Our love for music tends to spread ourselves throughout the four corners of the country so we can celebrate with our respective favorite band. for every New Year's season. We must remember that we are all the same in many ways and can all find common ground, you just gotta poke around . While some of us headed to MSG with their favorite Phriends or Denver to get Cheesie; this New Years I again chose my long time favorite Widespread Panic, who has yet to disappoint in my 5 years of NYE shows. My review will tackle the 30th, Nashville itself and then the New Year’s Eve show.
Night 1: "The Hordes Descend Upon Music City"
The show opened with "Porch Song" but I was a bit too busy waiting in line to get into the venue to really enjoy it. It took an extremely long time to get into Bridgestone Arena and it also seemed very confusing in many ways: perhaps the staff was unable to keep up with demand of its patrons or had no idea that the horde was about to descend upon them with the ferocity of all 2016's pent up aggression/agitation. "Space Wrangler" was the next solid performance. I opted for a seat in the back with lots of room for all my friends to boogie together. I "suffered" through...
"Last Straw" brings back-home, kick stomping jams. It's very reminiscent of southern gospel, with killer licks thrown in by the master guitar wizard, Jimmy Herring; the entire band letting him take off into a spacey solo. I love "Rock" a Panic staple but Duane still gives it away; one of my favorite things about "Rock" was that it used to surprise me. Todd was a master of subtlety, something Duane has yet to master. (He seems more like the John Bonham type, slam and pound kinda guy) This was not so with this particular "Rock," we all felt it coming. "Postcard" is always welcomed with open arms. The backstory is as good as the song itself but this is truly a fan favorite. You can feel the energy of the crowd rise to a peak whenever they perform it.
The boys seemed to be tight and really holding to the standards that they have built for years. While the tightness didn't allow for much risk taking or improv in this first set, consistency is the key to Panics long existence. "Diner" came on strong Jimmy, taking this machine to second gear, ripping it apart and bringing it to a stop with squeals and squawks. JB, "basking in the light" and making "sticky buns." (I always thought this song had some sexual connotation, like many of their songs, this only confirms my theories.) Great use of versatile improvisation in this song, showing amazing skills as musicians; building up into a great organ intro by JoJo >"Blackout Blues"... get my head up off the ground. "Junior," I love your dog I really do. Standard performances for these songs but then Jimmy screams that PRS right into "Fishwater" lights whipping around like a psychedelic tornado, Dave egging Jimmy on with those pocket riffs that say, "If you don't take the solo, I will."
Set 2- Starts off with "Greta" and I always wonder why it's either, yellow rabbits or yellow jackets? This song/band is the perfect platform for Jimmy Herring to shred, there is no better fit in the Jam world, period. I am still constantly amazed at his guitar virtuosity.
"Bears Gone Fishing" is a sexy backstage story about a Halloween show, this was one of my favorites of the night and any night they play it.
"Surprise Valley" saw great interludes and exchanges between instruments; intellectual musical conversations were happening onstage and it was palpable. "Climb To Safety" is a great singalong but check out the original Jerry Joseph lyrics, a much different song.
"Good People" was a sing along as well but they kept it standard musically, heck we all need a break. "North" was rousing and made you want to hop a train and head to Alaska for gold or another romatic fantasy. This song included an extended jam like I've never seen before but was still within standard limits and they didn't venture out too far. An obvious, "Drums" came next, which lead into, "Cease Fire." One of my new favorites, which truly exemplifies Widespread Panics Southern Gothic sound: beautifully epic, ups and downs, with high emotional qualities entrenched in not only the chords but the lyrics, as well. Both, "Stevens Cat" and "Sell Sell" were within standard quality and nothing to write about. They concluded the show with a rousing encore "Protein Drink/Sewing Machine" is always one of my favorite Jimmy solos. "End of the Show," props to the lighting tech, who really knows how to work those disco balls.
The streets of Nashville are reminiscent of a war-zone or the aftermath of a WWII bombing. Cranes assault the landscape, and bull dozers scour the earth to greater depths while high risers are being built constantly, higher and higher, above the legendary music capital. The main strip Broadway, had music every five steps; every bar filled to the brim with tourists in cowboy hats and drunk attitudes. This is bar band heaven and the acts that actually stick out, don't stay downtown for long. I roamed the streets for awhile but wasn't attracted to the Faux-Southern city. Nashville is up and coming with a lot of construction but its vibes seemed extremely tourist ridden and it didn't feel like a southern city by any means, as much as it would like to present itself that way.
