WIDESPREAD PANIC | 04.6 & 04.7 | D.C.

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Words & Images by: Jake Krolick

Widespread Panic :: 04.06 & 04.07 :: Warner Theater :: Washington D.C.

Widespread Panic :: 04.06
I’m perched on top of the TV stand, five feet above my buddy’s head. It’s 3 a.m. and I’m about to do my best Superfly Jimmy Snuka impression onto the bed below. How did I get like this? Well, let’s just say that Widespread Panic made me do it.

The frigid Easter weekend brought snow flurries and an end to the blooming cherry blossoms around Washington D.C. Bunnies ran for cover and tourists crowded into the many free museums. Widespread Panic’s tour buses sat across the street from the Hotel Harrington sporting “Get r’ Done” vanity plates and a fresh coat of road dust. The tall, gray Warner Theatre sat catty corner, and as opulent theatres go, the Warner is high on the list. Covered floor-to-ceiling with gold guilding, its heart is a sparkling 18-foot chandelier dangling elegantly at arm’s length from the balcony. Letterman taped here when he was in town, and Lewis Black called it home because they let him say more than 42 f-words. The tall-tales of Cleveland and Baltimore were still fresh in our heads as the crowd’s decibel level rose. The air buzzed with the excitement of 2000 Spreadheads gathered for a two-day southern style political rally complete with mudslinging, hooting, hollering and plenty of raucous behavior.

Dave Schools :: 04.06
John Bell shook hands with his Washburn as Panic broke out an early surprise, the first “Sleepy Monkey” of Jimmy Herring‘s career. The slinky notes faded to sliding jazz scales and free form a capella. Although Herring has learned this tremendous catalog fast, it’s apparent he’s still being guided onstage. JB frequently cued him to expand into his own space. Bell caught a little early fire during “Can’t Get High,” as he pressed the lyrics into the crystals of the chandelier. Despite his guided creativity, Herring had some outstanding jams in both sets, including a truly standout finish to “Tortured Artist.” Dave Schools and Herring ran away with “North,” where Herring’s machine gun acrobatics and Schools’ weighty thuds proved a lethal combination. Overall, Herring’s playing provided continuity to a set list that felt a little disjointed.

Schools and Herring must have exchanged matching heart necklaces that say “Best Friends Forever.” Schools and his new amp mascot, Family Guy‘s Stewie Griffin, shot huge grins Herring’s way all night. The pair’s supernatural abilities worked a funky little groove out of “Pigeons.” John “JoJo” Herman, unable to resist the excitement, leapt in with sizzling keys during “Ride Me High.” Schools fired a booming echo back to JoJo’s funky articulations. Sunny Ortiz grabbed his moment, setting off on a mini drum interlude that included a Thelonious Monk-esque section with drummer Todd Nance and JoJo. Herring lit a smoke and scorched us with tight little riffs that sent us back into the “Ride Me High” sandwich.

Herring & Bell :: 04.06
The alternating beats leading into “Stop and Go” were fascinating. The harder Herring dug into the jam, the deeper his eyebrows dipped into the sides of his nose. JoJo and JB grabbed their saloon aprons and transported us to the Old West for a honky tonk “Christmas Katie.” Big bad Schools tromped in through the swinging doors to shake his bass tail around, rattling liquor bottles and knocking everyone back into their seat. Schools’ trudging continued through the slow rolling “Bowlegged Woman,” where Herring continued to push the envelope.

Friday night didn’t break course records but managed to be a par performance. Saturday’s show saw Widespread Panic pull from behind to win the Masters Tournament as the audience cheered them to victory.

John Bell :: Widespread Panic :: 04.06

JoJo Hermann :: 04.06
You usually start 2-3 day runs with the best intentions – get up early, see the city, take in the sights. But, after a late show with Jerry Joseph and an early morning April snow we opted to stay indoors. Hotel rooms during large runs are a novice MacGyver’s paradise. From coffee pot cocktails to trash can margaritas, nothing is left unsoiled. Music pours from the hallways as people get their heads into the game. On Saturday night, there are loads of little red, white, and blue Panic buttons and a pack of fans sporting bunny ears.

Ortiz & Schools :: 04.06
The days of set list watching are over. Widespread Panic is turning songs that used to be passed over without a thought into some of the most amazing moments of the tour. Herring struck hard and dirty on “Ribs n’ Whiskey,” bringing out the older, rowdier feel. JoJo’s strong playing carried over from the first night, and Schools tightened up his bass and hung in an inspired pocket of harmonious notes. Herring curbed Friday’s machine gun play, opening up to drawn out screams full of fluidity and power.

The second set was so exciting it was over before we knew it. It was one long, streaming song that kicked off with “Papa Johnny Road” and ended with “Henry Parsons Died.” The influence of ARU reared its head during a chandelier rattling exchange between JB and Herring during “Spoonful.” JB showed off his vocal prowess during “Arleen” and his restraint during “I’m Not Alone.” The whole band was blissful during the second set, culminating in the highlight of the night, an uncontrollable, fan-shaking “Tie Your Shoes.”

Herring & Bell :: 04.06
In the past, Herring has been somewhat of a hired gun; now we find Widespread Panic offering him an expansive space to add his personal signature. He is clearly one of the strongest musicians on the stage, and as he masters these songs he infuses them with bold new directions. The heyday of Panic was remarkable because of their constant unpredictability on stage. Part of that magic lay in the innovative transitions between songs. The beauty of Saturday night was hearing intricate jams and creative transitions that point towards something new and badass, a place where you might miss something if you aren’t paying full attention.

We ended the evening drinking whiskey, hooting and hollering about the years to come. As I launched off the TV stand in a great leap of faith, I felt more connected to the band than I have in years. My springy landing inspires boozy cheers. Like the band, I’ve found my way into a new era, landing on all fours and running full tilt towards the horizon.


04.06.07 | Warner Theatre | Washington, DC
Set 1: Space Wrangler > C. Brown, Action Man, Pleas > Sleepy Monkey, Can’t Get High, Down, Tortured Artist > North
Set 2: Disco > Pigeons, Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi) > Ride Me High > Stop-Go > Holden Oversoul > Christmas Katie > Bowlegged Woman, Ain’t Life Grand
E: Aunt Avis > Walk On

04.07.07 | Warner Theatre | Washington, DC
Set 1: The Take Out > Wondering > Rock, From The Cradle > Worry, None of Us Are Free, Rebirtha > Ribs And Whiskey, Smoking Factory > Porch Song
Set 2: Climb To Safety, Papa Johnny Road > Arleen > I’m Not Alone > Tie Your Shoes > Drums > Spoonful > Big Wooly Mammoth > Henry Parsons Died
E: Walkin’ (For Your Love), City of Dreams

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