10/30/06 Panic at Vegoose Stream

10/29/06 Vegoose, Star Nursery Field, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Climb to Safety > Surprise Valley > Henry Parsons Died, From the Cradle** > Pigeons*, Rebirtha > Tallboy, Blue Indian**, Solid Rock* > Fishwater, Conrad > Thought Sausage > Barstools and Dreamers** > Action Man, Papa's Home**, Little Wing* > Porch Song*, Ribs and Whiskey > Good People > Chilly Water
E: Ain't Life Grand**

AT&T Blue Room hosted live performances at Vegoose, a Halloween festival extravaganza, in Las Vegas on Oct 28th and 29th including the Oct 29th perfomance of Widespread Panic.

The webcast for WP began at 10pm while the boys were in the middle of Barstools and Dreamers and streamed for a little over an hour to the Ain't Life Grand encore.

For many on the East Coast the Sunday night show came at a late hour and missed the performance. But for all of those who missed it there is an uploaded torrent on bt.etree.org for you to download.


01 Barstools (already in progress)
02 Action Man
03 Papa's Home
04 Little Wing>
05 Porch Song>
06 Ribs and Whiskey>
07 Good People>
08 Chilly Water

09 Ain't Life Grand


10/25/06 Watch VEGOOSE Live via web cast

AT&T Inc. is expanding its online music entertainment offering by inking a new agreement to Web cast Vegoose 2006, a live concert series featuring more than 30 bands performing in Las Vegas.

AT&T will make this Web cast available through its AT&T blue room music portal on Oct. 28 and 29. The company will run performances from 2 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. during the two-day concert.

Some of the artists slated to perform include The Black Crowes, Widespread Panic, Maceo Parker and Yonder Mountain String Band.


10/20/06 Widespread drug use precedes Panic concert

Tailgaters sell balloons filled with nitrous oxide for $5 before the Widespread Panic concert Wednesday evening in the parking lot of the Indiana Memorial Union. Alcohol, marijuana and other drugs were also sold alongside T-shirts and pizza.
photo by Ronni Moo

Cocaine, acid, nitrous balloons fill Union parking lot
By Indiana Daily Student

The hiss of balloons filling with nitrous oxide was a constant sound in the Indiana Memorial Union Parking lot in the hour preceding the Widespread Panic concert Wednesday night.

As a police squad car rolled through the lot, pushers said, "Close it up," passing the message down the line. Beer vendors closed coolers full of beer and hid them in trunks, nitrous balloon fillers stuffed their nitrous tanks into black garbage bags, and dealers with far-away eyes selling "molly, nuggets and rolls" -- forms of ecstasy, marijuana and acid -- stopped wandering and mumbling about their offerings.

As Bob Marley and The Grateful Dead blared in the background, concert--goers, little kids, a few dogs and bags of drugs filled the IMU parking lot. They came from Alabama, Iowa and all over Indiana for the Widespread Panic concert -- and some of them just came to hang out in the lot.

"I'm here for the lot," senior Max Aronson said. "This is just cool to do."

When the police left the lot, yells of "No cars!" were met with whooping applause and the drugs re-emerged. Dealers offered marijuana, cocaine, acid and a form of ecstasy, in addition to beer and nitrous balloons to anyone walking around the parking lot.

A man who called himself James S. said he started his Panic journey with his girlfriend and Jack, his labrador, in Birmingham, Ala. He has seen shows in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Evansville and plans to make it all the way to Las Vegas for Panic's Halloween weekend show at the Vegoose Music Festival. James said he's enjoyed following the band, even though his dog was acting wild Wednesday night at his first concert experience. James said he has paid his way selling cold beer and blow, though the cocaine was only offered under his breath.

"I don't make a living, but I get by," he said.

The parking lot wasn't the ideal day care, but there were a number of children running around the lot, checking out the art work, dancing and hanging out with their "Spreadhead" parents.

One young, dreaded-locked child was running around with a pin, popping the nitrous balloons to cheers from some and anger from other partiers who had just dropped $5 on the


A glossy-eyed man wearing Led Zeppelin cloth pants, a patchwork shirt, a multicolored rainbow cape and a bejeweled headband strolled through the crowd offering massages with the guarantee that "there's a 95 percent chance you will not get pregnant from my back massage."

Freshman Kate Goeller was wide--eyed and taking the scene in at her first lot experience. Wearing makeup, a nice clean blue top and black pants, she stuck out in the crowd but said she was enjoying herself.

"It's really different, interesting eye candy," she said. "We just got done with a sorority dinner, so we look a little out of place."


10/19/06 Widespread Panic draws mixed reviews at IU

Widespread Panic draws mixed reviews

By Zack Teibloom | Indiana Daily Student

Widespread Panic fans walking into the IU Auditorium Wednesday night, buzzing with anticipation, said the night before in Evansville the balcony literally shook from the energy of the crowd. Wednesday night, the balcony was closed off, and there were several empty seats as close to the stage as the third row.

Widespread Panic had fans dancing in their seats, but a number of concert-goers said the band failed to live up to expectations.

Panic played two sets of the band's jam-influenced Southern rock with two guitarists, a bassist, keyboard and two percussionists. Several fans said the highlight was recent addition to the band guitarist Jimmy Herring, who played a number of extended guitar solos.

Senior Matt Beck said he only came because his aunt was visiting and she used to follow the band around in the 80s.

"Let's have an average song and have Jimmy Herring bail us out with a sick solo," he said.

George Good, an IU graduate and Bloomington resident, sat in the lobby getting set lists instantly downloaded onto his phone. He said he has been to more than 100 shows, and the sound for Wednesday night's show was "absolutely perfect," but he had issues with the venue.

"It's a little policed," he said. "You can't stand in the aisle, and a lot of things people want to do they can't get away with."

For more than an hour before the show and in between sets, acid, cocaine, nitrous balloons, marijuana and "molly," -- a form of ecstasy -- were being sold in the Union parking lot. In addition, beer and homemade sandwiches and pizza made out of an oven in the back of a van were available. Some people handled their drugs better than others. "I just saved a girl's life," said Jared Farmer, who came in for the show from Ivy Tech. "She fainted and was incoherent, heaving. People were standing around her not knowing what to do. We flipped her over, and she threw up all over the floor."

The crowd that stayed for the show applauded and danced throughout the two sets and gave some positive reviews.

"It's a great show," sophomore Baylor Brangers said. "It's a great venue in terms of music, and they play well together."

All in all, the crowd appeared entertained but not thrilled by the performance and said they had a better time when Panic was in Bloomington in April 2005.

"I was more impressed with last year," senior Evan Alberhasky said. "I'm glad they came back again, but I think people were disappointed."


10/19/06 Widespread Panic leads the jam - reluctantly

Widespread Panic leads the jam - reluctantly

Don't get them wrong - they like the fans, but hate being typecast

published: 10/19/06

Talk to the fans of Widespread Panic and they'll tell you without pause that their cherished act is one of the leaders of the jam band scene.

They're not wrong. With the Grateful Dead in quasi-reunion mode and Phish floundering in retirement, the Georgia-based Widespread Panic has become a de facto leader of the sub-genre that celebrates improvisational grooves inside trippy, dippy, milky white funk rock.

