Standing in the sunshine of the day, we were having a couple drinks, gearing up for the Widespread Panic show at the newly christened Verizon Wireless Music Center. It’s still Deer Creek to patrons of its past; but for corporation’s sake, it’s Verizon.

Over the radio waves, there was talk of thunderstorms and even the piercing hum of the Emergency Broadcast System... although this time it wasn’t a test. Concerned about the weather we were not. Convinced the show would go on, we milled around the lot, looking for people to talk to and share a drink with, as we basked in the warmth of the sun. The dark clouds lurking in the distance were reminding us that this hot, dry fun was soon to turn cooler and much more humid. A couple friends had rented the cake limo for the show, which proved most useful when the skies opened up. The limo’s more novelty than luxury: A circa 1980 Cadillac; worn maroon interior; matching Astroturf blankets the exterior roof; and a three-tiered multi-colored birthday cake perched atop the turf, with candles that light up with a flip of the headlights.

As predicted, our rain did come and hard. We watched it block us in on three sides, churning up ground at a rapid pace. Witnessing a storm rolling in, standing in an open field, is a powerful experience. Nothing but cornfields and ominous clouds everywhere the eyes dart. It’s a cleansing of sorts to venture out and take in the show as lightning coarses through the heavens, providing almost constant light and falling water turns sideways.

With the rain falling, we moved our outside fantasy camp in between the doors of the limo, and went 12-deep. Quite an experience to be that close to that many a friend. Depending on your neighbor to light your cigarette, open your beer or literally scratch your back. We enjoyed the company as rain splattered the windows, and after an hour we were back out in the elements, as the rain had temporarily subsided.

There was a fairly good turnout for the show, enough bodies to fill the entire pavilion, so there was a lot of action outside the gates prior to the band taking the stage. Kids taking in all that were accessible and wanted, chumming around with friends and strangers alike. Hell, people from Trojan were even handing out free condoms, which gave some of the crowd instant gratification as if this were their pass of guarantee. It didn’t damper spirits, so what’s the harm? Inside, kids were scampering for the best seats. It was a pavilion-only show, which helped warm things up after the rain cooled the air down.

Panic let their presence on stage be known from the first song of the set, “Heroes”. An ever-present bass line got the crowd moving and things didn’t stop moving until the closed the set with, “Imitation Leather Shoes”, off the band’s new studio disk: Don’t Tell the Band. They managed to squeeze in a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s hit, “Pusherman”, which has become one of the bands staple cover songs. They jammed that out into “Climb to Safety”, back into “Pusherman”. Had the crowd funked out for 45 minutes before they took their break, leaving us salivating for another packed set. The break gave everyone a chance to exchange thoughts on the set, find lost friends, grab a quick drink and hit the head. The stage lights dimmed for the second time, around 8:30, and Panic jumped right into, “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues”. A long version of “Red Hot Mama” was thrown into the mix, for those who get into Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars. In a word: Loud. The drums followed “Genesis”, “Porch Song” and “Blackout Blues”. The two percussionists went at it for a 10-12 minute all-out groove. Producing melodies that are normally reserved for stringed instruments or horns.

After closing the set with “Swamp”, the band was cheered on to play an encore; a reasonable reward for a hunger-driven group that kept the band on their toes all night. They chose a mellow “Breathing Slow” to end the evening.

We showed our appreciation, as they exited the stage for the final time, and made our way back to the lot looking for good times… satisfied.

Joe Denning Notes:
- The Cake Car can be rented for events @ Love Auto Sales—637-LOVE
- Widespeadpanic.com

[Published on: 7/20/01]

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