Widespread Panic D.C. (This Town is Fucking Nuts)
Another D.C. Panic run in the books. This is where it all started for me; 2011 the Warner Theatre two-night run, which was my first experience with Panic in our nations Capital and I was immediately hooked. I remember the scene vividly from killer song selections to the nitrous circus during set break. This would mark my 80th Widespread Panic performance since those days long passed. (I do not say this as a brag but nearly, as a fact.) Things haven't changed much in the Panic scene and D.C. would become a madhouse for St Patrick's Day weekend. I would completely miss, “Wondering” and most of “Hope In A Hopeless World” due to the snake-like line that formed at 8 pm around the lobby of the MGM. It seemed as if, everyone showed up at once for the show. The MGM wasn't ready for the hordes of WSP fans that would descend upon “Little Vegas” and after this last Halloween the atmosphere was much the same.
The boys would mount the stage at MGM, lights shone down like stars on each member. “Rebirtha” began the evening’s musical festivities for me and then a slow transition into a massive “jam.” Jimmy Herring is lightning in a bottle, perfection on guitar. One could call his use of vibrato shamanistic. Consistently hammering us with notes and innovative progressive scales. Widespread Panic is a mystery. I am never sure what will happen next. They still remain a Southern Gothic eccentricity; a once in a lifetime quandary. “You Should Be Glad” was extended beyond proportions and the Widespread Panic rhythm section is the closest thing the premier Jam world has to the Latin-African percussions of World Music. A slow, “Travelin’ Man” would continue the set followed by, “The Take Out” which was laced with Country and Western overtones, sounding like the soundtrack to some spaghetti western with Jimmy Herring playing Clint Eastwood. Herring always brings the edge to his guitar playing, making every show some fantasy with the wizard at the helm. Arpeggios are used masterfully, scales like a reptile, taking what he has learned from his Meeting Of The Spirits Tour with John McLaughlin and sprinkling it in here. The band goes straight into, “The Shape I'm In” then “Ophelia,” which was played in reverse order. “Porch Song” had the whole crowd in motion. Jimmy Herring again, holds this band on his shoulders, taking them to new sonic heights while still respecting the original integrity of what Widespread represents.
The second set highlights for me were “Airplane,” “North” and “Come Together,” The Beatles classic, which hadn’t been played since ‘05. I enjoyed the “Jaded Tourist” but Jojo had a rough time on vocals for “Visiting Day.” This band still seeks to amaze its audience, snatching jams out of thin air and going into hard rock territory before a mandatory “Drums.” “Surprise Valley” is always a great song in any set and I love the Native American imagery that is instilled within the song.
Friday would open with a "Chainsaw City" that had reggae undercurrents that exposed those gritty lyrics and raw bass line. Jojo organ solos galore and classics like, "Travelin Light" and “Postcard.” “Good People" was on point, and stands for an example I think more fans should cultivate. "Gradle" was a rare favorite for me and always welcome. Sometimes I forget about these songs within the catalogue. "Big Wolly Mammoth" was "living in this fucked up world." This song always reminds me of some obscure Doors cover. "Greta" on point but nothing ridiculous, "Sleepy Monkey" was actually not as sleepy as usually.
The MGM itself is all around, lacking in quality of acoustics and adequate space. The venue layout is not well planned, not to mention getting in and out of D.C., is a nightmare. Out of all the D.C. Venues they choose this one? The first set would continue with “St. Louis” and “Driving Song” but the second set brought the songs we all come to see Panic play live. “Slipping Into Darkness” was incredible and what a way to open up the set. “Going Out West” and “Henry Parsons,” would add the mystical flowering to the their sound and the cover of Robert Johnson/The Rolling Stones “Love In Vain” would add slow, feel good energy to the evening.
Saturday's main event would be much more a, slay and play. Rounding through classics included in the first set: “Blue Indian,” “Honky Red,” “Thought Sausage,” “Bust It Big,” “Protein Drink > Sewing Machine,” there isn’t much more to say about that, they speak for themselves. But by this time, most patrons were wishing they had balcony seat to rest. This wouldn’t be so for those who just came to party and the more I go holiday shows, the more I see people in the audience that are there just there to talk and party. Talking goes up, drinking gets out of hand and real music fans are left wanting. Jimmy seemed back on point and showing off throughout this high-powered performance leading the way in "Fishwater" and "Red Hot Mama." Cover alert and first time played was, “Toura Loura Loura” an Irish folk song and a slow number. The old adage, never miss a Sunday show, could apply to this Saturday performance and was a solid way to end this three-night run. You can check out this full performance out on nugs.net or panicstream.com
It is always a pleasure to not only cover but also just experience Widespread Panic. I was even able to take two friends to their first shows and that's what it's all about, turning people onto good music and the power of live music, community and complete chaos. Surviving the chaos always brings you closer together. See you next time!
*Note: This review may express the chaos I experienced.
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.