10/31/05 Halloween in Vegas show review

When I first saw JB's costume I thought it looked strangely a lot like
Dingle from the Adult Teen Hungry Force episode Escape From Leprauchpolis.
Dingle, the red-headed Leprechaun, was controling the rainbow machine!
Same socks, same red hair, same green coat, same ears.

What do you think??

10/31/05 The Thomas and Mack Arena, Las Vegas, NV
1: Love Tractor > Imitation Leather Shoes, Born Under A Bad Sign, Time Zones, Papa Johnny Road, Vampire Blues*, Bayou Lena*, Old Neighborhood*, Weight Of The World*

2: Superstition**, Rebirtha > Climb To Safety > Monstrosity > Drums > Arleen* > Spirit In The Dark* > I Put A Spell On You* > Fishwater*

E: Dark End of the Street*, Nowhere To Run*, Coconut*

* with Dirty Dozen Brass Band
** with Dirty Dozen Brass Band, DJ Method on turntables
[Only 'Born Under A Bad Sign', First 'Dark End of the Street', Only 'I Put A Spell On You', Only 'Nowhere To Run', Only 'Spirit In The Dark', First 'Vampire Blues'; 'The Andy Griffith Show' and 'Dragnet' teases before 'Love Tractor'; 'Muffin Man' tease by Dave before 'Drums'; 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' and 'Ribs And Whiskey' raps by JB during 'Arleen']
source - everydaycompanion.com

SIDE NOTE: DJ Crystal Method opened and played during the setbreak.

Widespread Panic - Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV - 10/31/2005
Brian Gearing

I don’t know if the bar in the foyer of the Bellagio has a dress code, but after almost sixty straight hours of music, shower or no shower, I’m sure I looked pretty ragged in a Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt and the same pair of jeans I’d been wearing since getting on the plane Friday. All things considered, I shouldn’t really blame the hostess for looking straight through me, but the tram ride through the desert pines to the lobby was the first chance I’d had all weekend to slow down and take a breath, and I wasn’t quite ready to start moving again just yet.

I ordered a bottle of water, took the brown paper bag from my pocket, and continued the scribbling that had started in the souvenir shop, where I’d asked the bewildered cashier, who barely spoke enough English to understand me, to borrow a pen. As the piano player flew through flurries of sixteenth and thirty-second notes, I spun myself around to admire the glass flowers on the ceiling and thought about chance. Las Vegas had had the best of it, and it just didn’t seem fair. “Something from New Orleans,” I wrote on the bag, then tore off a piece and placed it on the piano. After finishing the classical piece, he picked up the brown scrap, glanced over and nodded, and as the first soulful bars radiated like Delta heat from the baby grand, tears welled in my eyes.

Reminders of the Katrina tragedy had dotted the Vegoose landscape, where ReNew Orleans booths were set up here and there, but while hours of TV news coverage had left a permanent mark on all of America, the music lovers who had descended upon Las Vegas seemed to have decided that, for this weekend at least, it would be easier to just try and forget for a while. A place like Las Vegas makes forgetting easy, but Widespread Panic, who have planted so many roots in New Orleans, made it a point to remember this Halloween night.

After Crystal Method’s opening DJ set, Dave Schools teased a little bit of Halloween mayhem with the dark, foreboding Dragnet theme, but as drummer Todd Nance turned the key on the “Love Tractor” opener, any spooky vibes settled into the backbeat. Schools gave another fright as the bass line of “Imitation Leather Shoes” stomped like combat boots through Delta mud, reawakening a few sleeping beasts, but aside from the first ever “Born Under a Bad Sign” and Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues,” most of the show was standard, fright-free Panic.

When the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is in the house, however, standard Panic flies out the door. Together, the two bands are a different beast altogether. And though the horns add to the party spirit, they limit the band’s improvisational abilities, so especially in the first set, things stayed pretty simple. While the slow blues of “Born Under a Bad Sign” had hinted at a little Cajun flavor, full-brass versions of “Bayou Lena,” and “Old Neighborhood” piled it on, and when the set closed with “Weight of the World,” the evening’s theme was starting to become clear.

With the Crystal Method spinning during setbreak, most of the Halloween revelers kept their seats—or rather their places. Few were still sitting as the steady beat built to an irresistible groove through “Crosstown Traffic,” “Enter Sandman,” “Roadhouse Blues” and “Song 2” until the familiar funk of “Superstitious” signaled the band’s return with horns in tow. DJ Method stuck around to work the wax through the second set opener and received a riotous ovation as he and the Dirty Dozen left the stage to the headliners.

No longer burdened with taming the multi-headed brass beast, Widespread Panic was able to stretch their wings in the second set, starting with a funky “Rebirtha.” One of Panic’s stronger love songs, “Climb To Safety” lost some of its power when John Bell dropped the joyous chorus down an octave, but “Monstrosity” lived up to its name. Dave Schools and George McConnell shared driving duties, navigating the big, hairy Halloween beast up shadowy mountain curves before finally letting go of the wheel to let it barrel down the other side into the controlled chaos of Domingo Ortiz’s percussion solo.

As Todd Nance pulled Ortiz back from the brink, the rest of the band returned to the stage with the Dirty Dozen close behind. The horn section got comfortable and the crowd chanted along with the chorus, while John Bell rapped through “Arleen.” The song began to crumble, however, when aliens descended upon the stage, locking their death rays on the Las Vegas backdrop that suddenly illuminated the room. The slow, bluesy intro of “Spirit in the Dark” soon rose from the pile of sonic rubble before the true gospel soul lifted the whole sad scene above the destruction.

The voodoo blues of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” resurrected the Halloween spirit, and a fitting “Fishwater” closer brought the party back to the French Quarter for “more, more, more.” Schools’s bass and JB’s growl brought the evening to a head, but all good things must end. A three-song encore delayed the inevitable, but after first-ever versions of the slow, mournful “Dark End of the Street” and the soulful “Nowhere to Run,” the calypso Panic party anthem “Coconuts” waved a final goodbye to a momentous weekend.

Like the song’s hints of suntan lotion and saltwater, however, the inaugural Vegoose weekend would linger in my consciousness for weeks, and the closing evening was the perfect ending to a perfect musical weekend. Since its reemergence from hiatus this spring, Widespread Panic has been firing on all cylinders, and this Halloween spectacle was no exception. Who better to remind us of the city we’ve almost lost than this Georgia band that’s made their second home there, and where better to remind us than this city that has given a temporary home to all our favorite things?


10/20/05 Panic Keeps Spreadheads Guessing (interview w/ Sunny)

Panic keeps 'Spreadheads' guessing
Jam band's set list changes every night
By Sarah Mauet
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.20.2005

Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz celebrated his 19th anniversary with Southern rocking jam band Widespread Panic in appropriate anti-rock-star fashion.
"I watched (the) Braves beat up on Houston," he said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Mobile, Ala.

It was a conflict of sorts for the Texas-born percussionist who joined the Athens, Ga., sextet in 1986 - but the band members always root for the Atlanta Braves, he said.
If all six members were rooting for the home team, they were doing it in their respective hotel rooms - Ortiz watched the game alone.

The following overcast and windy morning didn't bode well for the outdoor BayFest Music Festival. Ortiz planned to sneak into Mobile early to check out the effects of Hurricane Katrina, which he said were still apparent more than a month later.
"We're about 45 minutes outside of the city," he said. "We've had to stay on the outskirts of the city because Mobile was one of these towns that offered assistance to all these homeless people, so I think every hotel downtown is booked.

"There's still a lot of debris," he added, mentioning destroyed billboards and missing business signs. "The emotions are high. People want to get back to their lives again back here."
Event organizers expected the three-day music festival to draw around 200,000 people. Widespread Panic, which is known for rocking like the Allman Brothers Band and jamming like the Grateful Dead, with a smattering of blues and world music percussion thrown in, seems to have held up its end of the deal.

