Widespread Panic, September 7, 2016- The Warner Theatre
Back to where it all started in 2011, I remember thinking; “This is the band I could tour with.” It was the beginning of a something new in my life, a time of exploration and understanding. I found myself out there, in a bad place during one of those shows in 2011 until, “Climb To Safety” played and literally pulled me up from my rising water. Things came full circle this year at The Warner Theatre, and as they played “Climb To Safety” again. I found myself drifting in time, back to the person I once was and watching as my life had come full circle. This is why I still continue to see Widespread Panic, not only for the music but because it brings me back to whom I once was and reminds me of how far I have come.
The show kicked off with a slow and forgettable, “Diner” but I felt the band was gearing up for something more that night. There was something in the air that said, “Its coming.” The band forced themselves into one of my favorite Widespread Panic songs, “Bears Gone Fishing” which lyrics and story seemingly tell of a Halloween escapade, where band members witnessed a spectacle from behind closed doors. “Spy vs. Spy, baby’s a freak show, lines form just the right of your keyhole;” “Kissing the wound of the captain’s harpoon, unexpected moment of bliss.”
“Climb To Safety” came next but I was too busy with the nostalgic feelings in my head to comment on the quality. Next “Little Kin” flubbed at the beginning, the band missed a few notes but found their groove with JOJO lighting up the keys and extreme bass undertones by Dave Schools. The band turned a corner and found themselves deep in a heavy jam that was going somewhere, but even the band didn’t seem to know. I was reminded of the Panic I remembered in those formative years. Jimmy was ready to let loose tonight but the band had to keep a chain on him. Jamming into “Traveling Light” a JJ Cale tune, Jimmy Herring plays non-stop solos while the rest of the band holds down the back beat like some constantly running machine. JB misses his singing cues but that doesn’t matter tonight because the band is going out into the netherworld, Jimmy going full steam and the band pounding harder with each break and stop, “Maybe once now, maybe twice.”
Next was “B of D” an inspirational instrumental song which seemed like the soundtrack to the nights of DC. Flimsy Marijuana laws have been enacted and people around me sparked up fat joints and bowls, while a smoking “Bust It Big’ was performed, sing along style. We still don’t do like the romans do.
I saw Schools hands leave his bass, as he gave some sort of puppet hand gesture to JOJO telling him to take the lead on a funky clavi jam. This “Bust It Big” had substance and 64 counts of bliss and pure elation. Rosemary’s baby is surely a NYC kid.
I must comment on the light show for the evening. The triple panel screens flashing images of the coolest Panic posters mixed with the vibrant and stirring stage lighting was truly on point. The person running theses controls must be deeply connected with the band and their ever changing song structure.
Jimmy suddenly tone-drops with the whammy to keep notes going on for eternity, straight into “Weight of World” where the audience had their dancing souls on. Barely a seconds stop and then straight into “Junior.” I love your dog, I really do.
During set break I reflected on the bands performance. They were taking chances, they were communicating with one another on stage via body language and sounds waves. This communication was taking their jams further than I had seen in years. The explorations of these new improvisations is why Widespread Panic is one of the Purist bands out there. They are a Jam style all their own. This show was why I continue to see live music, for those moments of “Did that really just happen?”
This was also my mother’s first WSP show and although I am positive she only came to see me, I think she was blown away by Jimmy Herrings guitar prowess and ability. My mom wondered what the people who original built this place would think of this kind of music, then responded to her own question with “well, opera was very controversial in its day.”
“Xmas Katie” got the second set started and then a rousing “Radio Child” as they geared back up, back into full fling, with an ending to shred all endings.
On comes an always introspective “Aunt Avis” and I'm reminded of some events in my life where I had to try to remember how to be good and how to continue when I feel I really shouldn't: “Cloudy Retina” whoa. Seamless bass transition into “Rebirtha,” here comes nonstop rock and roll. Next up, “Imitation Leather Shoes,” which is always a welcomed addition to any set-list, followed by a “Tall Boy” that we all needed. This was the crowd favorite of the night, the crowd cheers, “Feeling Weak”
The Warner Theater is the perfect sizes for these boys. They jam into a “Ride Me High.” Jimmy opening up and letting us in with and intimate solo funk jam requiring admission into some funky-ass club. Schools bass harmonics gave Segway into drums; which is a good sit-down. The band keeps conquering the stage with “Cease Fire.”
Self-described as Southern Gothic, their roots are truly an epic mixture of southern rock and artistic virtues, “Cease Fire” really accentuates this description with sweeping choral like music and intense epic- awe inspiring ups and downs. Crimson lights shine down for a hard and smooth “Honky Red.”
Encore "Chilly Water" - highlights included Dave bass solo. I did not get wet.
Off to Philly for more Widespread Panic. Never miss a Sunday show or a Wednesday for that matter.
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.