21 years? Widespread Panic Isn't Counting

"Part of being in Widespread Panic has always meant trying to break preconceived models of how bands are supposed to work and how they're presented to the world at large," explains bassist Dave Schools. This ethos permeates everything the band does from songwriting and recording to touring and finances. The music these six men make has earned them accolades in nearly every major music magazine, but it's their revolutionary business model that's led to features in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Variety, CNN, Billboard Magazine, CNBC and Fortune Magazine.

Panic doesn't follow the usual format of touring only when there's a new album and then laying low between releases. They tour constantly, and every show is different. In 21 years they've never repeated a set list. They don't fight for the limelight and search for recognition in the usual places. All songs are credit to the band, and their frontman, John Bell (JB), refuses to even acknowledge his place as the leader.

JB continues, "The biggest selling point of Widespread Panic is the fan base that comes out to shows and buys our albums. Their relationship with the band and with each other just as an entity all by itself, that's the phenomena. And, it's always been this way." That relationship has been paramount to the success and longevity of the band. Their fans are some of the most dedicated in the world. In addition to the more than 3 million albums sold, fans follow them around the globe, setting attendance records at some of the most prestigious U.S. venues, and making Widespread Panic a fixture on Pollstar's annual Top 50 Tours list for more than a decade.

Using the Earth To America sessions as a building block, Panic has already begun work on their next album with Manning. Although still in the very early stages, Schools also hears a bit of Zep in what the band has laid down, commenting, "Some of the songs really strike me as something you might have heard on Physical Graffiti. They're complex, beautiful, deep, and it rocks. And it's got some melancholy and a lot of color."

Although the band is excited about the next album, there's something much bigger going on in the world of Widespread Panic, and his name is Jimmy Herring. Having toured with The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Herring is the perfect lead guitarist for Panic. Taking over where McConnell left off, Herring brings a fresh dynamic to the band and everyone is feeling it.

Herring's magic is clear to anyone who's seen Panic play since he took over lead guitar duties on September 14, 2006. Magic is never easy to find, not even for the people making it. "I've been a fan of theirs for a long time and a friend since about 1989," says Herring. "I grew up wanting to be in a band [like Widespread Panic]. This is what I've been hoping for my whole life. It just came to me pretty late."

With Herring on guitar, a new album in the works, and a major tour ahead of them, Widespread Panic continues to embrace the passion they've shared with fans for over 20 years. "We're barreling down the tracks and beginning yet another chapter," says Schools. "It's not necessarily even an Act Three - life isn't easily split into acts like theater. It's been challenging, but it feels like there aren't any limitations. We're still being children with active imaginations and finger paints.


Widespread Panic Art Exhibit

From the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, GA
293 Hoyt Street
Athens, Georgia

Lyndon House Arts Center is operated by the Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services as a center of excellence for the benefit and cultural enrichment of youth and adults. Gallery exhibitions, historic house museum, festivals, workshops, art meetings, special events, and art classes aim to provide area citizens with a positive experience in the visual arts, encouraging them to appreciate the arts and to develop their creative talents.

Lyndon House Arts Center operating hours are Tuesday & Thursday from Noon until 9:00 p.m. and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

This video is a sample of the art exhibit entitled
Widespread Panic: The Earth Will Swallow You Art Exhibit
brought to you by BrownCat


Blueroom Features Widespread Panic Performance

Widespread Panic's entire performance from Bonnaroo 2007
is now available exclusively online
at attblueroom.com/music thanks to AT&T.

Watch and Listen to songs including
Travelin' Light
Action Man
Barstool and Dreamers
Crippled Inside
Driving Song
Fairies Wear Boots
From the Cradle
I'm Not Alone
Smoking Factory
Tickle The Truth

Also see John Bell Hails Bonnaroo
and Widespread Panic Closes 'Roo 07

Bonnaroo 2007



Crack Down On Lot Drugs At Panic Show

Undercover A.L.E. agents cracking down in Charlotte

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers and Alcohol Law Enforcement agents went undercover outside the Widespread Panic concert Friday, looking for underage drinking and drugs. Dozens of people never even made it inside, instead they spent the night in jail.

As people tailgated before the Widespread Panic concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, undercover officers wandered through the crowd.

“We're looking for any illegal drugs, any dangerous drugs,” said ALE agent Omar Qureshi.

ALE agents work numerous concerts, but Friday night they were expecting a lot of drug use.

“Maybe it's a crowd that follows them, or a type of reputation that comes with this crowd or group,” said Qureshi.

Officers say they found plenty of illegal drug use. One officer confiscated 25 pounds of mushrooms hidden in chocolate bars. They also found ecstasy, marijuana, pipes, Xanax, mushrooms, even LSD concealed in the middle of a sweetart.

Officers arrested at least 80 people on drug charges, and others for underage drinking.

“Tonight the big difference was the dangerous drugs that were there,” said Qureshi.

A lot of dangerous drugs that are now off the streets.

“Hopefully it's a safer place tonight because of that,” said Qureshi.

Officers say the crowd that in the past has been volatile, but Friday night no one was hurt. That’s the idea, getting the drugs and alcohol out of the mix before the concert begins prevents fights, assaults, and people home driving under the influence.


