steve. We’d like to finish with hard-hitting follow-up question: Exactly what kind of creature is an Incidental Animal?

“A gregarious, social, hard-working squirrel scampering from gig to gig,” Adams said.


  • Incidental Animals
    “West Coast Weekend”
    – Thursday and Friday, May 7-8 – Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael
    Saturday, May 9 – Crystal Bay Casino (Show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets $18 in advance or $22 at the door. Holy Boots opens, Dirty Revival plays Red Room after-party.)
    – Sunday, May 10 – Mystic Theater, Petaluma
    Larry Sabo / Tahoe OnstageLarry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

    Kyle Hollingworth at Lake Tahoe last summer.  Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

    Kyle Hollingworth at Lake Tahoe last summer.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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