Report: Widespread Panic 25 Anniv. Tour


July 1 and 2 at the Grand Targhee Resort Amphitheater
in Alta, Wyoming, the boys from Georgia summed up a quarter-century’s worth of
frammin’ on the jim-jam.


By Lindsay Mollett


The energy was high this past
Friday at the Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming as eager Widespread Panic fans flooded
the wet concert grounds for the first of a three-night stand. The band started
the weekend with an old classic, “Ain’t Life Grand,” written by beloved
original guitarist Michael Houser, which some fans agreed was a tribute to
Houser. The first set went fast, with fan favorites “Tall Boy,” “Tickle The
Truth” and “Traveling Man” appearing to whiz by – a testament to Panic’s
ability to simultaneously jam and serve the song.


After intermission, the crowd
was hot with anticipation for more Panic and the epic light display tantalized
them as the band once again took the stage. The second set of the night hit
hard with the funky, powerful “Thought Sausage,” where guitarist Jimmy Herring
tore it up with a heavy metal solo. Next, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz
whaled on his instruments, his beatings dovetailing nicely with those of  drummer Todd Nance on “B of D.”


A highlight of the night
occurred when Panic teased the crowd with a taste of James Brown that sneakily
segued into the WSP instrumental “Machine.” They then jammed “Barstools,” and
the new, moody “Saint Ex.” Another fan favorite, “Ride Me High” featured saxophone
courtesy of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s Kevin Harris. Widespread performed an
encore with the bonus track on their new album, (Dirty Side Down) Greta, and
then, City of Dreams.


Saturday evening started off
with the instrumental, “A of D.” Then from the first album, they played “Space
Wrangler,” which was nostalgic for many fans at the show. The sound of JB’s
(John Bell) voice is beloved by so many fans, It definitely plays a role in
this music being so lovable. Keyboardist, John “JoJo” Hermann is very distinct
in this set, he leads into the next song, “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” and then
continues to hammer down on his keys all through out the set.


As the crowd was mesmerized
by the amazing light show, they sang along to “Visiting Day,” in which Schools
rocks a smooth bass line. The crowd really cut loose during the next song, Panic’s
cover of Bloodkin’s “Can’t Get High,” JB singings his heart out backed up by bass
player Dave Schools. On that high note, Panic and the undulating crowd rode “Don’t
Wanna Lose You,” the classic “Contentment Blues” and funky “New Speedway Boogie”
into intermission.


On the other side of the set,
Sunny’s percussive tapping and JB’s strumming ushered in the upbeat jam, “From
the Cradle.” Percussionist Steve Lopez joined the band for “Slippin’ Into The
Darkness,” which led into “Radio Child” and then “Disco” and “Second Skin,”
which again featured the skillful interplay between Nance and Sunny.


Panic then launched an epic
version of “Bears Gone Fishin'” that lasted close to ten minutes, and left the
crowd smiling rapturously through the ensuing “I’m Not Alone,” “Ribs and
Whiskey” and the gritty, lively “Protein Drink/Sewing Machine.” Then of course,
Widespread Panic came through with a three-song encore including “Her Dance
Needs No Body,” a cover of P-Funk’s “Maggot Brain,” and then another perennial
favorite, “Chilly Water.”


More than a band, Widespread
Panic are artists who’ve earned every accolade along their 25-year timeline,
and will earn many more en route to a potential 50th anniversary
because, if any band can play that long and hold our interest, it’s Panic.


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