Night 2: New Years Eve 2016 (Let's Do The Timewarp Again)
I avoided the lines of the previous evening because I arrived for the show much earlier. There were picket lines set up with over a dozen individuals holding signs and yelling from bullhorns about hell and damnation. I had seen these groups before at other shows but nothing to this extent. At one point, they even did a little march down the Main Street, spewing ignorance and intolerance along the way, like hateful paraders throwing out poison candy to the people. New Year's Eve is always an emotional time for me. The New Year is the only time where I can truly feel immediate change is brought forth in my life. A new year, a new life. It may be all in my head but it can be a motivating force. I was able to score a show poster and helped an older lady roll her poster up for her husband's Christmas present. She gave me a kiss on the cheek so, yes, JBP got a NYE kiss. New Years is a time to reflect on one's life. This being my last New Years in my 20s, there was a lot to think about: loss, death and also the future and things to come. Anyway, enough with the cliches, onward to 2017 and more healing with W.S.P..
"Blue Indian" kicked off the holiday in style. It's a classic of the classics and there is no need to go any further, either you know or you don't. Now, we all feel the medicine take. This was an extremely standard take on this song but the crowd went wild regardless. "Holden Oversoul” kept the electric vibe alive throughout the sold out arena."Her Dance Needs No Body" was a very poignant and haunting song, especially with strings; the band holding back letting the strings carry the eeriness of the song into a strong, epic conclusion. This was very Southern Gothic.
"Crazy" was followed by, "Still Crazy After All These Years," which JB restarted saying, "Let's start that one again." The crowd goes wild, even for tiniest mistakes. We are all still crazy after all these years and that's the truth... "Expiration Day" seemed fitting for this years occasion and I sat down and thought about my life for this one. Where I had been and where I was going. In the end, we don't really know the answers to the future, we just have to ride it out till the end.
JB Opens up..."More Of The Usual Shenanigans" "Pigeons" was straightforward with great light production, showing off the diversity of their light show and the addition of two strips of lights in the middle of the venue and 5 Disco balls. "Henry Parsons" was absolutely ripping and I can't comment as much as I'd like for some of these jams because, I was grooving pretty hard. "Rebirtha" All the faces light up as the heroes take the field.
Mega blasters take the stage for "Sharon." I just love the lyrics, "She walks, she talks, she crawls on her belly like a reptile!" This was the crowd favorite; the same rowdy crowd that was here last night is back again! The next few songs were standards. It seems these shows were well rehearsed due to all the sit-in performances. Still, great musically just not a lot of improvisation, only musical envelopment and instrumental/vocal elements added and so well rehearsed. This is by mean son complaint. Next was, "Tail Dragger" and "Tall boy" which both while great, were still standard musically. A Fiddle player who was not Nicky Sanders, joined the band for "Ain't Life Grand." While this set didn't differ much from the original versions with additives, it did show off the meticulous practice it took with all the band members and instruments/harmonies.
3rd Set: Here is where things start to get fuzzy. No, I wasn't drinking or anything like that but the music sure gave me a buzz. By this time, I was dancing and had forgotten all about taking notes and keeping track of the songs. I could lie and say things like, "A little Help From My Friends" blew the crowds mind or, "Disco" brought the audience to their feet, as they screamed and blah blah blah. But of course they did, that's why we all go to shows, that's why we all love these songs. From here on, I will only comment on a few noteworthy mentions.
"Up All Night" has become a NYE tradition, this specific version accentuating the use of the Mccrary Sisters vocal prowess. I enjoyed the very jazzy, big band cover of Van Morrison's, "Moondance" with great horn solos and work from the auxiliary players. "Mexico" with horns is always a great addition.
While getting soaked with water never gets old, "Chilly Water" was full of killer guitar work from both Jimmy and Dave. The lights were amazing and I was super impressed by the precision in which the light engineer could anticipate the bands every move. They breezed through, "All Time Low" with exceptional vocals from The Mccrary Sisters but picked it up again for "Red Hot Mama."
The cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" was considerably funny, considering the scene outside the venue with Christian warriors commanding attention. "Stop. Hey, what's that sound?" Ohh no it's just those crazy people yelling at me again. "GO TO HELL HIPPIES!!!"
The ball ballbusting "Burning Down The House" encore was obviously more than anyone was expecting. I can't believe how still my phone camera stayed. I was grooving pretty hard.
After the show, a few my friends entered into an alternate universe and began to drag me into it. There was some sort of time warp outside the venue, with fake nitrous balloons and even actors. I inspected the CO2 tank and found myself in my hotel robe, yelling at a "hotdog vendor" in the streets of Nashville at 4 am, completely sober, but very tired. Needless to say, Nashville is a strange city with a diverse culture that is teeming with all kinds of interesting influences. Nashville may be "Music City" but it's not always the music I am trying to hear.
As for Widespread Panic, they let it be known that they will be touring next year and all is right with the Jam world. I will not miss another Panic New Years as long as they are still playing. I love this band more than ever and can see why they consistently bring the Jam world to its knees.
Happy New Year!
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.