John Bell Ad for GMHF

Ads running for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame include this one from John Bell

Visit GMHF at www.georgiamusic.org

Jul. 10 Little Rock, AR -Riverfest Amphitheatre


1: The Take Out > Walkin' (For Your Love) > Little Lilly > Radio Child, Can't Get High, Pickin' Up The Pieces, Tortured Artist > Jam > Spoonful, Porch Song

2: Junior > Hatfield, Time Zones, Old Neighborhood, Sleepy Monkey, Ain't Life Grand > Drums > One Arm Steve > Gimme > Love Tractor

E: Are You Ready For The Country? > All Time Low

Review from Little Rock
by C. Michael Bailey for allaboutjazz.com

Almost a month to the day that Little Feat appeared at the Little Rock Riverfront Amphitheater before an enthusiastic crowd of late baby-boomers and their children, a very similarly constituted, yet very different sounding, band appeared at the same venue. On Tuesday, July 10th, Widespread Panic (WP) brought its never-ending road show to River City, smack dead in the middle of the humidly brutal Arkansas Summer.

Often referred to as a “Southern Rock“ band because of its Athens, Georgia roots, a home town the band shares with REM and the B-52s, WP boasts a vastly wider curriculum than the typical Southern Rock Bands whose heyday was the mid-1970s to 1980s. While retaining a Southern sensibility like that of the Allman Brothers Band, WP might be thought of as iron lace to the Allmans’ bulldozer juggernaut—the same muscle with a different musical mentality.

Officially founded in 1986 by the late Michael Houser and John Bell, who met at the University of Georgia a few years earlier, WP had a deliberately paced take-off, gigging in an ever-expanding circle surrounding their home town. They released their first recording, Space Wrangler, on the independent Landslide Records in 1988, establishing a small but continually growing fan base. In 1991, the band landed a record deal with now-defunct Capricorn Records, releasing the eponymous Widespread Panic.

Playing 250-plus shows per year, maintaining a liberal, Grateful Dead-like taping policy, and displaying a canny knack for peppering their shows with perfect cover tunes, WP built a cult following from the grass roots up. It was into this fan base that numerous Grateful Dead and Phish followers were assimilated following the demise of those bands.

In August 2002, cofounder Michael Houser passed away from pancreatic cancer and was replaced by longtime friend George McConnell from the Oxford, Mississippi band, Beanland. McConnell in turn left WP in 2006, replaced by Jimmy Herring, veteran of Aquarium Rescue Unit, The Allman Brothers Band, and the various Grateful Dead units assembled after Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995.

WP’s lineup today consists of vocalist and guitarist John Bell, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz percussion, keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann, and guitarist Jimmy Herring. The band recently headlined the 2007 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival held in Manchester, Tennessee annually since 2002, this year's crowd estimated to be 90,000 plus. WP has changed its live show taping policy by making available on their website mp3 recordings of all of their shows, typically unmixed, mere days after the performances. This writer downloaded WP’s performance at the aforementioned 2007 Bonnaroo Festival and found audio and performances close and exciting, with covers of Black Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots” and John Lennon’s “Crippled Inside.”

This is easily the most aggressive concert-release program of any such act touring today, a band inclined to document the majority of its appearances. The WP system is clearly superior in providing its musical product when compared to The Who, who release basically the same show each time they play, made available exclusively on CD weeks after the performances. The same goes for the Allman Brothers Instant Live recordings, first mixed, then released months following the performance—both examples going at prices that make the WP downloads a bargain.

When WP took the stage at the Riverfront Amphitheater at 8:00 PM, it had just finished raining. Besides the humidity, the temperature was in the high 80s—a sticky Arkansas Summer evening in full bloom. Concertgoers seeking defense against the weather were trying to purchase trash bags to wear from the many bars that populate Little Rock’s River Market District. Young free spirits, dressed as I might have 40 years ago, milled about. There was a mix of tie-dye, sun dresses, Birkenstocks, cornrows, patchouli, and hemp—a crowd of a much broader age and social demographic than the one attending Little Feat the month before.

As is their modus operandi, WP took the stage on time (as opposed to the tardiness this writer observed throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s) with a few opening remarks from the gregarious John Bell before the band launched into “The Take Out.” Like all WP performances, this one was seamless, one song merging into the next with clever and creative transitions. In keeping with WP’s elaborate method of setlist choice, the Little Rock Show but vaguely resembled the two previous shows in Austin on July 7th and 8th and the ensuing Chicago shows on July 13-15. Fan favorites “Little Lilly,” “Ain’t Life Grand,” and “Drums” all received an adequate workout by this well-seasoned band.

John Bell is a musical enigma. Hardly a great singer, he's an immediately identifiable one with 100% Georgia drawl (making one wonder how Michael Stipe escaped his Decatur twang). He's also an excellent guitar player, rivaling cohort Jimmy Herring—the two sharing Allman-esque dual lead duties during the performance. Bell's lyric writing is an earthy mix of Robert Hunter, Lowell George, and Robbie Robertson (more genuine than the latter—Robertson relying on Levon Helm’s delta patois for imparting authenticity to his lyrics). Cover-wise, WP whipped out a 10-minute-plus “Spoonful,” not heard in any recent shows. The band introduced in encore Neil Young’s “Are You Ready for the Country” before closing the show with “All Time Low.”