"In a class of their own was Widespread Panic. They churned out tunes for nearly four hours and showed why they are one of the most notorious touring acts in recent history. Just like BayFest as a whole, Widespread certainly delivered more than promised," said an event review in the Vanguard, the University of South Alabama college paper.
Widespread Panic has been earning a string of positive reviews since returning from more than a year on hiatus. While there are still tickets available for the Tucson show Wednesday, many Widespread Panic concerts sold out within minutes - 5 minutes in Chicago, 4 minutes in Asheville, N.C., and 14 minutes in Atlanta, where more than 90,000 requests for tickets were turned away, according to press material.

Not bad for a band that gets scarce radio or MTV attention.
Pollstar recently ranked the band at 15 on the chart for the top 50 best-selling tours to date in 2005.
The secret: Never repeat a set list.
"Every performance day, we get together, we rehearse and we talk about the songs we haven't played in two or three days," Ortiz said. "We try to perform these songs that aren't so repetitious in our repertoire, that are obscure and give people their money's worth. We really do want to make it exciting."

"Spreadheads" can follow the band for days at a time without hearing the same song twice. Regulars even make bets on which songs will be first or last at each concert, Ortiz said.
"There's always the excitement of people saying, 'I wonder what songs they're going to play today,' " he said. "We can go four nights without repeats. We want people to be always listening and always coming to hear us."

Fans have been turning out to hear the band for almost 20 years, but in 2002, when the band was packing arenas, the group received a huge blow. Lead guitarist and founding member Michael Houser died of pancreatic cancer.
The band - with Houser's blessing - played on.

Widespread Panic performed more than 100 shows in 2003 with longtime friend and guitarist George McConnell. After fulfilling previously booked shows, the band finally took 2004 off to recoup and properly mourn the loss of its founder and friend.

"With Mikey's passing three years ago, we had shows we were committed to and obligations we had, and for us to come to a complete stop at the time wouldn't be fair to the fans," Ortiz said.
The band recorded shows before taking the year off and released four live CDs while on hiatus, during which, Ortiz said, he was "a stay-at-home mom" for his son, 11, and daughter, 7.
Though the fans enthusiastically welcomed back the band, the members were a little nervous returning to the road in March.

"I think all the boys in the band kind of felt a little bit scared about going out there after 12-plus months," Ortiz said. "We wanted to see if we still had that spark together. We felt a little anxiety at first, but once the first set was over, we were brushing off our brows saying, 'Well, we're glad this is over.' "

While the band has always allowed fans to make bootleg recordings of shows, concertgoers won't have to smuggle in recording equipment anymore. The band launched a new Web site (www.livewidespreadpanic.com) that offers professional-quality recordings of live performances almost immediately after each show.

As far as studio recordings go, the band is planning to release its first in three years sometime next spring. While the band has built its road-warrior empire on the strength of its jamming rock, there's no telling what the new album will sound like, Ortiz said.

"It always changes," he said. "I think that's why the people are still into it as much as they were 10, 12, 19 years ago. They don't know what to expect from us."


10/13/2005 Interview w/ John Bell

By Kayceman

We live in a fast-paced world - a day of instant everything and drive-thru anything. These are not patient times, and we rarely find moments for reflection. We used to work 40 hours, now we work 50. We used to sleep for eight, now we're lucky to nail down six. Never has time moved more quickly. Perhaps that's why the 15-month break that Widespread Panic took flashed past us in what felt like a single breath. Not only is the break over, the band has already completed two tours, including stops at Red Rocks, Bonnaroo, and a slew of other premier locations. You might say it's like they never left - but you'd be wrong. This is not the same band that put down their instruments for the first time in their career after New Year's Eve at the end of 2003. Nor is this the same band that was anchored by the Telecaster of Michael Houser. The past few years have been a constant evolution. Every show, every song, George McConnell (who replaced Houser after pancreatic cancer took his life on 8/10/02) becomes more familiar to both the band and their audience. Like JB told me in his Chicago hotel room, "I just have to remind myself that it took me a long time to get to that feeling. It might take a little while to... to break in that new pair of shoes." I know it's difficult, but we need to be patient.

There are fans that can't seem to connect with the band's sound anymore. The more traditional guitar work of McConnell has left some without their wings. But if you spend enough time around the band, you will also hear some "newer" fans talking about how they "finally get it with Panic." As they say, different strokes for different folks. But regardless of what side of the fence you sit on, or even if you've never cared to be involved with the Panic discussion, if you simply pass over this band with whatever preconceived notion you have, then you are falling victim to our country's ADD obsession. This is passionate, gritty rock and roll being created by six talented, humble musicians. Sure, there are certain subtleties that will be lost on the casual observer, and yes, there are changes in the music that will make it difficult for those who once flocked to Houser's guitar, but this is genuine music that is taking on a new life. You just need to pay attention.

You see, while the world may not be patient, Widespread Panic is. They've been doing this for over 20 years. They haven't yet "hit it big," and the endorsement deals haven't bought mansions for the members. While the music is based around solid blue-collar songs, it's the instrumental heights and improvisational patience that have made Panic one of the most important bands of the past two decades.

With the band back from their break and back on their feet, the music world ticks towards Halloween. Of all the days we recognize, Halloween may very well be the most important show Panic plays all year, or at least the most anticipated. To add a bit more fuel to the fire, not only will Panic be playing to a sold-out Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Halloween, they'll also be a headliner at the inaugural Vegoose festival the day before. With all this in mind, we figured it was high time to sit down with the band and reacquaint ourselves.

A few moons ago, I flew to Chicago to meet with Widespread Panic's front man, John Bell. The story of this band has read like a Hollywood script: two college buddies start a band, they work hard, find success, become a pillar in the music world, lead guitarist dies, all hell breaks loose, a good friend steps in to help out, they take a break, they come back with a revamped sound, and the Second Set begins. That's where we are today. We are witnessing the Return of Widespread Panic. This is why I packed my bags and waited for my airplane. I had questions, JB had answers.

When he entered the room, time slowed a bit. I no longer felt the rush of traffic or the pace of the city that led me to this point. The large stone that hung from a silver chain around JB's neck immediately caught my eye. We exchanged pleasantries and talked small for a moment, but it was clear we both had business to attend to, so we quickly got down to it.

Kayceman: You know I had the pleasure of traveling with Dave [Schools] and the Stockholm Syndrome on their European Tour. One thing that we discussed quite a bit was that he really feels that Widespread Panic is the "Classic Story." And in his words he said, "You know, you have the beginning and the greening years, and the dues paid, and then the tragedy, and then the overcoming of the tragedy." So now that the dues have been paid and y'all have tasted the glory and there's been the tragedy and now you're back, do you feel like this is sort of the triumphant stage again, coming back into the glory? Or I guess a better way of putting it is, where do you feel Widespread Panic is right now?

JB: Man, really the same place we've been since day one. Not to contradict what Dave was saying, because I could see it being tracked in a linear fashion, but no, I pretty much look at it like one moment at a time, one gig at a time. You come in with a little extra experience, maybe even forget some things, so you gotta re-learn, re-gain some experience. So for me, I look at it like being in the same frame of mind, the same place, in a condition of trying to see what the music has to offer. And then whatever happens happens, and however anybody looks at it, that's cool too. So yeah, I wouldn't want to put expectations on what "this era" is or anything like that. Because I really don't know. We were doing other interviews right before we got together [before their first tour after the break], and it was just like, "I just don't know what's gonna happen. I'm gonna walk downstairs and we'll see what happens."

Kayceman: You guys had your first break ever, so do things feel any different to you - not better or worse or anything, but do things feel any different for you now that you have had this time off and now that you're back on tour?