Yet, it's worth noting that despite their fans' praise, the members of Widespread Panic tend to hate being labeled a "jam" band.

For effect, the June issue of Harp magazine quoted Panic bassist Dave Schools saying "Jam bands can kiss my ... . Most of 'em can't write a ... song."

And still, the band's fans throw out the "J" word when talking about the Panic.

"They love to do that, and God love them," says Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz, the band's percussionist.

Talking from a phone in Nashville, the percussionist sounds as upbeat as his nickname. He also doesn't seem to care about what genre the fans label his band. He's more worried about the notion that his group doesn't appreciate the fans.

This is an a strange thing to defend since, during its 20 years of existence, Widespread Panic has been pro-bootleg, allowed its fans to sell T-shirts outside the concert grounds and hasn't objected to its followers shucking cheese sandwiches to each other in the parking lots.

Still, Ortiz says there are people who believe his band is hatin' on its people.

"Sometimes for us we hear that fans are complaining about ticket prices," Ortiz says. "But we've been trying for many years to try to keep the ticket prices down and play fan-friendly venues and making music the most important part of the equation."

That's the idea when Ortiz and his Widespread Panic boys step into Augustana College's Elmen Center on Wednesday night.

For a band that started playing the frat and sorority houses in Athens, Ga., the show is a return to the college setting. It's also a chance for Widespread Panic to play the music from its latest album, "Earth to America."

Like Ortiz says, the record is all about the music as the band presents a slightly different take on the lethargic, prolonged southern rock it's been playing for two decades.

Recorded in the Bahamas, "Earth to America" was the first studio album the band didn't record in its home state. And the result is different. The songs are less jangly and a little more focused. But they still carry the keyboard heavy, crunchy-guitar sound the band has played since the '80s.

"We've been doing this and we've always been happy and always had the fans in mind," Ortiz says.

Sounds like Widespread Panic.

Reach reporter Robert Morast at 331-2313.


10/18/06 Evansville Courier: Show Review

Widespread Panic perform at The Centre in Evansville

Widespread Panic delivers monster show at Centre
The Evansville Courier

The thing you should know about Widespread Panic is that nobody I talked to Tuesday night knew what songs they were listening to.

They'd heard some of them before, liked them all, but they had no idea what the names were, or what the words were, for that matter.

That didn't stop a crowd of about 1,200 at The Centre from having a good time.

Words weren't the point, anyway. When you play in a band with three guitarists, a synthesizer player and two drummers, your songs need plenty of room to breathe. It's more about fine musicianship, and maybe about where the music moves your body and spirit.

I'm sure beer helps.

The bargain seems to be this: You come and support us, and we'll do our best to play some good, all-American music.

Really, the success of bands such as Widespread Panic is a testament to the fans as much to the musicians, who, by the way, were all experts, if not especially groundbreaking. To pull off a show like that, where lyrics take a back seat to marathon jams, you need listeners who don't get impatient, who'll let you explore and play different set lists every night.

A lot of bands get stuck playing the same stuff every night and don't ever get to go anywhere from there. The fans at The Centre didn't mind the band taking a peek down every corner and alley it came across. There were some songs that, honest to goodness, I didn't think were ever going to end. At one point, drummer Todd Nance and percusionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz played for more than five minutes by themselves, not counting several smaller solos.

But that was to be expected, and there were lots of folks jumping up and down and waving their hands, not to mention glow sticks flying through the darkness.

I'm sure the Internet has been a big boon to Widespread Panic - the way word of mouth used to be - since it has been together since 1984 (and recording nationally since 1991), and I've never heard one of its songs on the radio. But none of that would mean much if it didn't deliver.

The show kicked off with "Ribs & Whiskey," not that it mattered - see the band on three different nights and you might get three different openers - and the crowd ate it up as if it were, well, ribs and whiskey (For the record, it's a song about seeing your sister naked.)

The 45-minute first set meandered through "Counting Train Cars," "Rock" and "Love Tractor," a bunch of good, clean-sounding songs. The second set, which lasted more than an hour, rode higher and lower musical tides, with "Coconut," "Big Woolly Mammoth" and a shiny cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing." It opened its encore with the Neil Young song, "Don't Be Denied."

Most of the music was uptempo and loud, but it had kind of a middle-class polish to it. Just about everybody onstage got to sing at least part of a verse, but singer/guitarist John Bell's melodies weren't all that challenging and were turned down pretty far in the mix. There were a lot of blistering solos and some white-boy approximations of funk grooves.

Maybe the set highlight was "Mercy," with it's high-pitched blues solos and breathy vocals, as close to emotional depths as the band hit: "I'm not begging for mercy, I'm just waiting for the morning birds."

Most of the rest of it didn't hit you at the bottom of your soul the way some of its influences do, but at its worst it was an easy-to-digest homage. And it gets your hips moving.


10/17/06 Widespread Panic at IU: Show Preview

Widespread Panic at IU

By Zack Teibloom | Indiana Daily Student |

The IU Auditorium welcomes back "road warriors" Widespread Panic just a year and a half after their sold out Auditorium show. The former Bonnaroo headliners are expected to fill the parking lots with partying "Spreadheads" and induce dancing in the aisles during their trademark high-energy show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Lower orchestra seats were still available as of Monday afternoon.

Senior Sarah Smazal is a Widespread concert veteran and woke up at 9 a.m. Sept. 7 to make sure she got good tickets.

In April 2005, Widespread played a packed house as fans partied in the parking lot up until the last minute, before flooding into the Auditorium for the nearly three-hour show.

"The spring crowd was amazing," Auditorium director Doug Booher said of the sold out show. "Widespread had just come back from hiatus. It was a really positive night with fans coming in from all over the region."

The notoriously wild Southern rock band, which also includes jazz and blues influences, is often lumped in the jam band category. On Allmusic.com's profile of the band, writer Jason Ankeny said they are "one of the many neo-hippie jam bands, inheriting the road-warrior mantle left behind by the Grateful Dead, establishing a devout grassroots following on the strength of constant touring."

The band has garnered an almost Phish-like following since their first album in 1988, and during their peak, the band put on nearly 250 shows a year.

"It's always an amazing crowd," Smazal said. "Always high energy, and they always surprise you with what they're going to play."

Booher said throngs of people came into town for the show last spring, "making the parking lots their place for the day, celebrating the show and having a great time."

Senior Evan Alberhasky has seen the band nearly 20 times and said he looks forward to the party-like atmosphere. He intends to head down to the parking lot area at about 5 p.m. to check out the scene.

"Last year it was a huge gathering in the union parking lot, with people kind of pre-partying," Alberhasky said.

While Widespread is often described as a jam band, Alberhasky said he wouldn't describe them that way. He said the band would not draw out songs for 15 minutes - like jam sands do - and compared them to Southern rockers The Allman Brothers.

Further adding to The Allman Brothers-like sound is new lead guitarist Jimmy Herring, who formerly played with The Allman Brothers and Phil Lesh and Friends. The guitarist, who joined the band in August, adds to a lineup Booher described as a great group of musicians who really play for their fans. And he expects nothing less this year.

