8/5/98 CNN Interview with JB (short)

Widespread Panic big on bonding
Wednesday, August 05, 1998

The members of the alternative Southern rock band Widespread Panic have an unusual philosophy about their music. In an industry where mass promotion, feverish marketing and incessant touring are the norm, they have placed their priorities instead on bonding with the fans.

"The fans are really the folks who gave us our first job, being able to play, out live ... in the clubs and stuff," vocalist John Bell told CNN's Showbiz Today. "We take on the challenge of hit records, but that should probably come as a result of just following our own vision, and mostly that's playing live in front of audiences."

Live performances have built Widespread Panic's reputation. It was not the band's 1988 debut release, "Space Wrangler," that created its loyal following, but rather appearances in both the 1992 and 1993 HORDE Festival tours. The band is considered a founding member of the festival, which is currently in the midst of its seventh annual tour.

Yet the band turned down a chance to open for the Rolling Stones, a move many would find difficult to understand. Although Bell says the Stones' latest tour was "one of the best concerts I've seen all year," he added, "We play about three hours in an evening, and everybody that we've got with us works pretty hard. Again, we'd just like to stay with our original vision."

Fortunately for fans, staying within their original vision does not preclude a new album release now and then. The Athens, Georgia-based band just released their latest, "Light Fuse Get Away," a two-CD set on the Capricorn label.