Widespread Panic, better than any comparable “jam band,” mixes their concerts, always keeping programming and pacing interesting. The neo-hippie element of the band's look and sound offers something new and exciting to Generation Y and nostalgia to baby boomers. The music is so anti-big label, un-homogenized, not-ready-for-radio, old-school AOR that it is a breath of fresh air. Additionally, the creative selection of covers stimulates the listener to seek out the originals, like Neil Young in this case, or Traffic (”Low Spark of Highheeled Boys”) or Warren Zevon (”Lawyers, Guns & Money). Widespread Panic are the keepers of the flame.


Summer Tour Dates '07

That's It For Summer 2007!

Jun. 9 Lawrence, KS -Wakarusa Music Festival

Jun. 14-17 Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Jun. 22 -24 Morrison, CO -Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Jun. 28- 30 Los Angeles, CA -Orpheum Theatre

Jul. 1 San Diego, CA- Viejas Concerts in the Park

Jul. 3 Las Vegas, NV -Aladdin Theatre

Jul. 6 - 8 Austin, TX -The Backyard

Jul. 10 Little Rock, AR -Riverfest Amphitheatre

Jul. 13 - 15 Chicago, IL -Chicago Theatre

Jul. 17 Upper Darby, PA - Tower Theatre

Jul. 18 Boston, MA -Fleet Pavilion

Jul. 20 -21 New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall

Jul. 22 Bethel Woods, NY -Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Jul. 24 Wallingford, CT -Chevrolet Theatre

Jul. 26 Portsmouth, VA -Ntelos Pavilion

Jul. 27 -28 Charlotte, NC -Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre


Interview with JB and Jojo in New York

"This band is going nowhere!" -JB

From MSG.com, a sit down interview with John Bell and Jojo Hermann of Widespread Panic where they talk about being compared to other bands and how they feel about playing at Radio City Music Hall. Jojo talks about his musical beginnings in New York City and they both tell us how Terry Manning is currently in charge of their "baby", the new album which they themselves haven't yet heard.
Unfortunately the live performance segments are not with Jimmy Herring.

Apparently MSG removed this video from youtube and is no longer available.


Glide Magazine's Interview with John Bell

John Bell: A Choice Companion
By Shane Handler and Eric Ward for Glide Magazine

John Bell has been traveling for the better part of the previous night and most of the current day. He’s somewhere between Chicago and Upper Darby, PA. This is just part of another summer voyage with his band, Widespread Panic, when he gives Glide a call.

Every Panic fan knows the band’s legacy, has felt the tragedies, knows the song rotation cold, can talk album shop, and for the most part, has accepted Jimmy Herring as their mighty new lead guitarist. However, what few know is that that Bell (JB to most) is perhaps even more humble than most would assume.

In a week when he's released a decade spanning album, thrown out the first pitch at Wrigley Field and played Radio City Music Hall, he still jokingly admits he
doesn't think he's really made it yet.

A band that he started as a duet between himself and Michael Houser, has now become one of America’s biggest touring attractions, playing the largest venues and as a testament, has held the coveted headlining spot at Bonnaroo more times than any other act.

Although Panic still suffers a bit from 'southern jamband' syndrome, its earned a huge devoted following that has lasted the better part of the last twenty years. Panic is currently writing another chapter in their long history by doing it their

Fresh off the mound at Wrigley, Glide had the rare honor of holding a candid conversation with JB.

First off, was that your fastball or splitter at Wrigley? (JB threw out the first pitch on July 15th at Wrigley Field in Chicago for a Cubs / Astros game - click here to watch a clip)

That was my ‘let it go and pray that it makes it to the plate’ ball. (laughs)

It wasn’t a bad toss.

It got there. But it’s a good feeling to stand on that mound. That’s the first time I’ve stood on a real live pitcher’s mound.

Further than you expected from the plate?

Well, you know, it doesn’t look that long when you start…I warmed up a little ‘cause I hadn’t thrown a ball in about ten years. So I was trying to throw it at the strike zone when I was warming up with one of the crew members, and ah…you gotta start it a little higher (laughs). Unless you really got some heat, and I definitely don’t have that.

We talked to JoJo (Hermann) a couple of years ago about his devotion to the Mets. Do you make it to games at all when you’re out on the road?

A little bit…mostly minor league games. But when the opportunity arises, we’ll go check it out. That’s really…that’s America for ya. When you’re looking at that crowd, nobody’s excluded – old people, young people, rich people, poor people…all colors…that’s the audience. You see it a little bit at other sporting events, you know, like football, but not at concerts, usually that’s kind of a one-sided demographic.

I’ll agree with you there. Let’s move on to the new record, Choice Cuts. What was the song selection process for that?

Oh, it just popped up. I think I just sent an email around, said ‘here are my suggestions,’ and Dave [Schools] said, ‘well, let’s get some live stuff in there,’ since we did one of those live records, and we just kinda subbed out a couple tunes like that. And then there were just one or two time considerations to the….megabyte limit. But after that, it was a very simple process. We took more time doing the artwork than we did about song selection.

Are you comfortable calling that batch a Greatest Hits collection?

Oh no…if we were comfortable doing that, we would have called it that (laughs). When we were on Capricorn we did a European release that was in that same vein, so we kind of strayed away from those songs too…that were basically radio-friendly cuts in our eyes. And on this one, we dug a little bit deeper for stuff that was overall, just a solid track.

