Many complaints have been made and many praises the same about what happened last weekend at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA. What happened was a three night party with Widespread Panic which tends to occur in Atlanta this time of year.

I’ve celebrated NYE with a couple different bands and each multiple times. I will have to say that after this year, I will never stray from celebrating with WSP and their fans. The shows, which have since been violently debated on every WSP listserv as a game of tug of war, were exactly what they should have been in these reviewers eyes.

2001 marked an unbelievable turning point in our world and the glorious continuance of music was just one helping hand out of the many. The year for WSP itself was immense, collaborations of grandeur and elevation of success as they reached into the souls of more and more with every stop along each tour. The commencement of this triumphant year was to take place at the Philips Arena on the 29th, 30th, and 31st of December.

The energy was apparent before you stepped out of the hotel door. Walking through the Centennial Olympic park, people were ready to be lifted up by a band that can sing and play music as if they were reading it from your heart. The lights dropped and the anticipation melted down your throat coating your stomach like a home cooked meal. The opener "Little Lilly" was an appropriate choice as it has dominated the set lists of the past year, as well as containing subtle lyric hints to the passing of the great George Harrison. This nicely morphed into the Talking Heads cover "Papa Legba" which was followed by the sauce stirring "Thought Sausage." The Boys slowed down the set after that reminding us that we had a long musical journey still remaining. The opening notes of "All Time Low" could have proved to be the set closer, but after this intense version kept escalating, with an appropriate "Life During Wartime" (Talking Heads) tease, the jam ripped right into "Cream Puff War" (Grateful Dead) to end the set.

With our heads re-attached the second set was on its way. Starting with another stronghold of the year, "Imitation Leather Shoes," the band ripped fiercely into a set that describes what Panic NYE is. Full on Panic classics played with more soul than Don Cornelious could handle. Highlights of "Christmas Katie," "Fishwater," "Hatfield," "Love Tractor" and "Ride Me High" made the set a constant adrenaline rush. However it was one song in particular that parted ways from it’s norms and blew up into a thing of beauty. The "C. Brown," full on with John Keane on steel petal, turned in new directions, spewed forth emotion, and brought the crowd to a new level. Once again the band tipped their hat to the Late George Harrison in the jam into Drums with Jojo Hermann singing lines from the song If I Needed Someone and Dave Schools' bass solo rendition of Here Comes the Sun out of drums. It was Truly a magical start to the run.

Where as the first night started with a staple, the second night started with the second showing of this year’s largest bust out, "The Earth Will Swallow You." Taking many by surprise this eerily smooth instrumental segued directly into a standard version of "Travelin Light." Then it happened, the opening notes of "Machine," the fast and furious, maniacal song which could only or usually leads into YES! "Barstools and Dreamers." The song that I can never get sick of, the song that just emanates the very band I’ve been speaking of. A solid version, JB was feeling it, and the Philips was primed at this point.

The set would continue to follow suite with new favorite "Bayou Lena," a chilling "And It Stoned Me," and an amazing one two punch of "Walkin>Rock." The scene was set yet again for a second set that would prove to be the same as the first night, a solid collection of Panic classics. "Chilly Water," "Pilgrims," "Surprise Valley," "Climb To Safety," all solid versions that left the audience contemplating the next day’s feast.

What could possibly happen tonight? Expect the unexpected, rang true, but I don’t think anyone could’ve dreamt up what did actually occur. Many faces seemed upset, many seemed confused, and certainly many seemed to be very happy. Wherever you fit in, Widespread Panic became another band for the first set of NYE. The first sets of NYE are never the raging sets that follow, but a mellow start to a long evening. This evening the band invited long time friend and songwriter Vic Chestnutt to sit in with them. This addition with the exception of Sunny being present formed the side project most Panic fans know as Brute. They started of with "Blight," a Vic song that Panic has played for years. This abrupt version merged right into the beginning of "Puppy" which began the musical adventure through the entire new Brute album. It was a different tone, a different feel, and many different songs that most of the people in attendance had never heard. It was a chill feeling in the crowd. I personally took in every minute and I am sure I will appreciate it more when I hear it again especially the raging "Protein Drink>My Last Act>Sewing Machine" that seemed to get more of the crowd involved as the set came to a close. People’s opinions will forever clash about this set and whether or not it was appropriate. At the same time no one will ever be wrong. Opinions are opinions and Widespread Panic’s opinion that evening was to invite their fans to witness something other than just their music, but the music of a soul that touches them as they do their fans.

The second set started slow with a nice "City of Dreams" and a beautiful segue from "Pleas>Sometimes." A raging "Pigeons," another new one in "Old Neighborhood" and a "Pusherman" seemed to keep the crowd going. The skin crawler of the set had to be the always ridiculous intensity of "Conrad" to end the set. This left little time till the countdown, which in standard form, with confetti and some goofy looking balloon candle people; everyone was given the appropriate time to love their loved ones before the boys took the stage and erupted into the band’s anthem of "Porch Song." Every moment of the third set was special to me. Yes staple songs, yes songs that most people have heard over and over, some less desirable than others. To me, it was the culmination of a great year with a great band, with great friends, and great songs that lead me to be there at that moment anyway. They left us with the combination of "Visiting Day>Space Wrangler." Could it have been any more perfect? “Take a look around us and try to see the things that make us smile/Hope your having a good time/Cheers to your friends so near.” Thank you Widespread Panic, for making my NYE special for me and all of my friends.

Eric Creighton
JamBase | WSP Chicago Crew
Go See Live Music

[Published on: 1/7/02]

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