Booher said the Union Board brings back big acts when they draw well, as was evident by past returning acts like Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews Band.

"Usually the Union Board doesn't bring back the same band so soon," Alberhasky said. "It was a rockin' show. I'm sure that's why they're bringing them back so soon."


10/17/06 Taser, Police and Panic

John Keane and JB jamming on stage in North Charleston,SC

Stunning twist: Man accused of using Taser on officer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Police officers working security at Widespread Panic's concert Friday night at the North Charleston Coliseum said they used a Taser on a man after he punched one of their own in the forehead.

During a scuffle, the patron at the jam-band performance managed to wrest the Taser from an officer and stun him, a report states.

The events began unfolding around 10 p.m. after a 52-year-old man told police he had been assaulted and wanted to press charges. He pointed out the alleged assailant in the crowd.

A female officer ordered the suspect to go outside, but he refused and stuck his hands in her face, a report states. When the officer approached a second time with a male colleague, the man punched her in the forehead. The male officer used a Taser after he continued to resist.

Sweaty, shirtless and flailing, he began to kick the male officer and they fell to the ground, the report states. The officer again stunned him, to little effect. During the struggle, the man managed to turn the Taser on the policeman by using the contact stun feature.

Reinforcements soon arrived to subdue Thomas Carpenter Neal, 19, of Columbus, Ga. He was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer and one count of resisting arrest, police said. That wasn't the end of it, according to a police report. Another officer escorting Neal to a patrol car twice used a Taser on him when he physically resisted efforts to place him inside.

Police reported making 19 arrests that night, mostly on drug-possession charges ranging from "magic" mushrooms, LSD and Ecstasy, to crack cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription pain medication.

The Charleston County Detention Center said Neal left jail Saturday after posting $25,000 bail.


10/14/06 Widespread travel to see Panic perform

Charleston Post Courier
Widespread travel to see Panic perform


Mike Zimmerman and three of his friends rubbed the sleep from their eyes Friday morning, piled into a car in Johnson City, Tenn., and made the six-hour drive to see Widespread Panic at the North Charleston Coliseum.

For Zimmerman and others like him, it was almost like another day at the office.

In the past month he's traveled nearly 4,000 miles, hopscotching across the eastern United States to see his favorite jam band. Zimmerman, who saw his 108th Widespread Panic concert Friday night, has 3,700 miles to go before the band's current tour ends.

"I love hearing it live," he said. "It's never the same show."

Widespread Panic, which was founded in 1985 in Athens, Ga., plays its own songs and covers musicians such as the Talking Heads, Neil Young and The Band while adding its own distinctive twist to the music.

Its shows attract fans like Zimmerman, who travel from concert to concert, much like the die-hards who for years followed the Grateful Dead and Phish.

They come from all over the country, gathering in parking lots hours before the show starts and setting up tailgate vendor shops that make their touring venture financially possible. They sell hats, T-shirts, Widespread stickers, prints of the band, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas and even books.

They are students with master's degrees, students seeking degrees, former students with no degrees. There are ex-Wall Street financial analysts, teachers, waiters, authors. Some have children at home or riding along with them in Winnebagos.

As some of them hung out in the coliseum parking lot Friday afternoon, a mixture of smells wafted through the air - scented candles, beer, pizza in the oven and traces of other, odd odors.

To make ends meet, Zimmerman, 27, who recently earned a graduate degree, sells pencil-drawing prints of the band members that his friend draws.

"It helps me buy gas and tickets," he said. "I'd say we do better than break even."

Bear Lee, 26, travels to the band's concerts in a van that contains a bed pallet, T-shirts and stickers. He wears patched shorts, sandals, a T-shirt and a hat over his head of thick brown hair that hangs to his shoulders. Besides the music, it's the "spiritual essence" that keeps him on tour for his 10th year.

"These are all my friends, man," he said. "Everybody here. It's the music, the scene, the people, the family. Everybody looks out for each other. If I were to show up late, people would worry. It's got heart. That's the magic of it."

Across the row of parking spaces, Chad Rentz, a Clemson University graduate student, sits with friends before setting up his T-shirt shop. He's been following Widespread Panic off and on for 14 years, and was "full time" until he went back to school. The road life is tough - the dirty clothes, the makeshift beds, the sleepless nights - but worth it, he said.

"By the end of the tour you are saying you are never going to do it again," Rentz said. "But by the time another show rolls around, you just got to do it again. When they play, I feel closer to God and everything else than any other time in my life."

Thinking about the 467-mile trip to the band's next stop tonight in Birmingham, Ala., he shook his head.

"We've got to be in Birmingham by noon," he said. "Got to drive through the night."


10/12/06 Well-orchestrated chaos: Cincinnati Concert Review

Photo by Wes Rucks
Widespread Panic’s lead guitarist and vocalist, John Bell, enjoys the music during the concert at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati.

Evansville Courier Press
Well-orchestrated chaos


CINCINNATI - When a band names itself Widespread Panic, all kinds of images come to mind: rampant fear, unchecked anxiety, aggression, chaos and lots of, well, widespread panic.

But that's just not the case with this six-man jam band from Atlanta that will play in Evansville on Tuesday.

This Panic will have concertgoers feeling right at home, whether they're from the Tri-State or have traveled some distance to follow their favorite band.

The historic Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati played host to Widespread Panic last week. A friend, Jason Bailey, and I hit the road to experience the band live. We wanted to see what it is about this band that attracts so many. We came away more enthusiastic fans than ever before.

We arrived early, as is customary for a show of this genre. The crowd was diverse; every age group, race and any other census-survey category were represented in some way. These "spreadheads" were comparing notes on the last show, anticipating another great performance and trying to predict which of the band's 300 songs would be played on this night. Part of the excitement is the unpredictability of the event.

Ready to see the band for ourselves, we could hardly wait for the show to start. The house lights dimmed and the crowd erupted. Widespread Panic had stepped onstage.

My normal heartbeat was quickly replaced by the thumping of Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools. He popped and plucked at the strings, causing the floor to tremble with heavy booms. Domingo S. Ortiz smacked away at his congos, his head bouncing from one side

to the other in syncopation with the beat.

JoJo Hermann's keyboard lobbed heavy tones into the rafters as Jimmy Herring ripped at his guitar.

Fans we talked to agreed Herring has been a valuable addition to the band, having recently replaced guitarist George McConnell, who played on Widespread Panic's latest album, "Earth to America."

Todd Nance drummed like mad and set the tempo for the passionate fans to hop, bop and flail about.

John Bell drove the rhythm of the show. Bell's onstage presence was that of a sauntering Southern gentleman. His voice was raspy, almost quiet at times yet full of emotion; we could feel his need to connect with the audience. From the opening song, "Surprise Valley," in which Bell's lyrics proclaim, "The spirit, it moves through all things," to the encore "Hope in a Hopeless World," Widespread Panic and its eclectic mix of Southern rock, heavy, mind-bending jam and dexterity allowed the spirit to move through all in attendance. What a rush it was.

Song after song built to crescendo after increasingly intense crescendo. It was a wild ride of musical bliss.