Going back to ’91, shortly after you signed with Capricorn, Billy Bob Thornton actually made his directorial debut with Widespread’s Live At The Georgia Theatre. Obviously he was a relatively unknown artist at the time, but I wanted to get your thoughts on working with him back then.

He was funny. He’d met us out on the road with Tony To who was working with him. I mean, I don’t know the difference between producers and directors…one of them was one of those (laughs). But they filled those roles and they were working together. And they just came out with a little 8mm over in ah….I don’t know where we were playing, and just kind of got a feeling of what we were about. And Big Phil Walden – I just call him Big Phil ‘cause his son, we called him Little Phil – he was a big film buff and I’m sure he knew about Billy Bob and that’s how he made that connection.

And so Billy’s out there wearing some horsehair boots – cowboy boots on…I just remember everybody remembered his boots (laughs).

You know, he’s just really straight ahead…looks you in the eye, and he just had that spark. When you’re around some personalities, and there’s just something going on in there, and you’re like, ‘damn,’ you know. I mean, he was impressed with what we were doing, but we imagined ourselves small potatoes. You could tell he had things brewing. And he showed us his character Karl [Childers] from Sling Blade. He goes, ‘I got this idea, check this out.’ And he stretches out his neck, and does the little voice like that (doing a rough imitation and laughing). And we were all like,’ ok.’ (laughs). And then when it came out, ‘oh yeah…he showed us that.’

You actually would have made a great addition to that Sling Blade band, along with the cast of Dwight Yoakam, Col. Bruce Hampton and Vic Chestnutt.

Oh yeah…I think there was a scheduling thing, or Phil had somebody in mind. But thank you, that’s very nice to say. I don’t know what I’d do. But if I was to do any acting, I’d like to do something bizarre like that. No love scenes (laughs).

Back to the initial signing with Capricorn. When the deal was being finalized, did you have any reservations about moving your in-house operations to a label? Or were you excited to finally get the coveted record contract?

We’d been in negotiations with another major label for about a year, SBK. And these were two different stories. SBK, they were the ‘tell you anything, let’s just sign you, and if you hit, you hit…if you don’t, you don’t, we don’t care.’ And Capricorn…they were courting us properly, and it was a whole different vibe. We felt that there was something there, something personal that we could work on, there was going to be a relationship. But we felt great. That’s the kind of thing we were looking for.

And you’re working on some new material now?

Yup. It’s in the can. We should hear the next stage – Terry’s [Manning] finishing things up as we speak. And I was the last one to hear anything when I went in to do vocals. So yeah, we’ve got something new all ready to go. We’re not bringing that stuff out on stage. We brought a couple tunes out, but the remainder of it, nobody’s heard.

Performing at Bethel Woods [this week], a new venue for the band, but one that’s built on the original Woodstock site…does that hold any significance for you?

Sure, yeah man. I’m still kind of stuck in that era for what turns me on musically. Not necessarily that scene, but the musicians that were involved there and the stuff that I was watching on TV as a tike, going ‘wow, something’s going on there.’ Those were some of my early inspirations. [So playing there] is really hip. It’s like playing Radio City Music Hall…you go, ‘wow, you’re lucky to be here.’

So here we are, 40 years later, Woodstock to Bonnaroo, and we’re once again in a somewhat relative time of war and social movement. Do you think as a music community, from artist to fan, we’ve helped move things forward at all? It seems we’ve been striving for cultural movement for a long time.

I think they are going ahead inevitably…whether people get on board early and believe that’s the way to do things, or if it becomes a matter of necessity. So yeah, we’re moving forward. Personally, it wouldn’t hurt to move a little faster, but I think folks get in their comfort zone, and to some degree, unless you’re pushed by necessity, whether its financial, physical comfort, or pending doom, people won’t get off the couch right away. But there are some answers and solutions still out there…but it takes that hundreds monkey. And I see a lot of those hundred monkeys out there, they’re conservationists and thinkers and visionaries since the 70s. And all the materials out there, if you just want to dabble and find out, it’s sitting there in the bookstores and the magazine racks…Home Power magazine. And you got stuff like An Inconvenient Truth…Larry David’s wife put that thing together with Al Gore, and that’s pretty hip. It’s happening.

You’ve raised quite a bit of money for SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) research, and you’ve done so without much fanfare. Do you think an event the size of Live Earth loses some of its integrity when it reaches that magnitude?

I think any voice that’s lending itself to that discussion and that debate is good. It’s easy to get cynical and talk about, private jets that flew all the people there and the pollution and you know…the carbon imprint tiles by the light show and everything. And I know Fox News was very excited to spark the TV ratings and viewership (laughs). But, you gotta start somewhere. Raising awareness that way is a lot better than starting a war. But I personally don’t need to get political, ‘cause I’m just a guy in a rock ‘n roll band. But I don’t groove on legal murder either or whatever you want to call war so…

The H.O.R.D.E.-era, the jam explosion of the mid-90s was when Widespread Panic and all these similar improv rock bands started to really take off. And now just 10 years later, Panic is pretty much the last man standing. To what do you attribute your longstanding success and longevity as a band?

I don’t know…just taking first things first. That’s the way it’s always been, the band acting like a band and writing songs together. And then other stuff happens in the wake of that. We’ve been way more song and camaraderie focused than we have been career oriented. The career comes as a bi-product of what you do musically. And if that’s a secret, then that might be one of the elements.

