Widespread Panic | 04.05.08 | NYC

Words by: JC McIlwaine | Images by: Michael Weintrob

Widespread Panic :: 04.05.08 :: United Palace Theatre :: New York, NY

Widespread Panic :: 04.05 :: New York
Widespread Panic has graced the stage at many of New York City's hallowed halls, from Radio City to the Roseland, the Beacon Theatre to the Wetlands Preserve. They've been within spitting distance of the bar at nearby New Haven's Toad's Place and far beyond reach at Madison Square Garden. For their current tour's stop in NYC the band chose to touch down at the United Palace Theatre, which once housed the third-largest movie theater in the U.S. and is now home to Reverend Ike's congregation of the United Church.

There was no mention of the band on the marquee out front, only the Reverend's service on Sunday at noon. "Come on in" or "Smile as you pass" were the signs at the entrance. Once across the threshold, all were treated to more of Reverend Ike's spiritual proverbs. One sign read, "Life takes from the taker and gives to the giver." Yet it was the space itself that was most impressive. The United Palace Theatre has been described in different ways but David W. Dunlap's description gets the prize for being the must fun. In his words, the Theater's aesthetic is "Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco." That about sums it up.

A statue of a knight, perhaps Joan of Arc, watches over the room from her pulpit above the entrance. Plush red carpets stretch to golden walls that give off hints of faded blue and red accents, against which gilded figurines sit in the lotus position, hands clasped together, frozen in a Namaskar salute reminiscent of Hindu deities. Ornate chandeliers hang from the ceiling, while electric candles, frosted glass fixtures and long, flowing red velvet banners adorn the walls. Ebony elephants support light posts resting atop the banisters that flank the stairway leading up to the balcony. The inside of this theater is also a surreal sight to behold. Wooden filigree work joins the walls with the ceiling above the stage. Greek goddesses stand on pedestals with their backs to the wall, and dragons and centaurs cling to the ceiling, all oblivious to the crowd lounging on red velvet seats below.

WSP :: 04.05
Spectacular setting aside, the scene was much the same on Saturday night as that found at any other Widespread Panic show. Tan faces topped by ubiquitous visors milled through the hallways, visitors just in from sunnier climes. A closed circuit stretched between the beer and bathroom lines. Inside the men's room, antsy guys waited six-deep for their turn, while one fan that'd fallen for a girl named Molly regaled the room with his clipped version of "Fishwater."

Eventually the theater filled with chatty fans ready to rock. The band took the stage and, after a moment of musical consideration, launched into honky-tonky crowd pleaser "Big Wooly Mammoth." This song, along with other up-tempo rockers of its ilk, is always greeted with an electrically charged reaction. Panic fans like to move, and the more they can move, the better. Foot stomping, shoulder throwing and head banging are the orders of the day, and fans do all with equal aplomb. "Somebody throw me a fire so we can burn this city down," sang keyboardist Jojo Hermann partway through the song. The crowd responded with the usual cheers, but very few lighters were flung to the stage. There is a recession on, after all.

Widespread Panic made their way through a 90 minute first set that included newer numbers like "Angels on High" from their new album, Free Somehow and older, down-and-dirty ditties like "Rock" and "Hatfield." "Hope in a Hopeless World" was given a roomier treatment than in the past, with extended sections between the choruses and verses leaving space for guitarist Jimmy Herring to insert meandering melodies, his fingers dancing around the steady-as-a-rock rhythm that is the band's specialty.

Jimmy Herring :: 04.05 :: New York
After a surprisingly short set break, they returned, and while the first set was good, the second set was great. The boys led off with "From the Cradle," a fun rocker from Earth To America, then ground their way through "Bowlegged Woman," with guitarist and lead singer John Bell (J.B. to his friends and fans) scatting to Sunny Ortiz's percussion, wearing his heart on his sleeve as he got it all off his chest. Bassist Dave Schools gave the low-end song its due, looking, as always, like he was standing in the eye of the storm but nowhere near ready to budge an inch to the whipping wind.