JB: Yeah definitely. There's not as much auto-pilot nature to it right now. I mean we are gaining that back very quickly, but right now we are thinking about everything, taking in all input and stuff like that, at least I am. Sometimes that can be distracting, or sometimes I can just say, "Wow, I'm very open to a lot of stuff that is going on." And I assume that is a byproduct of not being in the position we were a year-and-a-half ago where there were, 18 or 19 years of repetition - not just repetition but the way we do things, and so now there's still a little breaking-in period. And you know, being away from home, it's almost like Laura [his wife] and I are courting again on the telephone.

Kayceman: From what you just said, I think it's safe to assume, but one thing I was toying with in my head - do you feel as passionately about Widespread Panic as you ever have before?

JB: Yeah (very quick, almost cutting with his response).

It seems that way, both on stage and from what you've said, but...

Yeah, if I didn't, I wouldn't be here.

Now moving to this tour right now, have there been any shows in particular that have sort of stuck out to you as something that was really clicking?

There are almost whole shows. I haven't felt the real big one, but I've felt a lot of big moments, big stretches where you are getting there. And then, you know, I just have to remind myself that it took me a long time to get to that feeling. It might take a little while to... to break in that new pair of shoes.

How about songs on this tour? Is there anything that is really driving you - the new songs, any old songs, anything you are really connecting with more than the rest?

The process of new songs. That's always one of the most refreshing things. And those moments of interplay, re-attaching some of those unspoken connections that we've had, you know - gotta clear out some of those pathways.

It sounds like it's getting closer and closer. As you said, there are moments of brilliance, which is refreshing. Thinking about some of these new songs - a song like "Second Skin," somebody had mentioned that Jerry Joseph might have had something to do with that song. Is that accurate?

Oh yeah.

Did he write that song?

He and Dave did things together. And the way Dave explained it to me, it was written with Widespread Panic in mind, and kind of with some guess work with what I'd be comfortable singing. You know, Jerry and I approach things in very different ways - although I love performing with him, and I love watching him play. But we come from different places, and so they were nice enough to say, "If you dig the tune but there are things you want to change, or if there's a direction you want to embellish, whatever comes out." I do the same thing to myself too. I write a song, and then ideas come up later and new images. It's constantly in editing mode.

Going back to what I was saying about this Triumphant Stage, whether you view it that way or not, I would kind of think that, you know in all the years I've sort of paid attention to what you've been doing, I get the feeling you don't sing something you aren't connected to, and you don't play something that doesn't come from you. So I'm thinking about these songs, like "Second Skin" and "You Should Be Glad" and some of the verbiage in there like "About to be born again" and "You should be happy." Again, sometimes as a fan as well as a writer, maybe I read too much into it, but are these about Widespread Panic coming back, being "born again," like "you should be happy" because we're back?

Oh no, no, no. I can take a little mystery out of "You Should Be Glad."

Last night was the first time I've ever heard it, so I was just trying to take it in.

Oh yeah, and sometimes if a song is coming together fairly well, it should be open to interpretation. But I know Jojo's inclination with "You Should Be Glad," a lot of the words came from him, and a lot of the music came from Sunny, and then we all started getting in and working on the arrangement and seeing where it led. And it's still way in the developmental stage, but you know he and Christi just had a new baby, so it was like "What do you do with this thing?"

That's funny. That was the other thing I was thinking - "you should be glad we're back on tour" or "I just had a baby, life is great."

I think it was little Julia that inspired him.

Good, that's nice to hear.
And with "Second Skin."
"About to be born again," I mean...?

Well see, there were tendencies already in there, and then there were things, you know I tailored a few words, a few phrases to where I could step into the song and really feel like I wasn't losing what it was saying. But I was also able to filter it through my own sense of inspiration.

I mean it's almost impossible... I was at the Fox [first shows after the break] as well, and I had never heard those songs of course, and the first time the band is back in a year-and-a-half, to hear you singing "About to be born again," it's almost impossible for it to not have that connotation as a fan. So it's interesting. And while we're talking about songs, certain songs have taken on different meanings to Panic fans now since Mikey died. For example, a song like "Imitation," I'm wondering...


"Leather Shoes," I'm sorry. When you're singing "I don't wanna fake it anymore."

Oh yeah.

So for a lot of fans, I know hearing you sing that now means something different than it did a few years ago - to some people.

Wow. That's surprising.

I was wondering if that means anything different to you guys. When you are singing that song is it any different to you now than when you first wrote it?

Not that particular tune. But when we visit stuff like "Traveling Man," which was, you know, one of Mikey's last tunes that he put together - that is speaking metaphorically of those months, right before he passed, so that's really heavy. And then you get into the words, and you still get to kind of feel what's going on. And bringing back a tune like "This Part of Town," that was, you know, that's a lot of fun.

Is it ever emotional for you? Because you know, music is very powerful - sometimes it affects you in very different ways. Coming from somebody who sees a lot of music from a lot of different bands, when you were playing "This Part of Town" at the Fox, it was sort of emotional for me. Is it ever hard for you on stage, singing "This Part of Town," or towards the end - those Oak Mountain shows, is it ever an emotional thing or are you able to separate yourself?

It's always emotional. It's kinda two-fold: the music lets you get into it and visit those emotions in kind of a safe environment, where you're in and you're out. You get to test the waters. And there again, the whole thing with just moving on and staying on the road. We were gonna take some time off before Mikey passed away, but then we had some setbacks with some of the touring and with going to Europe and stuff. We had always planned to take at least a year off, but then when Mikey passed, we were like, "Nah, you know, we gotta stick with it for a little bit, just to see where we are." So it's not like we are just going away. It didn't seem like it would be appropriate at that point. And it also gave us a chance to have a nice full-blown distraction, but it was a distraction in doing something that we were used to doing. We were still applying ourselves musically, and as a band and with staying together, we were the ones that really had a common experience. I mean, as far as the band members, we were the only ones who had each other. Family members had family members too, but... And so yeah, it was all happening all at once. You would get into it, but I could see where we were taking advantage of the ability to spoon-feed ourselves without getting overblown.

You know there was something I've been thinking about for a while, and if it's none of my business that's fine, but I was thinking about that Sunday night show at Oak Mountain. For a lot of people who were sort of paying attention, they thought that it could potentially be the last time Mikey played. I mean I thought it was at least a possibility because the tour was ending, and that show was very over the top in my opinion. So I'm curious, what did you guys say to each other before you went on stage? I'm assuming you guys were under the impression that maybe Mikey might not be around for the next tour. Was that in your thought process at that time?

Well, we'd already talked about it, and the plan was that Spring Tour would have been it.

Right, that's the impression I was under so...

Well I'm not sure if the decision had already been made there, but fairly quickly after that he said, "I want to go out and play as long as I can."

Right, so leading up to that show, when you guys are going on stage, and there was a chance this might be the last time you'd get to play music with Houser, how does that situation play itself out?

Well, you gotta know we were still... it's something we'd been doing since '81.

[Very long pregnant pause. More than what JB said, it was the way he looked - staring out the window, not exactly tearing up, but you could see the emotion in his eyes. This was the most powerful moment of the interview – the moment between words, where the thought was floating in the air, in his mind – between the two of us as we spoke of Houser.]

Playing-wise, I felt no difference except for possibly some things where you just realize that he's playing great, and you go, "Hey, it's not just a great night; this could be... you know... this could be... the last great night." But he's playing his heart out till the last minute, and he was really on. And then there'd be some songs, I think, probably like, I don't know, "Ain't Life Grand" – there were certain tunes. And a couple times I remember him getting a little choked up, or maybe a microphone wasn't working, who knows, but then I'd be singing it by myself and thinking, "Wow, this is about to happen just like this anyway." We knew the possibilities. And he had his family out with him, and he was really digging it. I know he felt the most normal when he was playing. He wasn't listening to his heart beat real fast or getting freaked out or anything. So I think it was like we were taking it as another gig, but now this was something totally different.

