30 Years Of Widespread Panic: Dave Schools Shares Red Rocks Memories


This year marks the 30th anniversary of Widespread Panic’s formation and JamBase senior writer Chad Berndtson recently spoke with members of the band for a full feature being published Thursday. Each day leading up to its publication, we’ll be sharing portions of Chad’s chats with the members of Panic, continuing today with bassist Dave Schools discussing the iconic Red Rock Amphitheatre. Head here to read frontman John Bell’s thoughts on setlist construction and read on for more about Red Rocks from Dave.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado is a temple of live music – how could any musician or fan not be swayed by its majesty?

But for Widespread Panic, it’s an especially important place – the band still holds the record for sellouts by a single band at the venue, and following this June’s customary three-night summer swing (June 24 – 26), they will have played Red Rocks 55 times, the vast majority of those as a headliner.

Panic’s first documented Red Rocks show was September 14, 1991 as part of a bill that also featured Blues Traveler and Acoustic Junction. WSP returned in July 1993 for a stretch of H.O.R.D.E. shows, and then again in July 1994 as the opener for Blues Traveler’s usual Independence Day stand at the venue.

Panic’s first two-set full show headlining spot at Red Rocks was on May 31, 1996, with Leftover Salmon opening. And since 1997, they’ve been back to Red Rocks during roughly the same late-June timeframe every year, missing their stop only in 2004, 2009 and 2012.

“It’s just such an amazing venue,” said bassist Dave Schools. “There have been times we’ve had rain delays, and even snow, but you think of all the other things – rainbows, the natural phenomena that occur there.”

Schools said he can’t pinpoint a favorite Red Rocks memory but one that sticks out came during one of the band’s album release tours back in its Capricorn Records years in the 1990s.

“They’d made these promotional beach balls that had the album on them – it was that rock show trope of throwing balls down on the audience and why wouldn’t that be a good idea? They released them from the top of the venue, and then, this being Red Rocks, an unusual high wind gust took the balls just as they were being released and turned them into bullets.”

Schools laughingly recalled, “I don’t even think they saw the crowd. They came raining down on the stage at like 30 miles an hour – which in itself is a really appropriate metaphor for the record business. But there we are on stage dodging these swiftly arriving beach balls, which have a little bit more weight to them than balloons as they’re coming down. Mike Houser, of course, was seated and didn’t even have his eyes open and is all, ‘What’s going on?’

“What’s funny about Red Rocks feeling so natural is that it’s almost the most unnatural thing in the world to haul a bunch of gear up there and crank out a lot of loud rock ‘n’ roll,” Schools added. “But it bloody well works.”

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