A little way into "Papa's Home," J.B. and Schools joined Herring over by Jojo's piano as he led them through a keys-driven funk jam. Shortly after that Herring took over. As the blue and purple lights painted the stage like the inside of a fishbowl, Herring took the music to a spacier place, giving the audience a chance to catch their breath a bit and holler in appreciation.

Herring has only been playing guitar with Widespread Panic for about a year and a half, but in that short amount of time he has already brought a lot to the table. His guitar work adds new features to the framework that the rest of the guys have developed together over many years. His solos can soar with the best of them, even as they retain his singular touch and a subtlety that keeps them fresh. In his side-notes, when he delves into the between-spaces, he makes a playground of the musical meadow in much the same way as Jerry Garcia and Trey Anastasio did for The Grateful Dead and Phish. He brings the band to those "What's Next?" moments of excitement and anticipation, adding the third and clinching clobber to the one-two punch that Widespread Panic has always delivered. This quality played out most obviously in songs like "Airplane," which felt lighter, like the notes had more room to breathe than in the past.

WSP :: 04.05 :: New York
Widespread Panic fans aren't known for going easy on security guards, who had their hands full at the United Palace. One diligent and determined security guy tried hopelessly all night long to clear the aisles, to no avail, as every square inch of space filled with dancing fans in his absence. Everywhere there were flasks emerging from pockets, drink vendors wondering at the record soft drink sales. Clouds wafted from the floor to the balcony and beyond. Beers were flung by haphazard, flailing arms, lubricating the once-sticky floor, and some cigarette smokers simply couldn't wait for the end of the show to get their fix. Random objects like balloons and glow sticks careened through the air, and the occasional joker shined a flashlight beam back at the security guards.

As "Airplane" wound down, everyone but Sunny left the stage. The man behind the marching rhythm always appears to be caught in the throes of ecstasy when he bangs on his hand drums. He played on his own for close to ten minutes, switching drums, tempos and rhythms as the spirit moved him. After a few minutes Todd Nance sat back down at his kit, striking up a rock anthem beat that ushered the rest of the band back to the stage. Panic played only one more song in the set, a scorching version of "Henry Parsons Died," during which J.B. banged on his guitar for emphasis as he sang about a man incapable of shaking the devil and a town left with no one to blame for their sins but themselves.

There were numerous religious references to be found in the lyrics that night. Admittedly, it's likely I only noticed this due to the church setting, and any conscious intention on the part of the band is doubtful. However, allusions to things like angels, church bells and holy wine, combined with the fact that we were all listening to something like a sermon of a different sort in Reverend Ike's church, started my mind wandering. As J.B. sang the stirring line, "The Lord chooses the good ones, and the bad ones choose the Lord" from "Let's Get The Show On The Road," the first of two encores, I couldn't help but think of Michael Houser and his early, unfortunate death from pancreatic cancer in 2002. I thought back to the old days when Houser, who founded the band with J.B., was the only lead guitarist that ever came to mind with Widespread Panic. I wondered what he might make of the band these days. In my mind, I could picture him hanging out in the rafters of the United Palace Theatre with the Greek goddesses, breathing fire with the dragons and smiling down on his old friends and fans. I sensed that he would appreciate the way they've taken the music on down the road without him, and felt that he'd be honored by the continued love and respect granted his life's work as the band and the community around them continues to spread their own particular brand of Panic far and wide.

Widespread Panic :: 04.05 :: United Palace Theater :: New York, NY
04/05/08 United Palace Theater, New York, NY
Set I: Big Wooly Mammoth > North, Angels on High > Little Lilly > Rock > Hatfield, Hope In A Hopeless World, Conrad
Set II: From The Cradle > Bowlegged Woman, Papa's Home > Three Candles > Airplane > Drums > Papa's Home > Henry Parsons Died
E: Let's Get The Show On The Road > Blackout Blues

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[Published on: 4/11/08]

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gratefullybred starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/11/2008 06:36PM
+12 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Jimmy Herring really has brought this band to new heights, Mike Houser would be a proud man to know someone of Jimmy's caliber has taken over his reigns..