Fair enough. Coming back around to some of the newer material that y'all are working on, in an interview you did with Tom Speed [Honest Tune Magazine] leading up to your break, you had talked about Ball and how, for the first time, you sort of put yourselves in the position of sort of forcing yourselves to turn it on to see if you could get the creative juices flowing and get this material to work. So with some of this newer stuff - has it been that kind of a situation or is it coming to you more naturally?

This is more old-school. Ball occurred that way because of a request, or I wouldn't say it was a request, it was a notion, like a "What if?" by Tom Lipsky at Sanctuary. We kind of took it as a challenge to come up with all new material that the kids, you know none of our fan base has heard before. And it was part of their marketing thing too, so the radio stations wouldn't get it, the publications wouldn't get it, everybody got it the first moment it came out. It probably back-fired a little 'cause we were going against the machine.

Yeah but you know, try something different.

It was like, everybody wants their copy. But for us it was a challenge, and it was a great way to go through the process differently. So in that interview, what I was pointing out was that usually we could sit and play with songs, get them onstage, listen to phantom sounds and recapture those and remember them and say, "Hey, now let's put that in the thing." And do it at a slower pace without forcing anything. And here we were in a position of pushing it along, trying to maintain the same process, but using high-speed access. It was a new process. It was good to know you had it in ya. And the collaborative effect - that was a lot of fun, and hopefully we didn't leave too much out of it. But I'm sure if we had more time to let the songs find their own way, then there would be some rooms we haven't explored. But overall, when I listen to the album, I'm still... the content is there.

In thinking about the break again, obviously your personal life is your personal life, but in regards to Widespread Panic, what were you doing? Were you writing material?

Yeah, I was pretty much... That was the only obligation. I did feel an obligation to come back and at least share some songs, so we had new material. I also was like, "You know, if we sit down and the first song we practice is 'Pigeons' or something, I'm gonna go nuts." So Jojo and I were talking, and I was like, "Man, the first thing we do, please let's start working on new material." And that was a no-brainer. Everybody felt that way. So I put a little studio together; I'd been moving around to different rooms at different places, but here I just rented a house so I could have way more elbow room and just dedicate that space to putting tunes together. So I did that and shared that stuff with the guys - just sent CDs out with two, three, four songs at a time, something like that.

Sometimes I feel like fans read too much into what's going on. Sometimes a song is just a song; it's not necessarily a grand statement from the band. But when y'all came back to the Fox, those shows were obviously a pretty big event, so how did you guys go about picking openers, closers, and what to put in the middle of "Driving?" Was there a lot of thought put into that, or was it just sitting down and picking them?

No there was a real simple discussion we had that was like, "Let's bring back some old tunes that we haven't played in a while." Because at one point, George was just socked full of information, and it was like, there will be tunes that we'll get back to, but right now, you know, poor boy is bleeding notes. And let's work the new stuff into the material.

For a lot of people outside the Fox after the show, it was like, "Oh my god, I can't believe they opened with 'Holden [Oversoul].'" So was that a preconceived thing? Had that been in your mind at all, because you obviously hadn't played it yet with George, and it's a classic Panic song and that seems to be a statement of some sort.

Well it's just like, the first song, make it something! And because some of the new tunes are such new babies, and there's no recognition, you know, people would still be going, "What is this?" It would be like the German audience, [In his best older German accent] "Umm yaaa, interesting... I like it, but I do not move." [Laughter] So that one had familiarity, but nobody had heard it in two years or something.

Kinda giving you a little bit of both there.

And it's open-ended, so all of a sudden we'd be back just jammin'. "Hey, where are ya?" "I'm over in A-minor, where are you?" "A-minor." "Amen brother."

Now obviously there are times when the music is really clicking and firing on all cylinders, and there are times when it's not as much. What kinds of conditions allow you to maximize those opportunities?

Well, you can be at the mercy of a really bad-sounding room, and nothing is going to help that. And the bottom line is you're not able to hear. It's like trying to have a meaningful conversation in a huge crowd. But when things are sounding good and everybody is listening - and it comes on different levels. It's like everybody is kind of responsible for their own state of awareness and their state of reaction and playing and their contribution and their own awareness or perception of how the rest of the band is getting in on that thing, so it's really an interplay. There's reality and illusion happening the whole time, and if your illusion has brought you to a point that your reality is like, "Hey we're all together," then for you at that moment, that's real.

I mean it's not like everybody did the Mayan thing and "Poof," just gone. And we've gotten off stage where one guy thinks, "God, that was a fantastic night!" and somebody else will say, "You know, I was struggling all night." And it's kinda like, that's sorta the way it goes - in life too. Everybody is sporting their own personal perception.

Sure. I'm hesitant to suggest that you would, but do you feel any sort of added pressure now, as the band leader? I hate to say that you are the leader, but you kinda are. Do you feel any added pressure to sort of push this baby?

No, not at all. I put pressure on myself to be a viable member of the band and an equal member of the band. And leadership - I think if that perception is imposed or present, that's more because I'm in that traditional role of standing in the middle and doing vocals. But there is nothing that goes down that's not a democratic process. And 99% of the time, we move unanimously.

And how about in your guitar playing. Have you made an effort, not even right now, but since Mikey died, have you made an effort to be more vocal with your guitar, or is it just the same - going after it?

Pretty much the same, but with some adjustments.

It sounds to me a little bit like, I don't know if it's a volume issue or what it is, but I feel like you are in that conversation a little bit more prominently than you had been. Just in the guitar aspect, I hear you soloing a little bit more here and there and stuff like that, which I'm not quite as used to.

I think that always comes whenever I'm inspired, and we're listening. And I'll always be in there, well not always, but a lot of times I'm in there feeding off what George or whatever anybody else is playing, and melodically and rhythmically entwining myself like that. As far as volume goes, a lot of that is up to Chris [Rabold - Sound Engineer].

And we hear it differently than you hear it, I'm sure.

Right. And I have a couple different tones that I use, now I'm up to three configurations instead of, actually I'm up to two configurations instead of one. And then I have my Tube Screamer to give it a little rounded boost if I need it.

Are there any songs that you are playing right now, since the Fox, that you feel are really hot?

Nah, personally, all the songs are gateways to... I don't wanna use a cliché, but I’m about to - to just feeling the magic. [laughing] Feeling something that is non-describable - where you just go, "Oh wow, good surprise. OK, wow-wow. Don't try to describe it or it will go away. Just ride on it." So all the songs are gateways, and mostly for me it's getting myself back in the mode of being active and receptive in that mode of being able to apply myself in tunes like that.

So take for instance last night [04/08/05], was there a song in particular that you really, after the show were like, "We were hitting on..."

Hmm... most of the new ones are losing some of their awkwardness, if I looked at a setlist, maybe I could pick something out. What sticks with me are usually the damaged areas, where you come back and you really wanna get revenge on those. So when those tunes come up again, you're really ready to play because you want to redeem yourself.

One other thing I was thinking about, and just based on your nature, from what I can tell from our small talk, I don't know if you really view things in this way necessarily, but is there something that you perceive, not even a goal, not something concrete, but is there something you want to see happen with Widespread Panic?

Nothing that isn't already happening. There are so many realms: you want to stay viable creatively, you still want to be excited and be on edge while you are playing, those things I want to see happen.

Are you feeling those things right now?

Personally, I'd say I can see it happening, and I have to respect the process. But I'm still more self-aware than when we got off stage after New Year's.

And is that a positive thing for you to be self-aware like that?

Well it is what it is, so I'm gonna roll with it as a positive thing or else I'd be fighting and making a mess of it. And you know, stuff still keeps coming out, and we're still having fun. And that it works harmoniously with our desires as family members too and just out there in general - I'd like it to be a positive thing. That's really important.

Without question. It just seems like it would have been very easy to not come back from the break. I mean, you guys have nothing left to prove, obviously, so I would assume there is some intention behind it. I don't think you would just come back and say, "Hey lets play some fuckin' songs and see what happens." And again, I could be wrong, but it seems like there is a desire, if nothing else, to just make it the best it can be.

