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.