At times the sound was so loud, and the crowd was in such a state of frenzied jubilation, that to the outside observer it would appear the band is quite aptly named. It was no state of panic that had taken hold. Rather, it was a bit of magic.

We felt it. It was pure rock 'n' roll - a band and its audience fused in a shared experience.

10/12/06 Introduction to counter-culture movement proves to be addictive


Introduction to counter-culture movement proves to be addictive

CINCINNATI - I hadn't heard of Widespread Panic until Wes Rucks mentioned them recently. We had been talking about music - really good music - and he shared the band's latest album with me.

I immediately thought this wave of acoustic, deeply inspirational music was something I could have known before. I was experiencing a sort of esoteric deja vu, as something far off that you know from a dream or an image trapped in the smallest room of your mind. I knew this. But I didn't know where it was from; thus, the inspiration for our trip to Ohio, where we were among many who had traveled to see the concert.

Some had driven to Cincinnati from the band's previous stop in Lexington, Ky., a couple days before; vendors, maintenance crews, drivers, publicity staff, set crews (roadies) and, of course, a modest armada of fans hit the road. I'd been told the "Spreadheads" were a modern-day incarnation of the Grateful Dead's Deadheads - and the traveling fans confirmed that.

In addition to the fans, though, was a group that was part-groupie, part-vendor, part - well, part-Spreadhead. This entourage accompanied Widespread Panic to each city, sometimes more than 50 cities in a year.

The people I spoke with mentioned a similar sentiment: The culture is its own community, its own movement. And as in any movement, the strength of the message is relative to the strength of the messengers.

These messengers had traveled to the Taft Theater because they were taking up slack in the movement.

They weren't just fans; conversations made it clear they don't believe themselves to be fans. They are each singular conduits that feed off of and charge each other. Everyone experiences Panic differently and everyone takes something away from it; sometimes it's something they didn't expect, something they just knew when it happened.

The show was not just on stage, but in the aisles, the parking lot, the street corner - and it was spreading.

People left the Taft renewed.

I left the Taft changed.

I anticipated so much and knew so little when we left for Cincinnati; expectations for Panic's Tuesday show in Evansville are much higher.

10/12/06 Panic living 'One Day at a Time'

Chareleston Post & Courier

Widespread Panic living 'One Day at a Time'
By Mark R. Pantsari

Aside from the rigors of its own touring schedule over the past few years, Widespread Panic has kept Internet and jam band rumor mills working in overdrive.

In the bands gradual rise from an Athens, Ga., bar band in the mid-'80s, to the top of the jam band heap by the new millennium, Widespread Panic has certainly taken the rumor mill for a spin on occasion, though sometimes quite unintentionally.

The first instance began in the summer of 2002. What looked to be an incredibly big year for the band turned out to be the darkest hour in Panic's 15 years of existence. Amid two headlining sets at the first Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tenn., the Internet message boards were awash with rumors concerning the health of founding member Michael Houser. Nicknamed "Panic," Houser was more than just influential in the naming of the band. From his seat at stage right, Houser's "lingering lead" and lyrics were a driving force behind Panic's sound.

Up until the summer of 2002, Widespread Panic's momentum was nearly unstoppable. With seven strong studio releases and hundreds of live shows played all over the world, the band had a repertoire of hundreds of songs. The band's fan base was growing, as evidenced by Panic hosting the largest CD release party ever, when 100,000 people gathered in Athens during April of 1998 for a free show marking the band's release of the live album "Light Fuse, Get Away."

The momentum nearly came to a screeching halt in August 2002 when the band confirmed that Michael Houser had pancreatic cancer. He died Aug. 10, but the band pressed on with the help of longtime friend George McConnell assisting on guitar and Randall Bramblett playing saxophone for the remainder of the band's 2002 tour dates.

More Internet rumors began the following year with fans pondering the status of McConnell in the band and whether Widespread Panic would even continue to play. The group seemed to answer the rumors by announcing McConnell as an official member and releasing the band's eighth studio album, "Ball," in 2003. Widespread Panic continued touring throughout 2003. Rumors began once again when Panic announced it would be going on hiatus during 2004. For that year, the only music that Widespread Panic released was a series of live albums.

Fans rejoiced when the band returned to touring in early 2005, and Widespread Panic seemed to have picked up exactly where it left off. Just over a year after the band's return, rumors again swirled around when Panic announced that George McConnell was parting ways with the band. The announcement caused quite a stir, especially when it came in the midst of the band's summer tour.

"The Internet rumors usually have nothing to do with the truth," Widespread Panic's John Bell said in a recent interview with Preview.

The band announced in the same month that Jimmy Herring would be handling guitar duties for the band for the remainder of 2005. Surely no stranger to jam-band fans, Jimmy Herring is the consummate "go-to guitarist" for many touring rock bands.

A member of the original Aquarium Rescue Unit, Herring has toured with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh's Phil and Friends, performed with the Allman Brothers Band for a summer tour after founding guitarist Dicky Betts was ousted from the band, and handled lead guitar for the modern version of the Grateful Dead (The Dead) - no small task for any musician.

"Our familiarity with him was a big factor," Bell said during the band's decision to bring in Herring.

"We've known Jimmy since 1989 or so, when he was with the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Obviously, his ability was a major factor, and of course his own personality and demeanor had a lot to do with it."

As a testament to Herring's ability, Bell said the new guitarist managed to learn 150 Widespread Panic songs in just over three weeks, and with only four band rehearsals.

"We're talking that good," said Bell.

This year also marked another major departure for the band, with the release of the Widespread Panic's ninth studio album, "Earth to America." The album was Panic's first studio album recorded outside of Athens. It also marked a move away from longtime Panic producer John Keane.

Produced by Terry Manning, "Earth to America" was actually recorded in the Bahamas.

"We'd always planned to do something out of the ordinary, for a bunch of years, actually," Bell said.

"But Mikey got sick and we stayed close to home. When the opportunity presented itself again, we just went with it."

In a scene where most bands are judged on their live presence and rarely on their studio output, Widespread Panic has been something of an anomaly, seeming equally comfortable in both the live arena and studio settings.

"In both mediums we just try to get our point across," Bell explained.

"The songs in the studio are going to come across a little more succinct, but I laugh in saying that because 'Second Skin' is 11 minutes long, but that's how much time we needed for that tune. You try to keep a live feeling in the studio, and when we play live we try to be clear in our communication.

"I don't know if you can call it the yin-yang or anything like that, but you've got two components there which are relevant in both worlds. The balance is sometimes a little different because in the live setting you really only have one shot, whereas the studio has some more perfectionist qualities to it. But you also don't want to let that stiffen the whole process. I really dig it; it really helps keep the whole musical experience in balance."

As Widespread Panic rolls into town Friday for a concert at the North Charleston Coliseum, rumors are still circulating as to the length of Herring's tenure with the band. Also, joining John Bell (vocals, guitar), Jo Jo Hermann (keyboards, vocals), Dave Schools (bass, vocals), Todd Nance (drums, vocals) and Sonny Ortiz (percussion, vocals), will be John Keane contributing electric guitar and pedal steel.

