11/24/06 No Panic, just a piano...Jojo Hermann

No Panic, just a piano: Jam band player Hermann takes solo turn at Orange Peel
by Jedd Ferris, Citizen-Times correspondent

Since 1992 John “Jo Jo” Hermann has had his hands full as the keyboardist for the mega jam band Widespread Panic. But when he gets a break, he likes to revisit his early influences in Delta blues and Cajun boogie. Just back from a lengthy Panic fall tour, Hermann plays a solo gig at The Orange Peel on Thursday.

Going solo

“I’m not bringing anything. They’re supplying a piano, so all I have to do is walk in and play it. With electric guitars and drums I can’t play acoustic piano. I’ve always dreamed about playing a real piano on stage, which is why I am doing this. I’m going to do a lot of songs from New Orleans, as well as a lot of originals. I’ve been writing a lot of new songs about my childhood — reminiscing kind of songs. I’ll also throw in a few Panic songs for good measure.”

New atmosphere

“We’re setting up tables and chairs. People can come and order a bottle of wine. It’s a good date kind of thing, so people can give their ears a rest. It’s done a lot here in Nashville, where I live. It lets you flesh out the songwriting. The band is my preference, but it’s good to do this four or five nights a year. It forces me to get back to the craft of playing piano.”

Opening act Sherman Ewing

“He’s a great songwriter and guitar player from New York that I used to be in a band with called the Bureaucrats. We always wanted to hit the road and just do our songs together.”

Early influences

“I was also in a ska band in New York City, and the bass player told me to check out Professor Longhair. When I got turned on to him, it changed my life. It was like a teenager hearing his first Beatles’ song. It went down my spine, and I instantly went home and started learning all of his songs on the piano.”

Panic’s recent fall tour

“It was fantastic. Having Jimmy Herring on guitar is wonderful. I’m excited to be onstage with him. It’s a good fit.”