Widespread Panic to perform this weekend

Widespread Panic to perform this weekend

It’s been 15 years since Widespread Panic has rocked the streets of Tuscaloosa. Known for their climactic jam sessions and tight-knit fans, the group will return once again, gracing the stage of the new amphitheater this Friday night, along with opening act Yonder Mountain String Band.

“It’s going to be a fabulous show,” said Wendy Riggs, Tuscaloosa Amphitheater director. “People are sure to have a crazy, fun time.”

During their early years, the Athens, Ga., based Southern-rock jam band frequented countless fraternity houses and bars in town, producing stellar performances for groups of newly established fans.

Today, Widespread Panic tours all over the country with packs of devoted disciples trailing closely behind.

The group officially started in 1982 when vocalist John Bell and late guitarist Mike Houser played together back in college. When bassist Dave Schools joined a little while later, Widespread Panic was officially born, recording their debut single, “Coconut Image,” in 1986. The remaining members joined soon after. Of course, they’ve added a few and lost a few along the years.

For many, there’s just something about Widespread Panic that makes them stand out from the rest. Perhaps their electrifyingly smooth sound and euphonic blend of members – John Bell, John Hermann, Jimmy Herring, Todd Nance, Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz and Dave Schools – has a bit to do with their musical ingenuity.  It’s a loosely designed mix of jazz, blues and strong Southern roots.

“Their shows aren’t a sit-down, wine-drinking type of atmosphere,” said accounting major and avid Panic fan, Cody Eldridge. “It’s more of a get down kind of show.”

It’s not unusual for the band to perform ten minute long jam sessions, pulling their listeners through a mountain of highs and lows, rocking fast and hard and then slowing down to a smooth, melodic flow.

“Panic never plays the same show twice,” said Mary Cole, a senior accounting major at UA. Cole has been to more than 45 shows, traveling hundreds of miles just to hear them play.

“They’ll mix together the old and new. They even cover a number of songs in their own stylistic way,” she said.

Panic, frequently compared to other jam bands like Grateful Dead and Phish, remains devoted to their fans, a diverse group that tours with the band, following Panic all over the country, and recording each set list along the way.

“Going to shows is like going to a family reunion,” Cole said. “Most of my true friends are people I’ve met at Panic shows. It’s sad, because most of us live so far away, but we’re always there for one another, no matter the distance. There are people I’ve met who will, no doubt, be bridesmaids or groomsmen in my wedding.”

They’re a tight-knit group of individuals who come together for the love of great music and a great time. To those true fans, Panic is a shared passion, a shared experience. The group sings about life, family, friends they hold dear and friends they’ve lost.

“When we can’t put things into words, Panic sings it for us and lets us know that everything is going to be alright in the end,” Cole added.

Yet Widespread Panic isn’t mainstream—they may have a devout group of hardcore followers, but you’ll never hear their songs on the radio. The band strictly dedicates their musical career to the love of music and not the love of fame, one characteristic that’s hard to come by these days.

Panic is also known for their community efforts. A dollar from every ticket sale for every show they’ve ever performed is donated to a local or national charity fund. For Friday night’s show, the band will make a donation to the Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery fund. Additionally, they will hold a canned food drive for the West Alabama Food Bank.

“Friday’s show will be unlike any other we’ve put on,” Griggs said. “Panic fans will probably arrive Thursday night to prepare. They’ll be hanging out in the lot before and after the show. During the concert, they’ll be dancing and having a good time. I’ve told everyone not to stop them. Let them dance, and let them have a good time.”

Sadly, those who haven’t bought tickets to the upcoming show are out of luck; they sold out within a few weeks of going on sale, which isn’t surprising, considering the growing number of Panic fans out there.

This year, the band is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Friday night’s show is a way of honoring Panic’s early days of performing, thanking those fans who’ve stuck by their side over the years, all the while saying their farewells before their recently announced hiatus, a sad song for any lover of the band.

But despite their upcoming break, this performance will be anything but a disappointment. Those lucky fans are bound to have a jamming good time.

“This show is going to be awesome,” Eldridge said. “Panic in Tuscaloosa? There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

 

PULL QUOTE:

“Friday’s show will be unlike any other we’ve put on,” Griggs said. “Panic fans will probably arrive Thursday night to prepare. They’ll be hanging out in the lot before and after the show. During the concert, they’ll be dancing and having a good time. I’ve told everyone not to stop them. Let them dance, and let them have a good time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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