"We started off talking about one tour at a time," Bell said of Herring's time with the band.

"We're finishing up this tour and haven't really scheduled any spring or summer dates as of yet, but we're also very positive. We're a one-day-at-a-time kind of band. But it all feels really good, and we're very grateful for all of Jimmy's abilities and his intentions. The world is fortunate to hear him, wherever he chooses to play.

"But for now, everything is going swimmingly. It feels good and everyone is playing nice."

10/11/06 Panic Tribute to "The Band"

429 Records Pays Tribute to "THE BAND"

Jack Johnson, My Morning Jacket, Lee Ann Womack, Death Cab For Cutie, Roseanne Cash, Jakob Dylan, Gomez, Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers, John Hiatt, Joe Henry, Bruce Hornsby, Guster, Blues Traveler, Josh Turner, Government Mule and Others Reinterpret Legendary Group's Classic Songs; Release Date: Jan. 30, 2007

Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel -- aka THE BAND -- inarguably placed alongside a shortlist of groups considered "rock royalty," will be paid a long-overdue, much-deserved tribute with ENDLESS HIGHWAY: THE MUSIC OF THE BAND -- a collection of their compositions lovingly reworked by a diverse group of artists who share a love of The Band and are highly regarded in their own right. The project will be released by 429 Records (a unit of the Savoy Label Group), in January of 2007. The stellar collection features reinterpretations of classic BAND songs by Jack Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Death Cab For Cutie, Gomez, Roseanne Cash, My Morning Jacket and many others. Tracks are currently streaming on the Savoy Label Group website listed below. ENDLESS HIGHWAY: THE MUSIC OF THE BAND is in stores January 30th.

Executive Produced by Stu Fine and Steve Vining, ENDLESS HIGHWAY is a showcase for musicians of many different genres for whom The Band represent a pinnacle of creative musicianship. Says Stu Fine: "The more we talked about the idea of finding an artist whose songs transcended time, space and generations, who artists loved and respected enough to want to cover, THE BAND kept showing up at the top of each of our wish lists."

When The Band released their first album, MUSIC FROM BIG PINK, they had already spent over a year touring with Ronnie Hawkins (as The Hawks) and Bob Dylan on the intensely polarizing world tour that introduced audiences to the "electric" side of Dylan. It was a series of performances that were astonishing in their unwavering musical vision and intensity. The Band materialized out of the ashes of The Hawks upon an unsuspecting musical community with a collection of compositions unlike anything released in pop music before. Rob Bowman states in his notes to the compilation THE BAND: A MUSICAL HISTORY,"... more than any other band in the history of popular music they were able to internalize the main tributaries of American roots musics to the point where they syncretically fused them into a timeless musical stew that, both linguistically and sonically, encapsulates the mythical essence of some long-lost sense of America."

The challenge for the artists participating in ENDLESS HIGHWAY was how to approach a body of work where more often than not, the word used to describe a particular song was "masterpiece." My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan comments to Billboard.com on the recording of "It Makes No Difference" with Levon Helm in Helm's studio in Woodstock, NY: "We were very aware of the potential pain he would feel from hearing that song recorded by someone else. (Late Band members) Rick Danko and Richard Manuel were amongst the purest musicians to ever grace the art, and to conjure up their loss was something we feared and respected."

Adds Steve Vining, President of 429 Records/SLG: "It's been gratifying to work with so many established artists but also the young bands who have such an appreciation for The Band's legacy. Putting together this project has been a labor of love for all involved and I am happy the music reflects that."

The artist and track listing for ENDLESS HIGHWAY is as follows:
Jack Johnson "I Shall Be Released"
The Allman Brothers "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"
Death Cab For Cutie "Rocking Chair"
My Morning Jacket "It Makes No Difference"
Lee Ann Womack "The Weight"
Jakob Dylan "Whispering Pines"
Gomez "Up On Cripple Creek"
Bruce Hornsby "King Harvest"
Rosanne Cash "Unfaithful Servant"
Blues Traveler "Rag Mama Rag"
Joe Henry "Bessie Smith"
Guster "This Wheel's On Fire"
Widespread Panic "Chest Fever"
John Hiatt & North
Mississippi Allstars "Ain't No More Cane"
Jackie Greene "Look Out Cleveland"
Animal Liberation Orchestra
(Jack Johnson's touring band) "Ophelia"
Steve Reynolds "Stage Fright"
Josh Turner "When I Paint My Masterpiece"
Government Mule "The Shape I'm In"

429 Records is a unit of the Savoy Label Group (SLG). SLG is the North American unit of CME (Columbia Music Entertainment), the oldest music company in Japan. The Savoy Label Group is lead by Steve Vining. CME is headed by Chairman Strauss Zelnick, founder of Zelnick Media and former CEO of BMG Entertainment. Zelnick Media owns interests in and manages an array of media companies including music-related holdings such as CME, Savoy Label Group and Time Life.

10/11/06 Visiting Act: Interview w/ Dave Schools

VISITING ACT | Schools' Out
The big man from Panic sounds off


Columbus Day, President's Day, Widespread Weekend. It's one of those holidays that sneaks up. You don't know exactly when it is, but it's trusty and reliable and it means you get to party. The Widespread Panic gaggle has been flying their migration route for the last 20 years, showing up without fail in Chucktown at least once a year.

Singer/guitarist John "J.B." Bell, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo Ortiz, keyboardist John "Jo Jo" Hermann, and bassist Dave Schools are touring with newly-enlisted guitarist Jimmy Herring and guest player John Keane (guitar, banjo, mandolin) in support of their first new studio album in three years, Earth To America (Sanctuary).

Mikey Houser, the original guitarist and namesake "Panic" — for the panic attacks he endured — arguably provided Widespread's signature sound. When pancreatic cancer took his life in 2002, many were surprised that the band persevered, even finishing out their tour. It was what Mikey wanted, and Panic has always functioned like a family. A relative unknown, George McConnell, took the helm and respectably cut his chops over a three-year tenure that ended this summer. With a crucial gap to fill in the lineup, the boys turned to Jimmy Herring, a fixture of both the Allman Brothers and the reunited Dead tours. With such a revered guitarist at the helm, even retired Spreadheads might be turning up for this one.

Schools, the thundering, larger-than-life bassist, caught up with City Paper last week for a conversation about life in one of America's most prolific touring bands.

CITY PAPER: This is the first tour with Jimmy. Is it nice having someone else with hair down to their ass on stage with you?

DAVE SCHOOLS: It's great. Jimmy's been a friend for a long time. When he was with the Aquarium Rescue Unit back in the late '80s and '90s, Panic and ARU were a constant fixture. The getting-to-know-the-guy part of having a new person in the band is really minimal because he's been a friend for 15 years. Every night we're seeing new songs broken out, and you know it's evolving by leaps and bounds. It's really a whole lot of fun to be a part of.

CP: Are you playing everything with him, or are you working in songs gradually?

DS: It's kind of actually funny. Jimmy's gone and learned songs that we hadn't been playing and he's right now teaching us how to play stuff we haven't played in six years. We're already working on new originals with Jimmy, which is really what's important to us. With his tenure with the Allman Brothers and the Dead, his improv chops are through the roof. The spaces between the songs that Panic goes to, they're a whole new thing. It's great.