Has the Myspace, iTunes, file sharing climate we’re in now provided some revitalization to the band?

I think Panic has kind of ridden the fence in that respect. Like even when it started with the, to a much smaller degree and a more primitive degree, the situation of trying to sell records but also allowing fans to come in and tape the show and trade tapes. And you know we went around and around with the record companies on that one! (laughs) And it’s the same debate, ‘is this helping or is it hurting,’ and obviously I think it hurts record sales, but at the same time, before we ever had a record out, it was also helping establish somewhat of a fanbase, or at least some folks that heard about the band and had a little curiosity and they’d come and see a show, which was basically keeping us alive…and it still is. The live shows, that’s pretty much our niche, although I love making records, and I love all those producers who we’ve been exposed to and all those experiences.

You’re in a unique position, because as the industry grapples with declining album sales – down 15% already at the mid-year mark - your tried and true method of the touring machine keeps a revenue stream coming in that a straight recording artist is unable to generate as easily.

Yeah. But I feel fortunate, ‘cause if the fans weren’t coming out, participating…then we got nothing. At least along those lines we’d probably still be playing music, but this way we get to make a living and a rock ‘n roll experience out of it.

With Jimmy (Herring) coming aboard last year, how has the dynamic in the band changed over the last six months or so…if at all?

There’s always a shift in dynamic with a change in personnel. Whether it’s a substitution or just losing somebody, which is another reason for substitution, but all I can say is…things feel very upbeat and Jimmy is getting to be exposed to a band that really welcomes his creative input. [Fans] have been watching him apply himself to our songs [live], but what they haven’t seen is what we did together in the studio. So we’re firing on all cylinders and it feels great.

Looking at your albums over the years, are you somewhat relieved you never had to deal with it, or are you still chasing that “Touch of Grey” moment when everything exploded?

I swear to God, we look at every album…every song we approach, it’s discovered because we found some magic in there that everybody felt, ‘this is something, I really dig it.’ If something turns into that ‘Hit,’ I would love the reason to be because it really was a good, solid song all the way around – musically, the way it’s constructed, and lyrically. Because we’ve felt good about all the songs we’ve written (laughs). We put that energy behind every song we write, so I would hope that if and when that day comes, we’ll just take it in stride.

Looking back over the years, was there a definitive moment, or event in your career when you realized you’d really “made it?”

No, not at all. I don’t even feel that way now. I think if you start thinking that way, you’re getting off the mark. I mean….everybody’s definition would be different. And I don’t think you really know till the end….and we’re not there.

You’re not spring chickens anymore, and I imagine it isn’t getting any easier to get out of bed after these long shows. Is it getting harder to be a rock ‘n roll guy?

Ah….you learn tricks (laughs). It might even be a little bit easier. You know, you learn a few things, you slow down on some of your….chosen recreations. I don’t find it any tougher than I used to. I miss being home. When we first started out, home just represented a lot of back rent (laughs). We were all living together. So I miss Laura, and I miss the things I get to do when I’m home. But as far as….when you get on stage, boy it’s the same as it’s been ever since that first time.

Being such a strong songwriter yourself, who are some of your songwriting heroes?

Just popping it off the top of my head…Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison…some of that early Grateful Dead stuff I thought was great. The stuff that Jerry was singing especially. I’m just a slow, bluesy, ballad-y kind of guy. That’s the stuff that I used to stand up for and start dancing to (laughs).

JJ Cale is another great one…obviously we do a number of his covers. He sends us a bottle of bourbon and thanks every once in a while. And we’ve played with him on stage…he’s a great guy.

Your voice is signature at this point. How did you develop such a distinct sound? Is it a work in progress or does it just come naturally?

If it was a little kid asking me that question, or somebody the same age as when I started, the first thing [I’d say] is to just go ahead and sing. Make your joyful noise. ‘Cause it probably ain’t gonna be pretty right off the bat.

I started out doing a lot of covers. I’d go and buy sheet music and songbooks and copy what I’d heard on the radio, and I think my personal experience was that I was kind of doing a Rich Little thing. I would copy the character of those voices that were in the songs. I think that repetition…probably cultivated some degree of control over the sound I would make. And when I started writing my own songs, I knew the difference between my own voice and just ripping off somebody else’s style. And so from there, I go through changes and find different pockets to explore – different voicings that are still my own, but its kind of like pulling different characters out. You know, (singing) I got my pretty voice…I got my lawn mower voice, and all that stuff (laughs). Whatever seems appropriate for the song at the time.

With everything you have going on…any solo work a possibility?

If I had time. But personally, everything I do creatively, I throw that into the band. And when I’m not being creative in that respect, I go into another arena…whether it’s gardening, or just being a husband, or painting or something like that. So anything I do musically, Widespread Panic is as much time as I like putting forth to that end. But you never know, I might get a wild hair up. I’ve got my own studio, if I spend enough time in there and cultivate some songs…but see, then the first thing I’d do is say, ‘guys, here’s some stuff.’ And then the next thing you know, it’s a Widespread Panic song.


Dave Schools Interview for Times Herald-Record

Widespread Panic plays Bethel Woods
By Sandy Tomcho for the Times Herald-Record

Widespread Panic recorded an album in April and May, and bassist Dave Schools says they've been giving fans a taste at their summer shows. But it's just a little taste.

