Look At The Balls: String Cheese Incident, Flying Pigs and Lot Rumors

It began as one of those rumors floating about the concert space on the lips of strangers. If you’ve ever been to a jam band’s show you’ve probably heard these types of rumor. They’re at every show and hearing them delights me….because no matter how wacky they may seem, there’s always that chance they will turn out to be true. In this instance, that’s exactly what happened.

It was said that String Cheese Incident had just bought a flying pig balloon from Pink Floyd. Naturally, this was assumed to be a reference more to an episode of the Simpsons than an actuality. It was Austin City Limits 2003 and we weren’t nearly as addicted to the internet as we are now and there was no such thing as smart phones. So, when a rumor came round, nobody could spoil the fun by checking its validity with real information.

As darkness settled over Austin that night, the crowd in front of the main stage was one of the most spaced-out crowds I’d ever been a part of….and I’ve been to tons of shows.

String Cheese wound us up with some feel-good jams and then began to lead us down a weird and almost spooky musical path. It was hard to keep one’s head straight and we’d all forgotten about the rumor. That is, until a particularly spacey and long space-jam led us into a silent moment and then the band started to play the first mournful strains of Pink Floyd’s Pigs On the Wing and the screen at the back of the stage lit up with images of a giant, rubbery pig.

Suddenly my mind was in crisis. And by the paranoid and dumbfounded looks on the faces of the crowd around me I could tell that everyone was slipping all at once.

Is this what the rumors were referring to or is this the first step? Could it be that the rumor was true? Had I actually heard this rumor or was it merely the whisper of a collective consciousness? Well….then the Simpsons came on the screen and the crowd was silent.

Then Cheese began to play again. All psychological hell broke loose over the crowd. The pig was airborne….an actual, fucking giant inflatable pig….had appeared out of nowhere and was now skirting the crowd maybe fifty feet off the ground. It pitched and reeled almost menacingly as it moved over us and soon it was directly overhead…..

All at once….and I shit you not…the entire crowd, staring up at this thing, in unison, gasped the confused phrase, “Look at the balls,”

This thing had big, inflatable balls dangling beneath it. A collective smile spread across the crowd. We were in awe.

The rumor had been true. That almost never happens. Here’s a video, it’s not great quality but it’s worth a watch just to understand the state of weirdness this whole scene had us in that night at Austin City Limits.

I too love to spread rumors at shows, always challenging myself to make them as silly as possible, not just because I love testing people’s susceptibility to suggestion but because now I know there’s a chance the rumor might come true. There’s a chance my rumor could circulate all the way to the band and then some band I love would be so impressed with the idea that they would make it happen.

I like to imagine that this is how Mickey Hart’s train horn idea or Phish’s performing on trampolines began. It’s like that movie Inception. Some day it’s going to happen, one of my rumors is going to come around and be acted out on stage. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m gonna keep trying. If you heard there was going to be a twerk contest at Phishdick’s 2013 or that your favorite band is about to play a set of all Salt n’ Peppa covers, that was all me. And the next time you see something crazy on stage or you hear an insane rumor on the lot before the show, you will have to wonder, “Is Jorge here tonight?”

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