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/11/2008 07:04PM
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I completely agree w/ gratefullybred!


Panic Rawks!

mindmusic90 Fri 4/11/2008 09:22PM
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That looks like an amazing theater.

cajn_head Fri 4/11/2008 09:56PM
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Wow what a great venue that would be to see any show. Sounds like they rocked down the house. Jimmy has brought new life to the boys from Georgia, and I agree Houser is definitely smiling from ear to ear up there watching them have such a good time. See ya'll at Orange Beach, can't wait to see what they throw out down there.

Mark Price former NBA star starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/11/2008 11:37PM
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Mark Price former NBA star

all you have to say is Widespread panic, and you know it's going to be amazing.

Wild Turkey starstarstarstarstar Sat 4/12/2008 09:02AM
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Wild Turkey

Great article, didnt know where they played this time around. After Free Somehow Jimmy and the band have found their space. Look out!

chuckus Sat 4/12/2008 11:06AM
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Holy Moses that was a fun read! The pictures are awesome too. The 3rd pic of Jimmy is subtle, but amazing. And the pics seemed to follow along with the article, too. Good job on giving those toy pigs hell folks!!

jerryg1942 Sat 4/12/2008 11:12AM
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cant wait to finally see this band @ ALL GOOD!!!!!!!

acomma Sat 4/12/2008 01:37PM
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that theatre looks fucking amazing

Nibble starstarstarstarstar Sat 4/12/2008 01:38PM
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Great article. Except one thing. After many Widespread shows I am confident that their song selcetion had religous references intentionally. There was mention that there was not much thought into making that feeling and thought happen to the crowd. I would say that is the grace of Widespread Panic. They always take you on a journey and everyone feels like they experienced a great ride.

Awesome pics.

Nibble starstarstarstarstar Sat 4/12/2008 01:40PM
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One other thing. Your description of Mikey hangin out on the rafters was right on. You put into words the same thoughts I have had many times watching the boys with Jimmy.


BooneRes Sat 4/12/2008 02:00PM
Show -14 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Muffinman1 starstarstarstar Sat 4/12/2008 03:40PM
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This venue looks great. I cannot wait for 4th of July at Rothbury. Panic is going to light up the sky with some crazy fireworks, and then Primus late light. God bless the USA!

Marcsmall Sun 4/13/2008 01:36AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
skinny2 starstarstarstarstar Sun 4/13/2008 07:41AM
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Great article herring is starting to sound better and better with panic and looking forward to raleigh and allgood this summer which is gonna be rediculous keep on truckin panic!

BooneRes Sun 4/13/2008 09:56AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
gratefullybred Sun 4/13/2008 10:15AM
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"Jimmy is soloing over sbasic shit with panic"

Let me tell you, though Jimmy may be soloing over "basic shit" he is stretching the limits harmonically on what can be done over "basic shit"

To say something so elitist like that and to tell people they have no clue is pretty ridiculous, when it is quite obvious you dont have much clue yourself.

and I hate to break it to you, but most Phish jams are the same "basic shit" or vamps to someone more intelligent and I have heard them all. Jimmy Herring is a much more harmonically advanced guitar player then Trey in that idiom.

mateotee starstarstarstarstar Sun 4/13/2008 04:08PM
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Whatever. The musicians from Phish are excellent, and so are those of Panic. To be at a show for either of em is a pretty good way to spend an evening. It's possible to like em both, and if you don't, well, all the power to ya I suppose.

yemmw Sun 4/13/2008 04:33PM
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Phish jams to the "same vamps" and "basic shit" every time?! Widespread Panic could never even begin to explore the crazy places Phish took their jams on a nightly basis.

steve spliffton Sun 4/13/2008 06:52PM
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steve spliffton

i dont understand why you people have to compare trey and jimmy, they both are the most versatile dudes in the business...nufff said