"We're playing a couple, but we want to keep most of the rest of them close to our vest," Schools says, adding that he hopes the album will "make an appearance sometime later this year."

From Athens, Ga., the blues- and jazz-influenced rock band built its large following by playing as many as 250 shows a year. Now it's down to about 80, and one of those stops is Sunday's show at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

The band has sold more than 3 million albums, released 15 CDs and five DVDs and prides itself on always having a unique show for its fans, which is why it tries not to go less than four or five nights without repeating any songs.

Go! reporter Sandy Tomcho spoke with Schools via phone about charities, giving away music for free and playing our historic site.

How did you pick the songs that appear on "Choice Cuts: The Capricorn Years 1991-1999"? Did fans have any input on that?

Well, that was actually a really nice favor on behalf of Legacy. They bought the Capricorn catalog, which included an option on a greatest hits record, which Capricorn never exercised. Legacy, 10 years later, decided that they would exercise it. They were nice enough to call us and ask us for some input. So, we just picked some that we thought were pretty representative of the band during those years.

You're affiliated with Save Darfur, Rock the Planet and numerous other organizations. How do you pick which groups you want to be involved with?

We get approached by a lot of people with causes. We felt pretty honored that Amnesty International approached us with this Darfur project, and we're all big John Lennon and Beatles fans and we happened to have a great song in mind for this Lennon tribute record. We take them bit by bit. We can't do all of them, but, sometimes, if the schedule permits, we can make a recording of a tune and contribute it.

You've headlined Bonnaroo and Radio City Music Hall. Some people would say that everything else would be pretty much downhill. You guys have accomplished so much; what keeps you going?

It's a big world and there's probably a lot of countries that aren't used to having rock 'n' roll, so it would be nice to go play some of those places. Really, what keeps us going is the fact that we do something different every night. If we had a stage show that we had worked 20 years to perfect and it had reached that pinnacle of perfection when we headlined Madison Square Garden, then maybe it would be all downhill from there. But, we headline Madison Square Garden and we keep on troopin'. And we come back and play Radio City because it's basically the national cathedral for the performing arts. It's an amazing place. Every night's a different experience, and that's what keeps us wakin' up on the right side of the bed every day.

You let people download your shows, tape your shows and get your music for free. Do you think other bands are missing out by not making themselves as accessible to their fans?

They may be missing out as far as not building a following. The bands that can leverage peer-to-peer sharing these days and concert tickets and get people coming to see them, they are the ones that are having the big success. They're sort of beating the system right now. We've always been lucky because, even in the years before we had a record deal, fans were trading live concert recordings. We crossed the Mississippi River heading west for the first time in our little van and people in California already knew our original songs, and we didn't even have a record out.

The structure of your music, it seems, is influenced by the bands that played the original Bethel site in 1969. Do you have any special feelings about the site?

I don't know if we overturned rocks looking for those influences. I think we just grew up in the '70s, and that's the music we heard on the FM radio when we were kids and we liked it and we can't help but be influenced by that. Just like these younger bands, like Interpol, who obviously grew up listening to music in the '80s and it shows up. I think it's a natural process and it's how art gets refined over the years. As far as the specific Woodstock site, I've never been to it so, I'm looking forward to it. I think it's gonna be really cool.


Boston Herald Review for 7/18/07

07/18/07 Fleet Pavilion, Boston, MA

Set 1: Chainsaw City, Little Lilly > Walkin' (For Your Love), Down, Tickle the Truth, Can't Get High > Bear's Gone Fishin' > Hatfield > Blackout Blues

Set 2: B of D > One Arm Steve > Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi) > Love Tractor, Pickin' Up The Pieces, Stop-Go, All Time Low, Junior

Encore: Me And The Devil Blues > Porch Song, Goin' Out West

From the Boston Herald

Antic audience has Panic attack
By Christopher John Treacy
It’s easy to forget that jam band shows are supposed to be about music. True, the jam band phenomenon revolves around a certain amount of free-spirited partying. But it often seems like achieving the desired altered state eclipses the music’s importance.
Despite last night’s soggy weather and a half-full Pavilion, Georgia’s Widespread Panic still sounded mighty solid.

Through two generous sets, the second of which was barely underway at press time, the able sextet delivered an even performance. The opener, “Chainsaw City,” was a curious blend of island rhythms with sinister backwoods overtones driven by lead vocalist/guitarist John Bell’s deftly ripped power chords.

Guitarist Jimmy Herring, really the center of Panic’s nucleus, came alive with swinging scale patterns during “Walkin’ (For Your Love).” His never-ending note supply guided a celebratory groove through “Down.” Meanwhile, “Tickle the Truth” featured JoJo Hermann’s cool retro-authentic organ embellishments.

Fueled by the triple-threat rhythm section of slap-happy Dave School’s bass, Domingo Ortiz’s propulsive percussion and Todd Nance’s drumming, set one ended with the funk-laden three-tier segue from “Bear’s Gone Fishing” into “Hatfield” and “Blackout.”