CP: You've said that some of your favorite moments playing with Mikey were going into the drum solo, when it'd be just the two of you out there, and finding those sublime moments. Do you see that happening with Jimmy?

DS: Absolutely. It started happening and it's been so different every night that it's just amazing. His ability to turn things on their side and discover new ways of playing things, it's unlimited. It's a very freeing experience.

CP: It sounds like y'all are having fun.

DS: That's why this whole thing started.

CP: When you were doing Earth to America, you said it was like old times hanging out again, going in to record and then hanging out that night. How much of that vibe carries over on tour? Are you guys hanging out backstage before the shows?

DS: Yeah, that whole recording process of hanging out together and then going back to the same house after the studio session has definitely continued on into the last couple of tours. You know, we're definitely rediscovering the friendships that have been around for a long time.

CP: That family aspect of it all really shows to the fans. Most of your trips to Charleston in the last decade have been at the North Charleston Coliseum. How do you feel about the venue?

DS: I love the place. There's something about the coliseums from that era that are all very similar. Charleston, Hampton in Virginia, the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis ' they're all sort of built in the same time frame in the late '60s, and they all sound really good. I'm sure it was a mistake, because they certainly didn't have studies of electro-acoustics going on at the time, but it seems like a lot of these arenas they build for sports events and with music in mind, they really don't put a lot of thought into what it is going to sound like in this 20,000-seat airplane hanger. Places like the North Charleston Coliseum, they have a warmth to them and they're not all reverberate-y. We've always had a really good time there and we've always thought the sound was really good. We like playing there a lot.

CP: I've seen some of my favorite Panic shows in there.

DS: Well, I love Charleston. I've been coming there since I was a kid. I dated a girl who lived in Charleston and spent a lot of time there.

CP: You know this Charleston show is on Friday the 13th�

DS: Well, I'm not superstitious, but I will have my mojo bag with me.

CP: There'll be some folks hoping you'll drop Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition.'

DS: I can't guarantee anything other than we're gonna have a great time.

CP: The North Mississippi Allstars are opening. Have y'all collaborated much?

DS: We've jammed with them a lot. Luther [Dickinson] has sat in with us a time or two, and Cody [Dickinson] almost always sits in with us. We�ve all known each other a long time, and I would actually go out on a limb and say there's going to be some hot guitar playing going on.

CP: I always like seeing Godzilla on your amp. How do Godzilla and Mothra make you feel, respectively?

DS: Well, he�s not there anymore, but you never know. My Godzillas were given to charitable events for auction. Mothra, frankly, sickens me. The idea of a giant winged creature is somehow less palatable than the idea of a giant reptile.

CP: Last year in Philadelphia, you and [guitarist and long-time panic tech] Sam Holt had a conversation on stage over whether or not you had eaten five or six Philly cheesesteaks before the show. Just hoping for clarification on that to settle a bet�

DS: I can describe last Sunday's contest. Sam won the day, I can tell you that. But we're all trying to look out for our health now. We had Philly cheesesteaks brought over from about four different purveyors of cheesesteakness, and cut them into little pieces and taste-tested them. I think I managed to get one and a half down all total before the show. We're all on a big weight loss kick, so you have to take that in stride. Our cheesesteak stats aren't what they used to be.

CP: Sounds like everyone's focused on the long term.

DS: Yeah, we'd like to still be rocking when we're 60.

CP: In the song 'Second Skin,' J.B. sings, 'I'm about to be born again; this is fear and pride about to brought out into the light.' It does seem like the band's being born again.

DS: I think that that's part of what that song was all about and you can apply that to any stage. If we're doing our job as a creative unit, then, hopefully, we're being reborn every chance we can get, because I'd hate to be stuck in a rut.

CP: This is my favorite album since Til' the Medicine Takes.

DS: Just wait until you hear the next one.


10/10/06 Orlando Concert Review: Don't call Widespread Panic a jam band

Jim Abbott | Sentinel Pop Music Critic
Orlando Sentinel Concert Review

Widespread Panic performs at the House of Blues on Monday evening.
photo by Jacob Langston

Don't call Widespread Panic a jam band
-- call them one of the best

Widespread Panic, the venerable jam band out of Athens, Ga., inspires rabid devotion and analysis from its hardcore fans -- and there was high anticipation before Monday's 10-9 show at House of Blues.

The band's current lineup is augmented by lead guitarist Jimmy Herring, a well-traveled sideman whose resume includes work with the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh, the Allman Brothers and others.

Herring and guitarist-pedal steel player John Keane (also the band's longtime producer) have been enlisted for the personnel transition necessitated by the death of founding member Michael Houser from pancreatic cancer in 2002, and the recent departure of guitarist George McConnell.

The latter played on the band's latest studio album, Earth to America.

Herring is a monster on guitar, judging from his performance at Monday's sold-out show, the first in a three-night stand at HOB. Standing in the corner, with a stoic, bearded face that looks like a profile on Mount Rushmore, Herring combined flawless technical skill with an economic style that kept melody in the band's free-form improvisations.

Apparently, Widespread Panic doesn't like to be called a jam band, but it is. With a penchant for marathon songs that bleed into each other, a trait especially evident in the second of Monday's two sets, this is a band that makes an 11-minute drum solo sound compact.

Although the group was capable of diving into no-nonsense, hook-driven songs such as "Tall Boy" and the encore tear through "Down," there were also a few stream-of-consciousness interludes that bordered on self-indulgent. Still, when a band plays nearly three hours with such passion and skill, it's hard to complain.

Aside from "Crazy" in the first set, this wasn't a showcase for the new album. Instead, the band used a cross-section of its vast catalog to illustrate its flexibility: Swing, heavy rock, reggae and blues each represent a thread in the fabric. One of the most effective transitions was the segue in the 90-minute second set from the swampy "Rock" to the vaguely countrified "Blue Indian.'' The latter highlighted lead singer John Bell's expressive tenor, which often tends to be overshadowed by the wall of guitars, keyboards and percussion.

In such moments, it's also plain that Widespread Panic's combination of improvisational skill and Southern charm makes for a mighty sweet jam indeed.

Jim Abbott can be reached at jabbott@orlandosentinel.com

10/09/06 Vegoose not yet a draw for Las Vegas


Vegoose not yet a draw for Las Vegas


Like hard-core Vegas gamblers, the promoters of Vegoose may be experiencing a small downturn of fortune after an initially strong run at the tables.

Early indications are that the second annual Vegoose Music Festival will probably not match the numbers it obtained last year -- in either revenue or attendance. According to Sam Boyd Stadium director Darren Libonati, the attendance for the festival, which will take place Oct. 28 -29 at Star Nursery Field behind the stadium, may struggle to reach 30,000 each day.

Last year, two-day attendance averaged 36,200, with an additional 45,020 tickets sold to festival-related shows around the city, according to numbers supplied by non-profit promoter Las Vegas Events.

There is still time for numbers to pick up. Music festivals do not traditionally sell out because many attendees wait to buy tickets closer to the show, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of concert-industry trade publication Pollstar.

