10.16.01 | Paramount Theatre | Seattle,WA
Anxiety over anthrax spores isn't the only sort of panic to hit Seattle lately. Widespread Panic thundered into town at a peculiar time in our history. Needless to say, it's been a shitty month for everybody, so often affirmed by a mutual recognition in the passing glance of a stranger's eye. A rockin' Panic show at the venerable ol' Paramount Theatre offered some semblance of normalcy for our lives on a typically dank and cool October evening in Seattle, but somehow it felt like something more than normal was needed to help make up for things. After listening to a scorching early '79 version of "I Need a Miracle" in my car on the way to the show, I realized that's exactly what we needed.
I got a miracle when my good bud Adrian told me a free ticket was waiting for me at will call, but I needed another miracle after cruising into the show more than an hour late. I missed the whole scorching first set in fact, as well as the second set opener "Travelin' Light," one of my favorite Panic covers. I started to feel like I'd blown my chance for a full Panic attack. "Climb to Safety," was just coming to a joyous conclusion when I settled into my dancing spot on the floor. The crowd was primed and it felt like the Panic were ready to blow the gold leaf paint off the finely adorned ceiling of the Paramount. Even the sound was better than usual. The Paramount can be a tricky venue acoustics-wise for the over the top sonic output of bands like Widespread. Indeed, everything seemed to be in place.
My growing anticipation gave way to confusion when J.B. stepped up to the mic and made a seemingly untintelligible announcement that sent the crowd into a raving frenzy. The presence of an extra mic on stage had apparently stirred up speculation about certain local musicians dropping in for a few tunes: Eddie Vedder? Dave Mathews? Another Skerik cameo? Jeez, that guy's everywhere.
Then, He appeared. "Can't be." "What the f*#@?!" "Ho-leeee Sh*t!!!" was all I could say. That red-headed guitar freak/god otherwise known as Trey stepped out on stage and the Paramount erupted. The foundation was shaking. Were we having another earthquake? No, just a Treyquake, just the miracle I was looking for. Anticipation was high for the upcoming Oysterhead show at the Paramount, and this rare gathering of these rock warriors was a most welcome appetizer.
Trey and the Panic wasted no time conjuring up a rippin' send up of the Bukkha White tune, "Fixin' to Die," and soon I was conjuring up foggy flashbacks of my very first Phish show down at Evergreen College in 1994, where Trey and the boys unleashed the most monumental second set I've ever heard them play. I was salivating at the thought of a segue into "Ya Mar" like the one that unfolded on that other fateful dank fall night in Olympia. Instead, they smoothly rolled into a monolithic rendition of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," and indeed I wished all my friends were here to witness this miracle. It was the full, intensely textured sound of Widespread, combined with some of the most soulful, emotional licks I've ever heard emanate from Trey's guitar that made this version so ethereal and cathartic. Through his playing, Trey was able to communicate all of our pain, fears and hope at a time when words have been failing us. This was no run-of-the-mill guest appearance for Trey, this was therapy, for everyone present.
But enough of the sappy stuff, Trey came to have fun too, and the smiles abounded both on stage and off. A funky, vaguely familiar, yet unnameable jam flowed out of "Wish You Were Here," and after a few mild build-ups, J.B., Jojo and Michael Houser stepped off stage to let Trey and Davey have a go, with both drummers setting the scene. Soon enough, Trey and Schools stood inches apart facing each other and became locked into an evil funk duel. You could see Trey chomping at the bit, egging Schools to take things deeper and darker, and the stoically confident expression on School's face just said, "Bring it on, Red!" They brought it, Schools stomping out Godzilla-like bass lines, Trey weaving in and out like an X-Wing fighter. Together they created some impressive grooves and dynamics that at once reminded me of the Trey Band groove I witnessed this summer, and some of the darker chaos I've heard from Oysterhead. If this is a taste of what Trey is going to unleash on the Oysterhead audiences, y'all are in for a treat. Trey, Davey and the drummers stirred it all up to an evil bayou blues fever pitch before they decided to put it to bed and let Sonny take drums spotlight for a while. Needless to say, their exit elicited a deafening roar of approval from the Paramount crowd, leaving many shredded vocal chords in its wake.
After a drums session that included Jojo going apeshit with a pair of sticks on his speaker box (must've had too much Seattle coffee backstage), the full Panic reclaimed their own space and sound and closed an already raucous show with raucous versions of "Bear's Gone Fishin," "Blight," and "Coconut." But even as the lights went up after the encore, the brief air of disappointment that usually follows was replaced by a collective feeling of "wow, can you believe that sh**?" Head-shaking bewilderment and a sense of incredible good fortune pervaded the post-show scene outside, it was the miracle we were looking for. For one dank, cool night in October, life seemed hopeful again. Who knows, maybe Trey will pop up at another show here in Seattle before his Oysterkrew say their piece Sunday night at the Paramount. Keep your ears peeled and keep them miracles comin'.
As a footnote, by all accounts, the Panic put on a fantastic show from start to finish, yet I only managed to catch half of it. I encourage any witnesses of the full show to expound on what they saw as well. I can honestly say that based on what I experienced, I'm a reborn Panic fan.
JamBase Seattle Correspondent
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