But as usual, by halftime all hell had broken loose. Like children once tucked in that repeatedly need to be put back to bed, seating is merely a suggestion with these folks. Don’t like your neighbor? Just give it a minute and you’ll have a whole new set of perma-grinning, twirling, jingle-jangle jesters in your midst. Half the entertainment at shows like these comes from watching jam-banders wreak havoc on the establishment, swapping ticket stubs and playing hide the spliff.


Happy Birthday Jojo!

Jojo turns 45

John "Jojo" Hermann - July 18, 1962 NY


John Bell Plays Ball

Sunday before the Chicago Cubs played their game against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field in Chicago, John Bell was greeted as guest on the field.

Taking the mound JB, sporting a Cubs jersy, gave an ambitious toss of the ball to the Cubs catcher.

Watch the Video (Quicktime required)

The game was a great shut out for Chicgao sweeping the Astros in a three-game series at Wrigley Field for the first time since May 1984.
Final Score: Cubs 7, Astros 6

After the game Widespread Panic took the stage at the historic Chicago Theatre to finish up their 3-night run in Chicago. The band will travel to Philadelphia for a show Tuesday night.


Panic In Vegas

LAS VEGAS - July 3rd
Planet Hollywood
Theatre for the Performing Arts
Las Vegas, NV

Photos by Garrett Hacking

Electronica, tech-beat masters The Crystal Method opened for Widespread Panic at the Planet Hollywood (Aladdin Hotel) in Las Vegas on July 3rd.

Widespread Panic took the stage and moved the crowd to fan favorites, a few new songs and some great old cover tunes.

SET 1:
Little Kin > Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, Big Wooly Mammoth > Cream Puff War, Smoking Factory, C. Brown, Trouble > Space Wrangler

The Crystal Method performed during Panic's setbreak and, with what has become the new standard while in Las Vegas, comedian Carrot-Top once again joined Panic on stage to show off his percussion skills.

SET 2:
2: Better Off, You Should Be Glad, Diner > Stop Breakin' Down Blues, Surprise Valley > Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys > Drums* > Surprise Valley* > Jack, North

Nobody's Loss, Wondering

* with Carrot Top on percussion


Fun Comment of the Week

Posted by lostsailor8782 on community.rukind.org

Hey somebody wake up Jimmy Herring and tell him to stop that solo he started 45 minutes ago ...

Happy Birthday Sunny!

Sunny Turns 55 - Keep on Bangin'

Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz - July 4, 1952



Widespread Panic's Choice Cuts 1991-1999 CD

Preordering is now available for Widespread Panic's
Choice Cuts: The Capricorn Years 1991-1999 CD

List Price:$13.98
Label: Zomba Label Group
Orig Year: 2007
Discs: 1
Street Date: Jul 03, 2007

Excerpt from JB's introduction in the liner notes - 'This smattering of self-proclaimed anthems and nursery rhymes by Widespread Panic is a fair taste of what was going on during “The Capricorn Years”.'

Track Listing /Song Title
1. Travelin' Light
2. Chilly Water
3. Love Tractor
4. Weight Of The World
5. Papa's Home
6. Ain't Life Grand
7. Blackout Blues
8. Rebirtha
9. Aunt Avis - (with Vic Chesnutt)
10. Blue Indian
11. Climb To Safety
12. Surprise Valley
13. Pickin' Up The Pieces - (live, with Branford Marsalis)
14. Pigeons - (live)

Preorders are being taken at CDUniverse.com and Gallery Of Sound.com for $11.98.



Jambands.com interview with John Bell

Interview with John Bell from our friends at JAMBANDS.COM

Choice Cuts 6-27-07
With John Bell

by Taylor Hill

John Bell has cost many people thousands of dollars. My father said to tell him that.

He did so by meeting a young guy in the dorm across from his named Mikey Houser, forming a band called Widespread Panic, and by developing a unique singing voice that can range from tenderness that would silence a songbird to the Grand Prize Winner in a whiskey and gravel gurgling contest.

I walked into the Fox Theatre on January 2, 1998, and was a 14-year-old who was there only because I'd seen a camp counselor (they were the COOLEST when I was that age) with a bag full of two dozen Panic bootlegs. I thought that if someone had that many tapes of a band, I needed to see them. Nine years later, you'll still find me at any Widespread Panic show within 200 miles of wherever I am.

I suppose I should mention, along the way, that Widespread Panic has headlined Bonnaroo six times, sold out Philips Arena 15 times, Madison Square Garden a few times, released numerous albums, is one of the top 50 touring acts in the country, and has written the soundtrack to the lives of tens of thousands of Southerners, and even other people. It is also worth noting, I suppose, that they still return to their hometown and do a concert now and then, including the 1998 free concert that brought over 100,000 people into downtown Athens, Ga.

But aside from the staggering numbers from which they can post and boast (and they don't), the foundation of their success lies in the ability to deeply touch their listeners during the best years of their lives and leave a musical footprint on them. Whenever I hear John Bell's voice, and I'm not prepared for it, I freeze, because I can't help being taken back to another time and place and another road I've traveled occasionally and will travel still. It's how they affect one person, hundreds of thousands of times over, that dwarfs any statistic. This is because of the quality of their music and the ability of John Bell's voice to sear itself into the listener's brain.

And he's a damn fun interview.

Widespread Panic's newest release, Choice Cuts: The Capricorn Years 1991-1999 hits stores and iTunes on Tuesday, July 3rd. They are currently touring the country.