Yeah. Well I gotta say it's a real relief to come back because there were things that I took for granted that had been part of my daily life routine for more than half my life. So to go over a year without some of those things, that was... It was fun to have the free time, but there were some things I was missing that I took for granted, and I didn't know I was feeding off those so much. And performing is one of them.

Published on 10/13/2005

10/03/05 Dino Derose's Death Confirmed

Dino Derose's Death Confirmed; Lighting Designer was 49
from AP 10/03/05

Lighting designer Dino Derose, who disappeared on September on 25, has been oficially declared dead, according to the newspaper the Austin American-Statesman. He was 49.

DeRose, designer for Widespread Panic, was in Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. He disappeared from the Radisson Hotel in the vicinity ot 6pm on the 25th.

On Thursday, September 29th, a body was found along Interstate 35 in South Austin, according to local newscaster News 8 Austin. In many respects, it fit Derose's description. Shelton Green, a reporter from another local station, KVUE, quoted a local policeman as saying that the body had been there for four or five days. The body was eventually identified as DeRose.

Although, initial speculation centered a hit-and-run accident as the cause of death, the Austin coroner's office has not yet officially announced this.

Derose was a 30-year veteran of the industry, who had worked with Eric Clapton, KISS, and Earth, Wind, and Fire, among others.

On Widespread Panic's Web site, Chris Rabold, the group's production manager and FOH engineer, made the following statement:

"There is a big, big hole in our crew's heart right now. Dino Derose was a veteran of not just our camp, but of the industry as a whole. He was loved by all of those he worked with and all of those he worked for. For Widespread Panic he helped usher in a new level of professionalism and artistry with our light show. His work ethic was exemplary and I don't hesitate for a moment when I say that Dino was one of the hardest working men I have ever come in contact with. I am certain that I speak for all of us out here when I say that. More so than anything else however, Dino was our brother and our friend. Soft spoken with a heart of gold, Dino Derose was one of a kind. We love you Dino...rest in peace."


9/20/05 Charlottesville Pavilion show review

Widespread Panic: 9x Concert Review

By J. Holdren

On this sweltering night, the Charlottesville downtown mall was packed with young and old alike (I met a middle aged man with a 7 year old son!) who had come to see Widespread Panic. There were license plates in the parking lot from at least 10 different states, which says a lot for a crowd of between two and three thousand. From the sound check, the Grateful Dead’s chestnut ‘Cream Puff War,’ through three hours of music, it was obvious Panic had come to jam. This was their first full stop on their Fall tour, after playing Farm Aid with special guest Dave Matthews two nights prior. And it was obvious the boys had something to prove.

On this sweltering night, the Charlottesville downtown mall was packed with young and old alike (I met a middle aged man with a 7 year old son!) who had come to see Widespread Panic. There were license plates in the parking lot from at least 10 different states, which says a lot for a crowd of between two and three thousand. From the sound check, the Grateful Dead’s chestnut ‘Cream Puff War,’ through three hours of music, it was obvious Panic had come to jam. This was their first full stop on their Fall tour, after playing Farm Aid with special guest Dave Matthews two nights prior. And it was obvious the boys had something to prove.

Their summer was highlighted by a headlining spot on Lollapalooza in Chicago (“the first band I thought of” said Perry Farrell, leader of Jane’s Addiction and the fest). This is really, what many consider their first tour with new guitarist George McConnell fully engaged. He is the replacement for the sadly deceased Mikey Houser, a founding member of the band in 1986. George is now fully prepared and ready to take on the Spreadheads, and with his head banging, grooving wah-drenched lead work, it seems he’s quite enjoying the job.

The night was sprinkled with songs old (Space Wrangler) and newer (Thin Air); however, the band’s intensity was almost always up to par. Sure, there were lulls, like there are at any jam band show, however, for the most part, this show was stellar. The first set made me feel like I was a UVA undergrad at Trax all over again!

The band now seems to be led by bassist, Dave Schools, a Richmond native, who has over the years added an aggressive edge to Panic that is not evident in most jam shows. Time spent in Government Mule, and other side projects seems to have manifested into a grittier performance with Panic.

I’m not complaining at all! Perhaps that is why they’ve not grown to the heights of say Phish or String Cheese Incident, but its great to see a band of this caliber in a smallish venue, and with that edge I mentioned. A great example was a jam on Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Machine Gun,’ particularly poignant given the current state of military turmoil in Iraq.

Two sets, plus a two-song encore on this dewy evening was all the band, or the crowd could take, and I think everyone went home with a full stomach. If you want to see a show in a cool venue, visit the C-ville amphitheater (it’s a pretty deep bowl, with good sight lines). And if you want to see a band that jams and rocks hard with a Southern edge firmly intact, go see Widespread Panic when they come back around this way.

09/20/05 Charlottesville Pavilion, Charlottesville, VA
1: Pleas > Henry Parsons Died > Ride Me High > Rock, Party At Your Mama's House, Space Wrangler > Surprise Valley > Climb To Safety > One Arm Steve

2: Doreatha > Pigeons > Visiting Day, Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi) > Little Lilly > Red Hot Mama > Drums* > Monstrosity > Travelin' Light > Action Man

E: Old Joe, Ain't Life Grand

* with Bently Rhodes on percussion


7/28/05 - Verizon Wireless Music Center show review


Widespread Panic still knows how to jam

By David Lindquist

Among modern "jam bands," Widespread Panic remains the best at gathering momentum and maintaining it during the course of a performance.

The Georgia-based sextet played its direct brand of improvisational rock Wednesday at Verizon Wireless Music Center.

Attendance was about 4,400 at the 24,000-capacity venue. A cozier time could have been enjoyed at Downtown Indianapolis' underused Lawn at White River State Park.

Nevertheless, Widespread Panic signaled its accessibility with a version of War's "Low Rider," the night's second song.

George McConnell replicated the original horn-and-harmonica riff with a tangy guitar turn. The song later opened up for even more adventurous peel-outs.
McConnell has been with the 22-year-old band for more than two years, but this was his first Indiana date as a permanent member. He joined after original guitarist Michael Houser died in 2002 of pancreatic cancer.

As a musician, McConnell always has a solo at the ready. There were times Wednesday when his playing lacked personality, but he fared best when choosing warm tones over mechanical shredding.

During "Greta," for instance, McConnell found an organic stride once bass player Dave Schools and keyboard player John Hermann pounced on the middle of his extended solo.

Elsewhere, Widespread engineered nifty changes of pace when McConnell's playing flirted with tedium.

Hermann blazed through "I Wanna Be Sedated" as if Jerry Lee Lewis popularized the song, and not the Ramones.

Widespread tackled the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed" -- executed with the able and roughneck assistance of the night's supporting act, the Drive-By Truckers.

The Truckers sound like a cyclone whipping heavy things close to the ground.
And if the sonic assault doesn't floor you, the frank lyrics will. From three songs: "I ain't got no good intentions"; "I'm guilty of all seven (deadly sins), don't feel too bad at all"; and "We ain't never gonna change."


7/26/05 Lollapalooza Review

Grant Park rocks -- often on hot air

for the Chicago Sun Times

Lollapalooza 2005 went out with a whimper instead of a bang on Sunday. Or, given the festival-closing 2-1/2-hour performance by the absurdly self-indulgent jam band Widespread Panic, I should say "with a burst of flatulence."

When Lollapalooza founder, co-owner and wiggy emcee Perry Farrell introduced the Georgia sextet, he claimed it was the first band organizers sought for the reinvented festival, as well as "the best outdoor music band" today.

No offense to the legions of self-described "Spreadheads," but Widespread Panic is one of the worst albeit best-drawing groups on the current scene, failing to achieve the soul of great Southern rock or the invention of inspired jamming. Its members should have been arrested by Chicago police for slaughtering Bill Withers' R&B classic "Use Me."

