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MUSIC REVIEW

Ratdog and String Cheese find a groove together

Ratdog and String Cheese Incident
At: Tweeter Center, Saturday night

MANSFIELD -- The fuzzy, feel-good jam-band jamboree that was this summer's Ratdog and String Cheese Incident co-headline tour -- jovially dubbed the ``CheeseDog" tour -- arrived at the Tweeter Center on Saturday for its final date. Throughout the nationwide tour the two bands had switched off playing the final spot each night , with the opener performing one set and that night's headliner performing two.

Saturday saw Bob Weir's sextet Ratdog in the end zone. But the Tweeter Center show held a bonus: This was the only show on the tour in which both bands played two sets, turning in more than four hours of music. String Cheese added a nice twist to the proceedings by performing its first set acoustically and with a distinct Americana country tone.

There was various intermingling of musicians in each set as Ratdoggers joined String Cheese and vice versa. Any appearance by Grateful Dead cofounder Weir roused the audience, while String Cheese showings during Weir's dusky rock 'n' roll and blues sets were barely noticed. CheeseDog? For the fans, it was all hot 'Dog.

Yet String Cheese's initial late afternoon acoustic hootenanny was more interesting. The band began with a folky classic-rock turn on stoner standard ``Panama Red" (written by Wayland native and progressive bluegrass artist Peter Rowan). But the Colorado six-piece soon moved on to explore Western swing, gospel bluegrass, jazz, and boogie woogie.

While skillfully encompassing these styles, String Cheese isn't distinguished in any of them. The rock set blurred their characteristics further, creating a middling musical amalgam with a rote rock formula: shifting gears up from a smooth mellow groove and then, lo!, taking it back down again.

Along with Ratdog guitarist Mark Karan, Weir joined String Cheese for a sleepy run through the Grateful Dead's ``Turn on Your Love Light." The crowd went nuts. Yet there were four guitarists onstage, with no one exploring much beyond the groove. It's all about the jam, man.

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