Widespread Panic | Red Rocks 2011 | Review | Pics

Words & Images by: Brad Hodge

Widespread Panic :: 06.24.11-06.26.11 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO

Jump right to Brad’s photos from this weekend here!

Widespread Panic by Brad Hodge
Every weekend during the Colorado summer there seems to be an unimaginable list of fun to be had. However for many there is one weekend that sits at the top, "Panic on the Rocks." Widespread Panic has played Red Rocks Amphitheatre religiously since their first appearance in 1991. Many fans call it the summer pilgrimage, as though making the journey gives spiritual renewal and freshness from mountain air, music and fellowship. This year with the celebration of 25 years and the hubbub of an upcoming hiatus, the always sold out affair seemed even more illustrious.

Friday was a gorgeous day, and excitement was extremely high. In fact, at four a.m. there was already a line of fans doing the psychotic act of line duty. A carnival act in it of itself since the doors didn’t open until 5:00 in the afternoon, and fans race for the front rows each day. "Postcard" opener started things off with a twist, as it seldom sits in the leadoff spot. It was a classic Panic set with a solid "Glory," "Send Your Mind" and "Space Wrangler." Not the favorite night of the weekend, but no slouch either. The great thing about the end of a Friday night is you still have a Saturday and Sunday.

Widespread Panic by Brad Hodge
Saturday ramped up the intake. The band really began to look as though they were completely loosened up and felt like having a good time. After all it was Saturday night at one of America's favorite music venues, and from the stage the sold out crowd went as far up into the sky as the eye could see. "Sometimes" started the evening off. It is really hard to believe that this is a cover, as singer John Bell truly makes it his own vocally. Classic Panic songs seemed to prevail as the first set highlight seemed to have been the big "Rock >Hatfield" pairing. Socially there is no better venue in the world. Set breaks turn into dance parties and provide breath taking views as friends from all over the country merge into one big family of fans.

Bassist Dave Schools seemingly converted to his alter-ego I like to call Dr. Evil, as he drove the band through a monstrous opening "Henry Parsons Died." Throughout the whole set he continued to assault the music with monstrous bass lines and a highly infectious level of play. Schools and lead guitarist Jimmy Herring seemed to keep locking eyes and laughing as they connected musically from opposite ends of the stage. No Widespread fan alive would not enjoy a "Chilly Water> Jam> Arleen", and the offering was executred to perfection. But, the evening’s highlights were fan favorites "Vacation" and "Mr. Soul."

If for one reason or another you did not make it in the doors on Sunday afternoon, there is no doubt only one thing running thru your mind: NEVER MISS A SUNDAY! The early start time nestled somewhere between four and five on the dial was just about perfect, giving fans time to bask in the warm glow of a beautiful summer sun and taste the heat that would undoubtedly be served on this epic afternoon. The first set consisted of nothing but poignant, original material.

Widespread Panic by Brad Hodge
From the opening note of "Wondering" all the way through to the set closing "Conrad," the band owned the opportunity. Sandwiched in between the opener and a divine "C. Brown," a very leggy "Surprise Valley" overwhelmed the crowd with an almost-anthemic presence. "Kiss the mountain air we breathe" sounds good standing anywhere, but beneath "ship" and "Creation" rocks it evoked magic. All weekend the boys in the band had worn smiling faces, but early in the day it was easy to see that Sunday "Funday" was going to be enchanting.

One could never have guessed what the second set would be like - a full set of nothing but covers including many songs the band seldom plays. As if they had something on their chest, the band started the second set with The Guess Who’s "No Sugar Tonight/ New Mother Mature." Schools danced over every square inch of his rugs, and the always cool, calm and collected precision of drummer Todd Nance was even ruffled as he nearly came out of his seat at times from what looked to be sheer enjoyment.

The setlist can easily be obtained from Everyday Companion or Panic Stream, but you could never describe the energy. As the band masterfully wielded a "Bowlegged Woman" into "Lawyers, Guns and Money," it started to become apparent that the second set would be no ordinary picnic. Call them fan favorites, Halloween treats, illustrious tour gems, whatever you want, but don't expect to hear "Mama Told Me Not to Come," "Knocking Around the Zoo" and "Walk On" in consecutive order too often. The only seemingly botched moment in the whole afternoon was a "Guilded Splinters" that by most standards was still great but just seemed to be lost for a bit before being revitalized by some exploration.

Widespread Panic by Brad Hodge
No doubt the band was ecstatic with the weekend's results. Seldom ever does John Bell make any comments too far from topic during a show but after basting the Rocks with a nasty show closing combo of "Sharon > Wild Thing," the encore started with a "Wild Thing" reprise and these heartfelt words from Bell: ""We've had a lot of fun playing here for your birthday party. The regular band will be back tomorrow night. Thanks for giving us this chance."

 As if that was not enough, a little Tom Waits' Going Out West" to mark the band’s travel itinerary and a tear jerking "End of the Show" finished off the night. One can only hope that it was just the end of the show and not an end to a magical era of “Panic on the Rocks.” We might not be back next year, but please do not make us wait too long.

Continue reading for more pics from “Panic On The Rocks” 2011...

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