Widespread Panic’s Michael Houser Plays Final Show On This Date In 2002

The concert contained signature Mikey songs like “Airplane” and more.

By Nate Todd Jul 2, 2022 11:30 am PDT

Widespread Panic co-founding guitarist Michael Houser played his final show with the band on this date in 2002 at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Houser sadly died on August 10, 2002, from pancreatic cancer at the far too early age of 40.

Michael Houser was born on January 6, 1962 in Boone, North Carolina and went on to co-found Widespread Panic with fellow guitarist John Bell, bassist Dave Schools and drummer Todd Nance in 1986 while attending the University of Georgia in Athens. Mikey possessed a style all his own when it came to guitar, characterized by his deft use of the volume pedal and his ability to pick out alternate melodies that gave his soloing, rhythm and writing an instantly recognizable quality. His decision to sit down and play in the mid-1990s was nothing short of iconic.

The Cedar Rapids show got underway with keyboardist JoJo Hermann leading the way on “One Arm Steve” ahead of the classic, “Pigeons.” One of Houser’s signature songs, “Airplane” came in the third slot. Mikey’s final “Airplane” saw the guitarist delivering a fiery, soaring solo accented by his use of the volume pedal. “Airplane” would give way to “Sleeping Man.” A “Wondering” and “Rock” segment followed ahead of standalone “This Part Of Town,” another song that carries Houser’s unique compositional style. The first frame came to a close with “Papa’s Home” into “Worry.”

The second set began with “Can’t Get High” ahead of a three-song seamless section that launched with “Fishwater” and headed into Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Blackout Blues.” Panic then welcomed saxophonist Randall Bramblett for “Christmas Katie.” Guitarist George McConnell emerged for the subsequent jam. McConnell would step into the lead guitar role for a time after Mikey’s final show.

Drummer Stanton Moore of Galactic, who opened the show, joined percussionist Sunny Ortiz — along with Bramblett and McConnell — for Dr. John’s “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” (Moore and Dr. John both hail from New Orleans). Stanton naturally stuck around for “Drums” before Panic went it alone for the set-closing section of “Bear’s Gone Fishing,” “I’m Not Alone” and “Makes Sense To Me.” Bramblett and McConnell would retake the stage with the band for an encore of Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy.”

To remember Mikey, head to PanicStream to listen to audience captured audio of his final show. Widespread Panic also released official audio of the concert as Porch Songs #26 via LiveWidespreadPanic.com.

Setlist (via Everyday Companion)

Set One: One Arm Steve, Pigeons, Airplane > Sleeping Man, Wondering > Rock, This Part Of Town, Papa’s Home > Worry

Set Two: Can’t Get High, Fishwater > Can’t Find My Way Home > Blackout Blues, Christmas Katie* > Jam** > I Walk On Guilded Splinters*** > Drums**** > Bear’s Gone Fishin’ > I’m Not Alone, Makes Sense To Me

Encore: She Caught The Katy**


  • * with Randall Bramblett on saxophone
  • ** with George McConnell on guitar, Randall Bramblett on saxophone
  • *** with George McConnell on guitar, Randall Bramblett on saxophone, Stanton Moore on percussion
  • **** with Stanton Moore on percussion
  • [Galactic opened; Mike’s last show]

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[Originally published July 2, 2021]

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