For great Southern rock, the Panic boys could have taken some cues from the Drive-By Truckers, who rose to the occasion of playing to such a large audience (Sunday attendance matched Saturday's at 33,000) by capturing the same intensity of a small-club gig at the Hideout.

In comparison, the penultimate marquee act, Las Vegas' much-hyped Killers, was stiff and contrived while delivering its designed-to-be-radio-friendly glam-rock. But Texas art-rockers Spoon, who can be spotty in concert, were both looser and more fiery than I've ever seen them.

Farrell used Lollapalooza to launch his new space-funk band with former Extreme shredder Nuno Bettencourt and No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal. But Satellite Party was only about half as strong as his last group Porno for Pyros, which was half as strong as his original band Jane's Addiction. That means Perry is one quarter the artist he used to be, but he's certainly gotten better as a salesman.

By far the best act of the day, the Montreal ork-pop band the Arcade Fire added a rhythmic intensity to the beautiful, melodic and sometimes fragile songs of its acclaimed debut "Funeral," adding a power the album only hints at.

To recap my Lollapalooza experience, I managed to see at least half the sets of 25 out of the 39 acts performing on the four main stages -- and I have the blisters on my feet to prove it.

(I also need to make one addition to the list of suggestions to promoters for improving Lollapalooza next year: Don't give Beatle Bob an all-access pass. The middle-aged mop-topped go-go dancer, as ubiquitous throughout this festival as he is at many across the country, is just plain annoying. Besides, in Chicago we have our own Thax Douglas.)


7/21/05 Interview w/ Jojo Hermann


Widespread Panic: Pickin' Up The Pieces

Shane Handler
Thursday, July 21, 2005

In the past few years, Widespread Panic has endured their share of grief, uncertainty and exhaustion. A break from the road was more than deserving, and in late March, the Athens, Georgia six piece - John Bell, Dave Schools, George McConnell, Todd Dance, Doming "Sonny" Ortiz and John "Jo Jo" Hermann- returned from a 15 month hiatus clearly rejuvenated. To quote one of their songs, the band is "pickin' up the pieces" following the passing of one of their founding members (Mike Houser) while reigniting the band with newest member McConnell aboard.

During the break, the first for the band in it's twenty year career, you could have found keybordist Hermann playing with his side project, The Smiling Assassins or his Mardi Gras Band. Schools was performing with The Stockholm Syndrome and Acetate, while Nance released an album with his side project - Barbara Cue. All the while, lead singer John Bell simply took it easy and relaxed as McConnell took to learning the band's vast catalog of material.

Midway through the band's current summer tour, it's safe to say that no band throws down quite like Widespread Panic. A dying breed in the amphitheater/arena circuit, Panic continues to keep their audiences surprised while churning out honest to goodness rock and roll. At the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee last month, the band played a marathon Sunday night closing set that featured guest spots from Herbie Hancock, Bob Weir, Col. Bruce Hampton, Luther Dickinson and Robert Randolph - clearly another highlight of the band's long history.

So as they begin to write the next chapter in the Widespread Panic book with a closing festival time slot at Lollapalooza, Glide caught up with Jo Jo Hermann mid tour in Los Angeles.

Now that you're back from the hiatus, you've been touring steadily since March. Is there anything planned for the fall yet?

Well, we took that year off so we just figured lets just get out there. [And] we just [planned] a fall tour. It looks good, you know, just making the rounds pretty much with a lot of southern gigs. Next year when our record comes out we'll do some travelling. But I think in the fall it will be really good to get back and go to all our southern towns where we got our start and get back to our roots, because it's been a couple years.

You've mentioned before that Widespread Panic is still in a "wood-shedding phase." Now that you've been on the road for a bit and things have been kicking into gear, most notably the Bonnaroo shows, do you still feel like you're in that phase?

No, it's definitely in another groove, it's definitely turned a couple corners. Every night we're just getting better and better I think... I can't speak for the audience [whether they agree or not.] We're in a real good groove right now, we're just having a lot of fun, and you know, the old songs are getting tighter, but also a lot of new stuff.

In regards to the newer songs, did you go about reinventing your sound at all with them? Or are they more or less what you'd expect from a Widespread Panic tune?

Well on my end, I've added a lot of delay units and wah wah on my clavinet and just things like that - nothing too conscious. It's going trial by fire. Most of the songs are going really well, but we've definitely got a lot more in the fire we're going to be breaking out. We're doing it for our own sanity mostly, but we're gearing up for a new album we're going to be doing in January.

Is John Keane going to be involved with that?

He will definitely be working on it, but I know we're going to be going to the Bahamas and record in Compass Point.

Many of the new songs are built upon jams you've listened to on tapes from prior shows. Have you been listening to any moments from the shows this year and building material from more recent work?

Yes, as a matter of fact we're in the process of that. We did some stuff in San Diego that we were like, "wow that could be a song, and that could be a song..."

What are you looking for in particular that indicates a jam has song potential?

It could be a riff that George plays or that Dave plays. Like "Little Lilly," I just remember Dave, it was a riff one night like ten years ago or whatever and I was just like "wow, that's a great hook," you know, lets write a song around it. So like a year later “Little Lilly” came out of that. "Bust It Big" came out that way. It takes time, but it's fun to do.

Do you feel any of the older songs have been given a second life after the hiatus? Maybe songs that you were once tired of are fun to play again?

Yeah, definitely. I love playing "This Part of Town," that's definitely taken a life of its own. It just depends on the night- the old material and it was nice to get away from that stuff for a year, but we don't repeat them so it keeps it fresh. We still have a few more to go that we're talking about bringing back, a few more old ones. I'd say we're 90 percent there.

How were rehearsals prior the April shows? Was there a relearning process or did it all come back together naturally?

We got back together three weeks before the spring tour, and all got together in Athens and sat there and looked at each other and everybody was like, "you know, we don't want to start practicing like "'Chilly Water'." So we just kind of decided to go round robin around the room and everybody bring in a new song and we kind of just kept going around the room that way. We definitely practiced some of the old stuff, but it's pretty much ingrained. There's also a lot of lyrics for JB to remember (laughs).

At Bonnaroo this year you had Herbie Hancock on stage playing next to you one night, and the Sunday show was about four hours straight without a break…

It seemed like an hour...it didn't seem that long. We were scared that if we took a break everybody would think that would be the end and then they'd leave. And it was a very exciting moment [for me playing with Herbie], I'll never forget it.

Now that some time has passed, how is the band moving forward while continuing to pay respect to a lost friend?

Mikey is always there, you never really get over it, but there is finally a feeling of normalcy now. It was a long, long time, it was definitely a long mourning period. I still miss the guy a lot. When we play his songs, every night I think about him. His music keeps the spirit moving on.

Obviously George [McConnell] has stepped it up a notch in regards to learning the material, but how has your own playing evolved as of late?

Well I'm trying to sing more on key, I think that's my big thing. I'm trying to sing more on key this year - that's my new years resolution. I actually had someone show me a few tricks, a vocal coach, nothing major, but she kind of taught me how to sing on key a little bit.

So does that mean we're going to hear you sing some ballads soon?

Yeah, you know, I'm working on some Elton John and Paul McCartney (laughs).

Lollapalooza is coming up and Panic has one of the prime closing slots among bands like The Killers, Pixies and Weezer. Not exactly the typical names you'd find next to Widespread Panic on a festival lineup, but you must be excited about it?

Yeah, I'm really excited about it. [Unfortunately] we're not there [Saturday], we're somewhere else, so we can only see the bands on Sunday. I was kind of honored they asked us to do it and that they are letting us soak our feet in a different kind of thing. As far as this [year’s Lollapalooza], I saw the bill and I was like, it's a real privilege to share the stage with these other bands that we normally never see the light of day in terms of touring goes.

Do you have any solo show plans?