Marcsmall Sun 4/13/2008 07:31PM
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I love it when some youngin', 20 years younger than me calls me a kid. Trey is a decent player, but is nowhere near Herring's level...regardless of what band either of them are playing with. Trey has always been overated in my opinion.

honeynutt Sun 4/13/2008 09:10PM
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I was at both shows in NYC and the setlist for both nights were awesome! I was kinda hopin to hear a couple new tunes and we got em both nights. Angels on High is definitely a fun groove and 3 candles was, in my opinion, perfectly placed in btw the papa's sandwich along with airplane. from older tunes like hatfield, papas to new tunes angels, and 3 candles panic mixed everything in beautifully! Herring was unreal and you can see and feel him mix in so nicely to the original sound of Panic... Awesome show and awesome pictures!

PhatMaw Sun 4/13/2008 10:05PM
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Amazing photography!

torn&treyed Mon 4/14/2008 06:43AM
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hey marcsmall do you ever have anything positive to say... ever. and btw trey is the more versatile guitarist, he def has some bad says (see stuart copepand interview which describes trey's lack of consistency in the later years perfectly) but trey takes more musical risks.... Herring has not composed a fifth of what trey has and finally trey can make his guitar do crazy stuff using effects. I don't think herring has one pedal. maybe a tube screamer.

mandophine Mon 4/14/2008 06:52AM
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trey when he was actually good and jimmy herring when he was actually good were pretty equal. unique guitarists definitely. in my opinion Phish is better, but I grew up listening to them. I found Panic later, and Herring has the chops. Both men have done great things for the guitar.

terrapin13s Mon 4/14/2008 08:07AM
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the article was not comparing trey and jimmy, lets stick to the article and stop the usual bitching! the show looked great and the review is well written, cant wait to see panic soon

pgeano Mon 4/14/2008 08:18AM
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Great photos! I haven't read the article yet, but these pictures are surreal, man!

richromeo starstarstarstar Mon 4/14/2008 08:55AM
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Caught this show and while it was a great time it seems the real corker was the night before, which I missed unfortunately, with Warren showing up to jam with Jimmy at the end.

As for the venue we all were wowed by the decor when we got there, but in the end it ended up being a bad place to catch a concert in our opinions. It was not built well for sound....you had to be in the first 20 rows in the orchestra for good sound, the entire balcony sounded like crap. Just the way the place was built. Anyway, considering how far north in New York this venue is (175th and Broadway), how uptight their security was and the poor sound I would not recommend this as a good place to catch any show, despite how fun the ornate interior designs are for tweaked-out eyeballs.

discodon starstarstarstar Mon 4/14/2008 09:40AM
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you people will never grow up with your band wars. I love both WSP and Phish and have seen them equally in times and through all of their eras{good and bad}. jimmy = a better guitarist than you or I. trey = a better guitarist than you or I. I have been playing guitar for over 17 years and have let both of them serve as great influences on my playing. WSP is killing it right now. I saw that the other night in Cincy and I will see it this weekend in Orange Beach. There is no denying that. More importantly, great read JC and great pics Michael.

Road To Shambala Mon 4/14/2008 09:43AM
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Road To Shambala

Friday set list rules and Warren sit in melted faces. Place was beautiful but time your

potty" breaks cause there was only 1 bathroom.

daveapaug Mon 4/14/2008 09:56AM
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Trey's a tool. Wasn't it awesome when phish held that fluffhead note for three minutes so trey could leave the stage to take a piss, or fix, or whatever? (read: sarcasm) Sorry but Panic doesn't need to put its drummer in a homemade dress and play the vacuum cleaner to attract fans. Listen to that shit with warren from last week, absolutely mind blowing. No wait, why didn't they bring out Kid Rock and sing AC / DC covers?????

jackstraw1984 Mon 4/14/2008 11:08AM
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comparing trey and jimmy is like arguing whether pam anderson or jenna jameson gives a better bj. it's all good and you should be lucky enough to experience even one of them. get over your fucking jamband wars, no one's forcing it in your ears.

usafjim Mon 4/14/2008 11:28AM
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Was at both shows. Friday night was a definate rocker with Warren Haynes playing with the band. Was awestruck with the venue, easy to get to by subway, (once we figured out the shittle bus between stops for maint.), but must agree with the comment on the accustics. Good mix of older tunes with newer ones. If you haven't seen WSP in awhile wait no more, they're tight.