Festival bosses contend that the Vegas-centric, Halloween-weekend festival is still trying to find its identity on the growing music-festival landscape. "You're certainly seeing a situation where the festival scene in the United States is rapidly expanding," Vegoose co-promoter Ashley Capps said. "I'm not sure the audience is expanding at quite the same rate the festivals are, but the long-term opportunities are out there."


"It is a pretty difficult business environment out there in general for a lot of the concert business," added Capps, who is also owner of Knoxville, Tenn.-based music-promoting company A.C. Entertainment. "It takes a while to really establish what an event like this is all about. We are committed to a long-term vision here and we're working to make the festival the best we can."

While the headliners include festival favorites Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Black Crowes, Trey Anastasio of Phish, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, and Widespread Panic, many bands on the promoters' "hot list" -- Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z -- were unavailable for late-October dates due to other commitments.

To counterbalance initially slow ticket sales, Vegoose promoters are focusing part of their efforts on the Las Vegas fan base. Last year, only 10 percent of the attendees were from Southern Nevada (compared to 32 percent from Southern California), something everyone involved would like to see change.

"Last year there was not a real strong local campaign," said Pat Christenson, Las Vegas Events president. "(The promoters) really thought the underground vibe would carry it and I don't think that was the case. This year they will do more of a local promotions-and-marketing aspect."

Last year, until a few days before Vegoose, tickets were only available at the festival's Web site. This year, however, additional tickets have been made available through the UNLV Tickets Web site and at its outlets, including the Thomas & Mack Center box office. Also, 2005 Vegoose tickets were sold two-day-only packages covering the entire festival, while 2006 customers will have the option of single-day tickets as well. "A lot of the people who are in the service industry, maybe they're working one night and they can't go out," said Vegoose co-promoter Rick Farman, co-owner of the New York-based Superfly Productions.


While 31 bands are scheduled to play at Star Nursery Field, with an additional nine nighttime shows scheduled at various venues around town, Las Vegas-based band The Killers may be crucial to last-minute ticket sales among local music fans. "They're obviously a very popular band out there right now," Farman said. "We're in their hometown, so of course they should be in the festival. That was our mindset."

After selling more than 3 million copies of its first album in the U.S., the quartet released its follow-up, "Sam's Town," last Tuesday, three days after performing on "Saturday Night Live." While the group was booked for Vegoose because of its national appeal, the fact that The Killers is a group of local boys made good -- the lead singer used to be a bellhop at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino -- may help tickets sales as the date approaches.

Despite an increased focus on local patrons, the primary goal of Vegoose is still to boost tourism on Halloween weekend, a traditionally lackluster period for the area's gaming properties. According to post-event analysis compiled by R&R Partners, a total of 36,825 visitors came to the area for the first Vegoose. Of an estimated total economic impact of $37.3 million, $30.4 million came from non-gaming revenue; 27,150 hotel rooms were utilized, 78 percent of those on the Strip, 24,425 by out-of-town fans who came to Las Vegas just for the festival. For 16 percent of the out-of-state attendees, it was their first trip to Las Vegas.


10/09/06 Widespread Panic Prepare "Earth To Atlanta"


Widespread Panic Prepare "Earth To Atlanta"

Legendary live performers Widespread Panic announce the release of Earth to Atlanta November 14, 2006 on Sanctuary/ Widespread Records. The two DVD set was filmed at the kick off of this year’s Widespread Panic tour, set at the historical Fox Theatre in Atlanta. In a groundbreaking move, Widespread Panic simulcast the concert live to 115 Regal/Edwards/United Artists cinemas nationwide. For the first time ever, over 60,000 ticket holding fans across the country were given the ability to experience the evening live with Panic without actually having to travel to Atlanta.

A companion piece to Widespread Panic’s critically acclaimed 2006 CD release Earth to America, the set offers a unique visual counterpart to the recent studio album. Known for their prodigious live shows, the DVD’s were filmed in stunning High Definition/ 5.1 surround sound in order to capture every nuance of the Widespread Panic live performance. Overall the collection features 26 songs, including classic live versions of “Tall Boy,” “Travelin’ Man,” “Pigeons,” “Time Zones” and “Second Skin.”

Currently in the midst of their fall tour, Widespread Panic has also brought in legendary guitarist Jimmy Herring to join their line-up. Capping off their tour, Panic will headline the second night of the Vegoose Festival in Las Vegas on October 29th. They will also play their infamous Halloween show on October 30th at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. Fans are known to travel from afar to attend the annual Panic Halloween show where every year the band surprises the audience with a elaborate stage theme, costumes, and new cover songs that cleverly tie-in. Past themes have included Mars Attacks, Moon Walk, and Bourbon Street to name a few. The tour will commence with three nights at The Backyard in Austin on November 2- 4th.

Widespread Panic first came together around the University of Georgia in 1986, when the band’s original guitarist, Michael Houser, introduced vocalist/guitarist John Bell to the joys of improvisation, following a musical conversation wherever it leads. With bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo Ortiz and later keyboardist John Hermann, they hit the road, winning new fans at each stop. Together, they forged roots rock, blues and boogie into an aesthetic all its own. Without benefit of substantial radio or MTV airplay and other trappings of the pop world’s starmaking machine, their popularity grew steadily. After years of relentless touring, they are one of the biggest-selling bands on the road today. Road warriors for 20 years, the band has sold out venues across the country, ranging from New York’s venerable Madison Square Garden to Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre (where they hold the record for the most sold-out shows) to the Bay Area’s Greek Theatre. Panic has sold over 3 million albums, and released a total of 15 CDs and five DVDs (including Live at Oak Mountain, which is certified Gold).

Look for Earth to Atlanta to land in stores on Sanctuary/ Widespread Records on November 14, 2006.


10/06/06 Panic returns: Macon Preview


Panic returns

By Maggie Large

This month will mark the 20th year since Widespread Panic percussionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz joined the Athens jam stalwarts.

The 54-year-old Texas native said in a telephone interview from a tour stop in Charlotte, N.C., that his varied musical background is probably what makes him mesh so well with the other players. Widespread Panic plays the Macon Coliseum Saturday night with Susan Tedeschi opening

Ortiz is originally from Waco but moved to Austin in the mid-1970s to join that city's burgeoning music scene.

"There I played with all kinds of bands, reggae, country, conjunto," Ortiz said.

Some years later, a good friend of Ortiz's moved to Athens.

"I packed up all my stuff and visited him," Ortiz said. "These boys were playing regular Monday nights at the Uptown Lounge, and I sat in with them one night."

The rest, as they say, is history.

"We never talked about the kind of music that we liked, we just played what we felt," Ortiz said.

These days the group is adjusting to the addition of guitarist Jimmy Herring after George McConnell left the group. Herring is a veteran of bands such as the Allman Brothers Band and Aquarium Rescue Unit. Mike Houser, Panic's original guitarist, died of pancreatic cancer in 2002.

"We've had to make some changes and revisit new avenues," Ortiz said. "(Herring) leads us to a new dimension with his playing."

At the same time, Ortiz seemed to hint that the band's lineup was still in flux.