Nothing immediate, but I'm doing a little solo swing through the south in November and December on our break, and I'm doing four or five nights with Sherman Ewing, he's going to be opening for me. It's a solo thing, I'm getting an upright piano and just play my tunes, I'm kind of psyched for that, but no recordings or anything.

You're a big Mets fan, so now that the All-star break is over, what's your outlook on the Mets so far this year?

[Yeah], me and Robert Randolph are big Mets fans. [Their play] is a lot more encouraging than it's been. I think we're going to have a good second half. Boy those Braves, every year they just come out. Bobby Cox must have the magic touch, those Braves are just amazing.

But they've only won one World Series despite winning the division every year since 1991.

Yeah, they ran into that Yankees juggernaut there in the late 90's...it's a tough division. But I think Beltran is going to have a big second half and I look for the Mets to make a strong run for the wild card!

Have you been to any games this year while out on the road?

Yeah, I went to Wrigley Field, that was great and JB sang the national anthem.

Did he remember the words?

Oh yeah, he remembered the words (laughs)


7/15/05 Wiltern Theatre, Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles Show Review

Widespread Panic - The Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles CA - 07/15/2005

by Brian Malone

Los Angeles is a city filled with big dreamers, wide boulevards, palm trees, and a saccharine sunshine feel. It’s the entertainment capital of the world. A place where Hollywood make-believe fuses with hard working reality, and time and time again, bands from around the country make their way to tinsel town and end up either confused by the city’s laid back quirky feel or completely juiced by the electricity hidden under the its silicone surface.

On 7.15.05 Widespread Panic re-defined quality entertainment to the city of angels weaving an incredible night of sound into framework of an amazing and historic venue. The Wiltern Theatre dates back to the 1930’s, and what was once a very popular movie house has become hot bed for musicians looking to strut their stuff on an intimate stage in a beautiful setting. The walls and ceilings are covered with art deco grooves and sweeping curves, and this old school design matched well against the equalizer style lighting strategically placed as an effective back drop for the band.

The lights took on different shapes and directions throughout the show, one minute resembling rivers of blue running upstream, and quickly changing into a high speed freeway chase patterns. They bobbed and swirled with a patchwork of colors and shapes, and were an incredibly powerful and straightforward accompaniment to any tune or tone the band opted to play throughout the entire show.

As Panic took the stage, John Bell, outfitted in his classic white button down and jeans, gave his traditional smile and gruffly hello as he uttered “Good evening Nice People!”, and the band, led by the rhythmic pounce of Domingo Ortiz and Todd Nance, quickly broke into Pleas, a mellow crowd favorite that started the night off right. As the song progressed, George McConnell’s crunchy guitar strums and Dave School’s heavy bass drops took the tune to a deeper and darker depth as the band eventually snapped into the pounding crash of "Monstrosity." For the rest of the first set, Panic ebbed and flowed from more tempered melodic groove tunes like "Travelin' Light," "Weight of the World," and "This Part of Town" to more aggressive, growling type stuff, like "Rock" and the searing set closer "Ain’t Life Grand," which literally lit the entire crowd on fire and sent the floor and balcony into a crazed tailspin as they sung along and rode the musical wave into a much needed break.

As Panic opened the second set, they kept the same vibe from earlier, playing the poppy Beatles cover "Run For Your Life" and eventually melting into the heavier sounding "Thought Sausage" only to gravitate back to the more emotionally and vocally centered "Gradle." As John “Jo Jo” Herman laid down the fast paced and rhythmic key foundation for "Tall Boy," the crowd took it upon themselves to sing back-up on this tune and raise their arms in appreciation for playing another fan favorite.

Ortiz and Nance seamlessly segued into drums, while Wally Ingram, drummer for Dave School’s side project “Stockholm Syndrome”, joined in on the session and provided even more intricate and creative structure to the jam. The three bounced back and forth using different drums and rhythmic timing to create an infinite and heightened sensation and a truly unique sound experience. Dave Schools eventually joined the jam, laying down some detailed bass plucks for the rest of the band to follow as they settled back into the group to end out the show. They wasted no time moving the musical medium to new and fantastic levels as they belted out a scorching fifteen minute jam of Arleen, followed by a smoking "Red Hot Mamma," a poignant lyrical "None of Us Are Free," and a hard banging "Imitation Leather Shoes." These final four tunes highlighted a new and intricate face to Widespread Panic, the band not only kept their incredible range but we’re able to push a distinct sound; a mix of loud edgy metal and rhythmic improvisational extension that is ultimately leading this group in so many new and fascinating directions.

As the night came to an end, they encored with "And It Stoned Me," a subtle Van Morrison cover that gave the crowd a much needed break for reflection and rest. McConnell laid out some incredibly poignant licks on the tune, and once again they were able to bring their own spin to a very simplistic cover. The heavy sounding antics were far from over as they asked the crowd to hold on for one last wild ride ending the show with the rock-a-stomp "Conrad The Caterpillar."

Widespread Panic brought a new level of energy and entertainment to a glitz and glam town sometimes lost in the smog and mirrors brought on by the business of entertainment instead of creative mindsets that make it happen. Panic saw through the hype, pounded out some loud jams, and made a huge statement about the quality of their musicianship and the down home sound that makes them one of a kind.

07/14/05 Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
1: All Time Low, Little Lilly > Tie Your Shoes > Makes Sense To Me, Song For Sitara > Help Me Somebody, Trouble, Holden Oversoul > I Walk On Guilded Splinters > Goin' Out West
2: Let's Get Down To Business, Little Kin > Slippin' Into Darkness*, Drums*, Henry Parsons Died*, C. Brown, Second Skin, Ride Me High, Surprise Valley, Hatfield, Fishwater
E: Bust It Big > I Wanna Be Sedated

* with Steve Lopez on percussion

07/15/05 Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
1: Pleas, Monstrosity, Travelin' Light, One Arm Steve, Weight Of The World, Junior, Rock, This Part Of Town, Ain't Life Grand
2: Run For Your Life, Thought Sausage, Gradle, Tall Boy, You Should Be Glad, Papa's Home, Drums*, Arleen, Red Hot Mama, None of Us Are Free, Imitation Leather Shoes
E: And It Stoned Me, Conrad

* with Wally Ingram on percussion
['For The Love Of Money' tease before 'Arleen']

07/16/05 Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
1: Bowlegged Woman, 1 x 1, Climb To Safety, Dyin' Man, If You'se A Viper, Stop-Go, Nebulous, Jack, Give
2: Love Tractor > Blackout Blues, Postcard, Diner > Pilgrims > Ribs And Whiskey > Drums* > Big Wooly Mammoth > Chilly Water > Flat Foot Flewzy > Chilly Water
E: Expiration Day > Coconut > Last Dance

* with Matt Abts on percussion, Wally Ingram on percussion
['Three Little Birds' rap by JB during 'Stop-Go'; 'Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution' tease by George during 'Nebulous'; Last 'Last Dance' - 10/14/01, 238 shows]

Setlists from Everydaycompanion.com


6/7/05 Interview w/ George McConnell (MP3 edition)

Widespread Panic Interview
By Aaron Davis

Listen to Planet Jackson Hole's telephone interview with Widespread Panic guitarist, George McConnell - recorded June 7, 2005.

Part 1 - 5.2 mb

Part 2 - 5.8 mb

Part 3 - 4.8 mb


June 2000 Interview w/ George McConnell

Panic Striken
by Jim Urbanek

George McConnell didn’t just fall off the beer truck. He got off intentionally. When he was in high school, McConnell (BA 86) quit working for his dad’s beer distributorship in Vicksburg to pursue an interest in music that was quickly becoming a passion. It was his brother, Bob, who encouraged him, and 25 years later McConnell is living his dream as a guitarist and vocalist for one of the most famous “jam bands” ever, Widespread Panic.

Though the Atlanta-based band has been touring for nearly 20 years, McConnell has been with the group only since 2002, beginning as a temporary replacement after original guitarist and singer Michael Houser became ill. Houser died as a result of complications from pancreatic cancer in August 2002.