BooneRes Mon 4/14/2008 12:38PM
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I would say its more like compairing Dizzy to Miles........ one can play so many notes its rediculous while the other is more melodic.

Either way Davepaug is douche and fluffhead is the shite

BooneRes Mon 4/14/2008 12:40PM
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Oh and marcsmall you may be old but you opinions are immature and OVERATED!

daveapaug Mon 4/14/2008 12:56PM
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Please don't call me a douche. Just stating my opinion. Saw the 97 Phish summer tour, and Jimmy's first three Panic shows at Radio City from first row. I'm not comparing Trey and Jimmy. They both have completely different styles. They both RIP. I'm just saying how one band just plays its shows pretty straightforward, and another band uses more than music to attract an audience. We don't need no stinkin' hula hoopers anyway. or glowstick throwers, or glitter.

nsafay Mon 4/14/2008 01:58PM
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I'm not going to go off in a blah, blah, blah. But comparing the monumental Phish summer tour of 1997 to the first three shows that Herring was Panic's lead guitarist, then creating that interpretation that their shows are straight forward from it is a little messed up.

By the way....Duane Allman all the way!!!!!

blower starstarstarstar Mon 4/14/2008 02:45PM
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Yeah lets throw Hendrix in there too so someone can shit talk about Jimi.

Just waiting for it huh Filo. Why even go down that road. Summer tour bring it.

makesensetome starstarstarstarstar Mon 4/14/2008 02:53PM
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wow looks like an awesome place....the setlist is absolutely amazing cant wait to see you in richmond

cam0083 starstarstar Mon 4/14/2008 02:57PM
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Maybe what we should do is have a guitar master contest between the two. A written exam to test music theory, a live improve podium, as well as a set of esteemed guitar judges grading what Jimmy and Trey think are their best compositions....

Get real people, this conversation is stupid and impossible to judge due to peoples affection for each band. I agree with the comment above, "Jimmy = a better guitarist than you or I. trey = a better guitarist than you or I." If anyone tries to argue that they should be banned from this site and forced to try and start the best fucking band ever.

cuttyfives Mon 4/14/2008 04:58PM
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we all new Heather gives the best Dome.

cuttyfives Mon 4/14/2008 04:59PM
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yemmw Mon 4/14/2008 07:23PM
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I WAS NOT COMPARING TREY AND JIMMY! I was comparing Phish and WP. Chops have next to nothing to do with the places a band takes their jams. Phish took their jams places, Panic doesn't.

skinny2 starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/15/2008 05:53AM
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their jams go know where??? hahhaha you should be a comedian yemmw

torn&treyed Tue 4/15/2008 07:53AM
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sorry man hes right panic is pretty one dimensional, but its a dam good dimension. Far be it from me to ever use popularity as a measuring stick because by that token boy bands etc.. would seem more popular than any of the awsome music we all listen to, but WSP and phish were both around for a long time. Phish played an 80,000 person millenium show and put on MAJOR festies and panic well..... cant

salsalasa starstarstarstar Tue 4/15/2008 10:13AM
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great article..great pics...this is my first comment so here goes.you guys/gals are all pretty much correct huh? we all love music or we wouln't be foolin around here...Hendrix, trey, jimmy, all great; saw panic and phish around 15years ago for the first time saw em both a lot; love em both, panic is kinda like the fireplace; home is where the heart is; looking forward to givin my 2 cents after Murpheesboro and Orange Beach; be carefull yall

blower Tue 4/15/2008 10:36AM
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Both WSP and Phish are/were great bands and Hendirix is great so what. The major difference is only one of these bands is on tour right now and still headlining festivals. Bring on more summer west coast shows.

