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