"Nothing is etched in stone," he said. "The five of us have to make decisions for our future."

Though Panic has released more than a dozen studio albums and several live recordings, they've always been celebrated most for their freewheeling live sets. Their latest is this year's "Earth to America."

They've long embraced technology in getting the word out about their music. The site LiveWidespreadPanic.com sells audio files of the band's concerts recorded directly from the soundboard, sometimes as soon as 48 hours after a gig.

In May, Panic performed a concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta that was simulcast to dozens of movie theaters around the country. That show is set to be released as a live DVD, "Earth to Atlanta," on Nov. 14.

"I'm very proud of how we've established our roots in this business," Ortiz said. "Being self-sustained is rare. We make our own calls, whether it's what songs are on the album or what the advertising looks like."

Ortiz said while the band's stronghold tends to be in the Southeast, he enjoys playing out West and in the Big Apple, too.

"I love playing the San Francisco area, I love Red Rocks (near Denver)," Ortiz said. "It's always fun to play New York City. Last time we were there, we did Letterman."

And lastly, the secret to his nickname Sunny? Domingo translated from Spanish is Sunday, and that got shortened to Sunny in school.

"My real name is Domingo Steven Ortiz," he said.


10/06/06 Nashville Preview


Longtime Southern rock ensemble returns to fulltime touring
By Ron Wynn, (rwynn@nashvillecitypaper.com)
October 06, 2006

Widespread Panic’s origins date back to the early ‘80s, when John Bell and Michael Houser began playing together with Dave Schools while still students at the University of Georgia. Known for a bold and sprawling blend of rock, blues, pop and reggae, Widespread Panic has played more than 250 dates a year for much of the past two decades, but after more than 18 years on the road almost non-stop, they took a hiatus in 2004 before returning last year to active performances and concerts.

Now in the midst of their latest tour, which makes a Nashville stop tonight at the Municipal Auditorium, Widespread Panic has also had to make some adjustments due to a recent personnel change. But Bell says fans need not worry that their trademark sound has been greatly altered or affected by the recent defection of George McConnell and the addition of Jimmy Herring, a longtime friend and supporter who has also co-produced a number of their albums.

“One thing that our time off really did was reinforce for everyone in the group how important it was to keep on going,” Bell said. “We’ve always done different things apart from Widespread, but I think since we’ve been back there’s a renewed commitment and energy to the music. Also, Jimmy has proven a great addition, even though of course he’s a different player than George. So it’s been a positive thing from a standpoint of getting a fresh sound, a new look and attitude about things in the performances.”

Their most recent release Earth to America was recorded at the Compass Point studios in Nassau and produced by Terry Manning. In addition, Widespread’s May 9 show at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre was simulcast in live high definition to select movie theaters nationwide, and will be released on DVD Nov. 14 as Earth To Atlanta.

With a catalog over more than 300 original songs and collaborations with groups ranging from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to Domingo S. Ortiz, Panic’s music is well known, if sometimes mischaracterized.

“We’ve always looked at ourselves first and foremost as a rock ‘n’ roll band,” Bell said. “But we’ve also always been interested in a wide range of styles, and incorporating all those influences into a sound that was clearly Widespread Panic. You can hear a lot of the blues on some songs, but then there are others where we get into anything from country to reggae, maybe even some jazz. It’s been fantastic that some songs have really become almost standards with our fans [“Chilly Water,” “Airplane” or “Sleepy Monkey” are prime examples], but it’s more important for us to keep growing and evolving as a band, something I think we’ve discovered since being back is still the case.”


10/02/06 Dirty Dozen steals show from basic Widespread Panic

10/01/06 Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
1: Proving Ground > Travelin' Light, C. Brown* > Crazy > Can't Get High > Dyin' Man > Mercy*, When The Clowns Come Home**, Walkin' (For Your Love)**
2: From The Cradle, It Ain't No Use, Blue Indian* > Climb To Safety > Christmas Katie*** > Drums**** > Superstition***, You Should Be Glad** > Imitation Leather Shoes
E: May Your Glass Be Filled, Sometimes

* with John Keane on pedal steel
** with John Keane on guitar
*** with Dirty Dozen Brass Band
**** with Terrence Higgins on percussion

Setlist by Everydaycompanion


Dirty Dozen steals show from basic Widespread Panic
By Walter Tunis

"My body keeps on moving," John Bell sang at the onset of Widespread Panic's evening-long jam band fest at Rupp Arena Sunday night. "But my style gets in the way."

What telling words. For the better part of 31/2 hours, the veteran Georgia band had all the tools to keep the groove going. But a few times too often, the band reflected a stage attitude that seemed to suggest its often rudimentary music was a bigger deal than it was.

The Panic is a band that likes to keep the beat simple. Sometimes, as with the opening Proving Ground, the groove abruptly accelerated and then slowed back to the band's shuffle-friendly comfort zone. A panic? More like business as usual, really.

So it went for much of the first set, with Bell and company relying mostly on the shorter, song-structured grooves of the boogie-directed Walkin' (For Your Love) and the animated barroom flavor of Blue Indian. Longer jams were saved for the second set.

At times percussionist Domingo S. Ortiz would chime in (literally) to color a tune or two, as in the way he gave the Okie-meets-Atlanta roots groove of J.J. Cale's Travelin' Light a detour through Trinidad.

And it was difficult not to imagine how pale this music would have sounded without new Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring (an alumnus of the Allman Brothers Band and The Dead) and bassist Dave Schools on the job. Herring was rightly the evening's principal soloist. But the guitarist was just as commanding when he cemented the sturdy funk groove of Mercy with Schools.

Ultimately, though, the Panic's problem seems to be its material. Too many tunes locked themselves too quickly into static rhythms that even the most inventive of instrumental solos couldn't break.

Lyrically, the music didn't fare much better. From the Cradle, for example, was dime-store paranoia stuff that stylistically veered way too close to sacred Jerry Garcia-style balladry for comfort.

Things perked up a bit in the second set when the show-opening Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined the Panic for Christmas Katie and a resulting jam that took a crew of 14 onstage musicians (the entire lineups of both bands, plus steel guitarist/ producer John Keane, who sat in for much of the Panic's performance) down bluesy avenues and side roads of horn-happy R&B.

The Dirty Dozen's hourlong set was a total delight. Though born out of New Orleans tradition (it makes its bass the old-fashioned way -- with a sousaphone), the ensemble was progressive enough to address vintage funk, gospel and R&B with equal relish.

Opening with nearly 10 minutes of baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis' Use Your Brain, the band sailed off into staccato blasts of brassy soul that settled, briefly, into Sly and the Family Stone's 1973 hit If You Want Me to Stay.

But the biggest soul surprise came when the front line of Lewis, trumpeter Efrem Towns and tenor sax man Kevin Harris transformed Marvin Gaye's Right On into a fat-sounding Crescent City stroll.

This was clearly the Panic's crowd, of course. They danced and twirled madly throughout the band's lengthy sets and, despite their meager numbers (about 2,000), made the Rupp floor seem almost packed. But for sheer organic musical might, it was the Dirty Dozen that cleaned up.