“I’d known the guys since we were in bar bands,” McConnell says of the group, which today also includes John Bell on vocals and guitars; John “JoJo” Hermann on keyboards and vocals; Todd Nance on drums; Domingo S. Ortiz on percussion; and Dave Schools on bass. “I didn’t really know them that personally, but [Houser’s death] appeared to be a sad, terrible shock to everybody.”

Though he’s the first to say no one can replace Houser, McConnell was excited and grateful when the band invited him to stay. His transition was smooth and met with hospitality appropriate to their many years of friendship.

There was life for McConnell before Widespread Panic, however. He started the Oxford band Beanland with Bill McCory (BBA 87) in the early ’80s after they met in an orientation line at Ole Miss.

“In the early days of Beanland, we would come and open for those guys [Widespread Panic] at the Cotton Club [in New York],” McConnell says.

Current Widespread Panic keyboardist Hermann was also a friend from McConnell’s Ole Miss days and played with Beanland in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

“By then Beanland had turned into an electric band with a drummer, bass player and everything,” McConnell says. “So we’re a four-piece band, and we heard about this guy who was always playing that old, raggedy, out-of-tune piano in the Hoka. We went down there to hear this guy, and he was playing old ragtime stuff; Scott Joplin, a lot of Professor Long Hair, Jellyroll Morton and that kind of stuff. We were like, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’”

Beanland recorded a couple of records before Hermann joined Widespread Panic in 1991. After Hermann left, McConnell opened Django’s Guitar, a store on the south side of the Square in Oxford, and played in the Kudzu Kings band. The guitarist says he felt like a kid in a candy store when the call came from Widespread Panic and he began touring with the band.

"I’d never been on a big bus before,” he says. “I’d never been at any of these big places, and we were playing sold-out shows all over the country. We played two sold-out shows in Madison Square Garden.”

McConnell says the day-to-day grind of being on the road, in the bus, in and out of hotels, and waking up not knowing where you are is balanced by the fact that the band is such a good group of guys.

“I really can’t say enough about what good guys they are, and I think that’s why they’ve been able to get along for these many years,” he says. “They are genuinely good friends and get along with each other beyond these concerts, which is a rarity. Think about the Beatles, one of the greatest bands of all time, and they were only together for about 10 years.”

McConnell’s favorite thing about being in the band is creating music. With such a large repertoire, the band doesn’t play the same set every night, typically going three or four shows before repeating a single song. The artist says he believes that is a big part of keeping the fans coming to concerts.

“They [Widespread] have about 11 or 12 studio albums out now, and about three or four live albums, and a list of 50 or 60 cover songs,” he says. “It’s not like most rock and roll bands that do the same set night after night, city after city. The fans never know what we’re going to play. It’s like anything could happen.”

McConnell, who still lives in Oxford, doesn’t slow down much during his rare time off. After getting some much needed rest, he will spend a week visiting his favorite restaurants, pubs and places like Faulkner’s Woods. But before long, you’ll find him in Proud Larry’s, guitar in hand, playing with good friend and fellow guitarist Daniel Karlish in a group called Drunk and Disorderly.

Then it’s back to the grindstone and one sold-out show after another. Constant touring is hard on the mind and the body, but McConnell and the rest of Widespread Panic keep it fresh and fun, all the while managing to turn out new albums on a regular basis. The group released three in 2004 and a live album titled Live at Myrtle Beach on Widespread/ Sanctuary Records in 2005.


5/4/05 Interview w/ John Bell

May 04, 2005 01:50 PM
by Don Zulaica

Here's your understatement for the day: people want to see Widespread Panic (music). How badly? Asheville, NC: sold out in four minutes. Three shows in Chicago: five minutes. Louisville, KY: 12 minutes. Three shows in Atlanta: 14 minutes.

The Georgia-bred jam band is in the middle of a run that will see them, once again, anchoring the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, TN, as well as the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, MN. This is after an unprecedented 15-month hiatus, and following the 2002 tragedy of guitarist Michael Houser losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.

The band has also opened a website, www.livewidespreadpanic.com, to allow fans to download entire soundboard-quality concerts. The first shows are being offered for free, and other selected shows will sell for $10.95-$15.95 (depending on file format), complete with cover art.

liveDaily spoke with vocalist-guitarist John Bell via phone from Tallahassee, FL.

liveDaily: The sellout stats I read are insane. What's going on?

John Bell: I think, just taking the time off and being well organized; there was clear communication on when the shows were going to go up for sale. It was probably a little chain reaction. For Chicago, New York and Atlanta, it was three-day weekends in a fun city, and those sold out pretty quick. We're surprised and really grateful that the tickets were cookin' like that.

You've also launched www.livewidespreadpanic.com to let fans access entire shows. Why did you decide to do this?

It's the same reason we started printing CDs. [laughs] That was just where technology in the music industry was going. It's pretty much just one of the things that bands are able to do. Since our shows are different from night to night, that also makes it a little feasible. If we were doing the same show every night, you could download it once and that would be it.

With your thriving trading community, I'd guess you were never into the "sue your listeners" thing.

No, we kind of count on them to be ... responsible with their freedom, as everybody should be. It's a new world, so it's still kind of like the old west out there. It's not thoroughly regulated. There's the opportunity to take advantage, and there's also the opportunity for folks that really don't see the line of cause-and-effect, how their excitement of getting something for free could kind of backfire in the whole system. It will work itself out, it is working itself out. As the years go by, the record companies are getting on board, they're not in denial about the Internet anymore. [laughs]

That worked real well.

It's kind of a good thing, because record companies were still working in old formulas, and arguably--not in every case, but in a lot of cases--artists and fans, you could be taken advantage of on both ends. And, all of a sudden, new technology comes through where you've got to re-adjust, and that gave some of the freedom of movement back to the artists and the fans. It's interesting to watch.

But, to answer your [original] question, we're more fascinated by the whole thing than to want to be [complaining] about missing some royalties, which is the case. But we're in the middle of a phenomenon, and we're doing well enough in our world that nobody's going to feel sorry for us [laughs] if we do get all cry-baby about it.

How many shows do you play a year?

I could be wrong, but I'd say between 80-100. It varies from year to year.

How do you keep in shape for the long haul?

We don't do anything out of the ordinary, individually. Being part of a rock-and-roll band, we've always been geared to doing what we want to do, and along with that is feeling good. So, as far as diet, exercise and activity, you've got a good idea of what it takes to maintain the quality of life that keeps you happy. So everybody works with that on an individual basis. Folks start exercising more when they begin a family. [laughs] I've noticed that trend.

How long into a show before you feel things are really gelling on stage?

You know, during the night it could come in portions. It could be as small as a portion of a song, or it could be a three-song stretch, or something like that. But after a while, you get those evenings where it's a full evening or a full set. New York was three days, and we were pretty on by then. It's one of those things where you know it when it's happening. If you're sitting there thinking, "Is it happening?," it ain't. It's one of those Zen-ny things where you've got to be in it, then you recognize it.

Do you write much new material on the road, or is it all spur of the moment?

Yeah, whenever something comes up, then you report on it and put it into some kind of form that you can explore, communicate and work with, to see how it develops. So it happens at any moment. On a napkin at a bar. I've got a digital memo machine that you just press record--let's say you've got a melody line in your head, you can hum it in there. I keep a little notebook in my pocket so I don't have to use napkins all the time. And we've got little, not elaborate, recording devices. You don't need that much to get your point across. If you have too much stuff, you'd spend half your time ramping up chords in a hotel room, which isn't that much fun.

When is the next studio album coming out?

We'll probably start it in the beginning of next year. That's usually because of touring. Touring is a spring-summer-fall kind of thing, so winter is the most logical time to be in the studio. It's a seasonal thing, this rock-and-roll bit.