ReeDiddy starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/15/2008 11:02AM
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I grew up on Phish, just like every other twentysomething currently on the festy-jam scene. But I grew out of Phish because I haven't been able to see them live in the last 3.5 years. Phish hit it out of the park every time I saw them, and I will never forget Page breaking down in tears and restarting 'Wading in the Velvet Sea' twice at Coventry. And they're nice to listen to occasionally, but for me, it's out of sight, out of mind. Panic is the best live act on tour right now(with STS9 a close 2nd), but if Phish played a show tomorrow, I'd be there, whether it was at Alpine Valley or on the moon. I was in Chicago for Panic last weekend. The band gets better every time I see them. Herring has carved out his own niche in the band is pushing them to new heights in the post-Houser era.

And Filo, new album plays incredibly well live, and 'Dyin' Man' fucking rocks. You wanna hear a hideous song? Listen to 'Big Black Furry Creature From Mars' off of Hampton Comes Alive.

And does anyone know what our good friend George McConnell is doing?

ers7 starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/16/2008 01:01AM
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WSP SUX? : )

canoftunapudding Wed 4/16/2008 05:18AM
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Jimi Hendrix sucks, worst guitarist ever. Billy Corgan is probably the best.

canoftunapudding Wed 4/16/2008 05:23AM
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Also, I'm glad that Panic doesn't do any 80,000 people shows. This is the oldest and stupidest argument ever, but I don't need 79,999 other people bumping into me to have a good time let me know how good a band is.

nsafay Wed 4/16/2008 11:56AM
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Wasn't that Widespread Panic that had over 100,000 in attendance for their CD release party in '99? Oh yeah....IT WAS! Didn't they headline the first two nights of the first Bonnaroo? Yep. Who didn't have a good time in southeast WV at MidX? Except for checking in of course. All in all...it doesn't fucking matter! Some like Phish more. Some Panic. Some Cheese, Allman's, etc.

jcmcilwaine Wed 4/16/2008 06:29PM
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hey'all - never meant to spark a comparison between trey and herring. i love(d) phish and i love panic. both have taken me to places i never would have reached on my own. that was the point of the analogy, that herring is capable of reaching those "holy shit! this is amazing! what's next!?" moments that i felt trey reached with phish, those rare spots of musical perfection. as my man said in this strain, "Panic is the best live act on tour right now...but if Phish played a show tomorrow, I'd be there, whether it was at Alpine Valley or on the moon." which is not to say that panic is a substitute - i've always loved what those guys bring to the table. let's stop comparing them and just give props to anyone who can make any of us feel like we're forgetting mundane days with transcendent nights... any band that makes me want to dance is a-okay in my book. glad i didn't mention the biscuits or this would've really gotten out of hand. hee hee... see ya's out there.

ReeDiddy Wed 4/16/2008 09:13PM
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I know what you're saying about Free Somehow, Filo. The album doesn't do the songs justice the way live performance does. Terry Manning was supposed to be this great producer that the band couldn't stop raving about. Earth to America features some great live songs, as does Free Somehow. The quality studio albums used to be what separated Widespread from the rest of the jam bands. Now what?

r0llingst0ned starstarstarstarstar Thu 4/17/2008 12:15PM
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I really don't understand some of the people who are involved in this scene that is supposed to SUPPORT music. The closemindedness of some the individuals whose posts I've read is shocking. And a lot of it seems to come from the Phish fans. What's wrong with you, Phish heads?! Your elitist attitude will get you nowhere! I am personally a fan of both bands, but in regards to bands I don't like, you don't see me talking shit on their message boards. It's childish, I thought the whole scene was based around individuality, so please respect others' personal musical tastes. Either that or we can debate whether the Dead or the Allman Brothers jam harder, because it's impossible to like both right?