A bizarre horde of fans and other assorted creatures descended upon the Patriot Center at George Mason University on Friday night when the arena hosted a String Cheese Incident and Flaming Lips concert.
For those not in the know, String Cheese is one of the most wildly popular jam bands on tour today. Based out of Boulder, Colo., String Cheese crafts improvisational masterpieces from a mix of roots music, slick mountain bluegrass, tight Latin melodies and breezy Calypso grooves, all based on the American live rock formula perfected by the Grateful Dead. Any fan of String Cheese will tell you that once you see one show, or “incident,” you will be hooked.
Those attending the incident on Friday were sure to encounter a certain number of hippie mainstays such as hula-hoops, beach balls, jugglers and plenty of comatose partiers. But try to look past the crunchier elements and enjoy the show for what it is – an entirely sensory experience, complete with laser lights, trippy onstage scenery and the unique music, which is comprised of each band member’s individual technical skill synergistically weaving into the psychedelic tapestry of each song. Michael Kang rips insane solos on the electric mandolin and sings before he deftly switches to the violin.
Simultaneously, Bill Nershi holds the rhythm guitar and Keith Mosely and Kyle Hollingsworth, on bass and keyboard, respectively, display an adeptness that runs parallel, keeping every melodic rhythm section on target. Michael Travis steals the show, though, banging on the drums with the same gleeful intensity as a toddler with a new set of pots and pans.
The set list included such seminal favorites as “Mouna Bowa,” “Pirates,” “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” and “Way Back Home.” The band also covered the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” and started a jam off of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” GMU’s Patriot Center didn’t stack up well compared with other venues that house larger crowds under more lax security. Working with these limitations, however, String Cheese managed to set the right vibe, and the crowd responded accordingly. You would be hard pressed to find a better crowd. Fans were dancing in the seats, aisles and in front of the stage, complete with a lively Shakedown Street out in the lot. Overall, the event was fun for the whole family, as hippie babies danced in their mother’s laps and new generations of String Cheese fans were spawned.