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The Daily Tar Heel

Fans Get High on String Cheese Incident

String Cheese Incident
Memorial Hall

Perhaps one needs to be high to appreciate what fans term a "String Cheese Incident."

That could explain the fans' two main preoccupations at the Memorial Hall concert last night -- they were either indulging in or spastically convulsing from various mind-altering, smoke-producing substances. Or both.

As soon as the house lights went down, the multitude of bright, fluorescent lights came up, and the band took the stage. The scent of smoke began to mingle with the crowd-pervasive body odor, and the free, unwashed, Birkenstocked, ganja-loving feeling set in.

And String Cheese Incident, the Boulder, Colo., five-member jam band, didn't contrast much with such surroundings. The band performed in a tripped-up style that it seems to have ripped off and further distorted from Phish, who in turn stole it from the Grateful Dead. Not merely mixing bluegrass and rock, the band layered bits of electro-funk and salsa beats into its extensive, blurred sets.

The show seemed to go on forever, as the breaks between the songs were about as discernable as the stage wasn't. Suspensions of machine-made and crowd-produced haze left the band behind a cloud cover that just clenched the set's psychedelic nature. Complementing this effect were the constantly rotating rainbow lights and strobes that blinded the already woozy, reeling audience.

But if one solely concentrated on the band, all delusions of psychadelicamania went up in smoke. The performance seemed a bit off -- sure, the jams were tight, but the band seemed to fly past the lyrics in favor of settling into comfortable instrumental rhythms. And the five members didn't really seem to be having that much fun once they reached that point.

Drummer Michael Travis swung his head mechanically from side to side as he syncopated the set's one never-ending song. Sometimes he looked more detached than enthused, and the other members, most notably bassist Keith Moseley, seemed sedated and subdued. Only impressive violinist Michael Kang kept the energy in his countenance.

Not that the audience really noticed. The crowd that had so heatedly clamored for tickets to see the band jam made the music into a mere backdrop for their antics. Flaring lighters, twisting bodies and a mezzanine that, at some moments, threatened to give way beneath the pounding feet of fans, took precedence over the so-called main event -- the band.

One has to wonder what the fans were really paying for.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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