Oak Mountain Amphitheatre | Pelham, AL | April 26, 27 & 28, 2002

Oak Mountain 2002. That statement says a lot. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, considering the magnitude of these shows. They represented half of Widespread Panic's very special Spring Tour.

The first night started off badly, with an arrest of a very close fried of ours. We were just walking into the venue from the parking lot and she got nabbed. Half of us went into the show and half went to try and track her down to bail her out. We secured our second row seats RIGHT in front of Mr. Houser and proceeded to worry about our friend's status...

Panic steps out and blows us down with a "A of D > Cream Puff War > Fishwater." That was ridiculous. Then comes the "Walk On"! This was a highlight, being the one song that our friend wanted to hear. A very special moment. The "Gradle" that they pulled out of the closet seemed too grand! Very enthusiastic "Traveling Light" leading into Keane's moments on "Junior", then stepping down to the pedal for an emotional "C.Brown." JoJo added a little "You Better Run" rap as well. Never heard anyone step in for a "Take Out" before, but Keane was hanging in there. The "Porch" that followed was great, especially seeing Mikey pull it off. He was so fun to watch all weekend long. I was in awe of his enigma, and he finished the set with a flare.

The set break was fun because Robert Randolph was playing the side stage. I checked him out for a while and then headed back to the seats to await an awfully dirty second set. Still no sign of our female friend and the rest of the crew… and then they bust into "Bowlegged Woman." Look out, because they unleashed the funk. So reminiscent of the NOLA one, but no "Bowlegged" can beat that! The "Climb to Safety" was fun to see so close to Mr. Houser. I was thinking about the lyrics a lot more. Then "Little Lilly" and into the biggest bust out of the weekend, "Werewolves of London." It had been raining very hard right before the show started. They open the song saying, “Saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, he was walking through the streets of Birmingham in the rain.” The moon had just come out and the place was going nuts. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better they bust out "Space Wrangler > Vacation"! WOW. Mikey’s tune! Completely blown away! We get a break to catch our breaths and next thing we know our friend shows up with the rest of the crew and the place never felt better.

We got right back at it with a very enthusiastic Robert Randolph! Ever since I heard he was coming, I was trying to think of what songs he was going to perfect. "Gilded Splinters" was the rawest, meanest song that could have been performed with a man of that stature. I knew they were going to kill it. Mr. Randolph would push his pedal steel so far down in front of him we could see the strings he was manipulating. He was getting into it just like we would expect him to. Then "Me and The Devil" and it was time to really hear the pedal do what it was made to do. Mr. Randolph then gave JB and Houser a hug and left the stage. The "Give" was outright hot to close the set. "CFMWH" is one of my personal favorites and the "Sometimes" was down right emotional for the kids who couldn’t make it down for this three night run.

Saturday night had its moments, the first set highlights being "Weight of The World", "Rebirth" and "TPOT." The "Impossible > Flat Foot Flewzy" was off the hook! Second set started off with the best "Love Tractor" into one of my favorites, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl", and into the dirtiest "Thought Sausage" imaginable. The "Waker" with the banjo was a nice twist. Don’t see the banjo pulled out too much. The "Happy Child > I’m Not Alone > Tie Your Shoes > I’m Not Alone" was the heat! "Tie Your Shoes" was forever! Cecil Daniels managed to come out for a wicked version of "Use Me" and blew Houser a kiss when he left. "All Time Low" was probably one of my favorite versions, considering our distance from the band. "Henry Parsons" was teased right before "All Time Low" but ended up closing the set. Schools was ready to bust it out, but I guess he jumped the gun. "Help Me Somebody" was great, especially watching them do their vocal jam. The "Don’t Be Denied" will go down as the most emotional part of the weekend, JB looking over at Mikey and saying, “Pretty soon I met a friend, who played guitar”. The place was so loud. Everybody felt JB’s love towards his friend Mr. Houser. The feeling at the end of that show will never be replaced. It has a special place in my heart.

Sunday night was probably my favorite, considering it was the last dance. Everybody was in attendance. We were right in front of the empty chair where Michael Houser was going to play the last show of Spring Tour. The boys come out to break down the song we had all been waiting for: "Lets Get Down To Business." It had been sung all weekend long in the hotel and it came to life to start the best first set all weekend long. "Action Man" came right after and was special, considering we had around four people in the crew who were from Kentucky, and I was born there. "Makes Sense to Me" is always fun and energetic. JB threw in the Alabama reference and we moved on through to a very extended "Pusherman." It grew and elaborated to form one of the best "Diners" I will remember. So much jamming and JB can just out right sing. The "Ride Me High" was smoking, with Keane adding a little extra. "Genesis" is my favorite song in the set. We were basically just standing there with our jaws hanging to the ground. It was a great moment. "Holden Oversoul" was jammed on for a while and "Conrad" was the best song to finish this tremendous set with. It just has so much power.

Everybody left for water at break because there were no liquor sales on Sunday and it was pretty hot. I also checked out Particle for a little bit and they were outrageous. I come back with five waters to spread about and then what do you know, "Chilly Water" comes roaring out of the gates and we get right down to it. The "Visiting Day" was so much fun. I want to remember that one for a while. Why don’t we just look around us and notice all the things that make us smile. Back into a mean "Chilly" piece of bread. The "Blue Indian" was a good moment for Keane to show off his pedal steel ability. I heard more pedal steel in this song than any others. I also noticed JB singing to Houser as his brave little friend. The straight "Driving > Breathing Slow" was very entertaining. Next thing you know we start with the heat again right into "No Sugar." Jerry Joseph came out and made things interesting with some rapping in "North." The "Cortez" was forever and every second was beautiful. Sonny enjoyed his drums one last time for the tour and showed off his stuff with his wide range of instruments. Dr. Arvin Scott assisted through out the run as well. Both are very amazing musicians.

"Walkin" had its break in the middle and the crowd went crazy. "Papa’s Home" will never be forgotten because the rain came down. It got nasty for a while and the lightning was great, but spooky. Then JB tried to break out the mandolin but it wasn’t working for him so he quickly threw on his guitar and broke down an "Ain’t Life Grand." Very fitting way to end the second set. Then, ironically, we got "Trouble." So much trouble this weekend. Major operation in Alabama and over 200 arrests. Plus it has been dubbed our friend's song. Then we got a "Down" that was in a weird position, but Houser knocked down the solo. The crowd also let him know it, too. Then the song everybody wanted to hear all Spring Tour: "POSTCARD"! What an exclamation point. They finished off the run with a perfect tune. This town is nuts, my kinda place, I don’t want to leave! The “We Are Family” that played the PA afterwards started a mad dancing breakout in front of Houser’s empty chair and we continued feverishly during the whole tune. Some stage crew and wives partook and it was unforgettable.

Much love and thanks to everybody I was with. It was truly my favorite three night run.

Ben Kruetzkamp
JamBase | Kansas
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[Published on: 5/3/02]

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