Taylor Hill: I wanted to start off with what is by far the most important question: What is your favorite episode of Star Trek? It can be from any of the four good series, just not Star Trek: Enterprise.

John Bell: [Laughs.] I don’t blame you on that one. Let’s see, good question. I’d say it’s a tie between “The Inner Light” and “All Good Things” from Next Generation. “The Inner Light,” I dug that, that’s the only time you see Picard in a family way, and “All Good Things” was kind of freaky, and the end of it.

TH: In honor of your new compilation, Choice Cuts: The Capricorn Years 1991-1999, I thought I’d ask you some questions about the beginning and start at the very beginning. You had a Swedish grandfather who used to sing you lullabies?

JB: No, not really, but somebody wrote that, so that’s cool. No, no, no. We had a family birthday song that was Swedish that our grandfather taught us. Sounds like you were reading that Peach article.

TH: No comment. Was it hard to distill that much of your career into a disc when the songs are so long?

JB: Having some input on this Capricorn compilation, which – we were happy that Legacy was doing something – not leaving the records to rot, as records will do, in the hands of people that don’t care. So they were showing that they cared a little, and cared enough to ask us our input. We were pleased to give them our input. It didn’t take much hemming and hawing – we threw some stuff together we thought was appropriate.

TH: Could you tell us about the first time you met Mikey, and the first time you played with Mikey, and how the one led to the other?

JB: That’s a good one, let’s see. A friend of mine lived in my dorm, said “there’s another guy over in the other dorm, he’s playing guitar and you guys should get together.” I ended up, and we were 18, maybe 19, and we met, and I don’t think we got together then, but we met, and then probably down the road had a couple of beers together or something and then decided to try playing together. I’d already had like a little solo gig I’d been doing, and I invited him to come play and we probably played a couple nights over at the house I was living at, and got some songs together, and went from there.

TH: When you made Space Wrangler, and took the time to record an album of your originals, it said to me that Panic wanted more than the bar/frat circuit and wanted to grow and was willing to take the risks to do it. How’d you make the decision to leap for bigger success?

JB: You know, it wasn’t that much of a plan, or really caring really that much what anybody else would – we weren’t playing to an audience – I mean we were, but they were gonna get what they got. So we were writing songs together. That was our plan. And we had put together maybe five or six songs on our own, and continued to play, and put out a single on our own, a 45. In the meantime, we wrote a few more songs, and then started talking to our buddy Michael over at Landslide Records. Tinsley Ellis introduced us, and Michael suggested that we put a cover on there – so it was gonna be all originals – so J.J. Cale’s “Travelin’ Light,” we put that on there. But as far as making any big decision, it was like, “No, this is what you do.” If you’re gonna be playing, make a record.

TH: Who writes what? Especially lyrically.

JB: We write them together, mostly if you see whomever’s singing it, they’re for the most part largely responsible for the lyrics. There are a few exceptions to that case, but overall we claim equal influence on the songs lyrically and musically.

TH: What’s on “J.B’s Recommended Reading List?”

JB: There are lots of good books. Let me see. I’ve got a new, it’s a collection of poems and random thoughts from Coleman Barks – an author that was with the English Department at the University of Georgia for 30 years, and he does a lot of translations of Rumi poems, and I’ve got a book of his own stuff that’s pretty hip. Favorite, I can’t say.

I try not to pick up anything that’s too crappy, and a lot of times it becomes the favorite. Atlas Shrugged is a freaky book, you ever read that?

TH: No, Ayn Rand scares the hell out of me.

JB: Yeah, it’ll mess you up for a few months after reading that. I’ve got another book called The Joy of Living by “Smiley Tibetan Buddhist Guy.” Yongey Mingyur Rimpoche. Rimpoche is the equivalent of Ph. D. or something in Tibetan Buddhist monk terms. It’s one of those where they’re tying Eastern philosophy in with the quantum physics possibilities of the Western world – tying it together so you can get a little better grip on it.

TH: You always have your eyes closed when onstage unless you’re looking at the band. Do you have stage fright?

JB: Well, I’m playing with the band! I look once in a while, just to see what’s going on, but beyond that, I’m looking inside with the music or communicating with the guys – that’s the first task at hand. If I’m out there playing to the audience or trying to get their attention then that’s a different show altogether. It’s kind of like, “hey, dig me” and that’s not what it’s about. I’m playing music. I just happen to be on a stage.

TH: What are some venues you love?

JB: Dig Red Rocks, we just did that. Radio City Music Hall is one of my new favorites, we just started playing there. The Fox – that’s easy to love. That was a big deal when we first got to play there. It’s got sentimental value and it’s also really hip. There’s a number of venues in Chicago that we dig. We’re gonna do a three night run at the Chicago Theatre. Mostly I like the old theatres. They sound the best, have a cool visual, and have a lot of history to you.

TH: What did you think of the Wharf? Between that and Mullet Toss Weekend I got to combine the Flora-Bama and y’all – two of my favorite things.

JB: I’m glad the Flora-Bama survived. My basic impressions were: I was glad that we had an Oak Mountain-type vibe and venue to play again, since the folks at Pelham had decided, you know, that the fans and music were a little too much to work with – JoJo just called it the “Red Rocks of Lower Alabama.”

TH: It seems that with your summer tour you’re making an effort to do more multi-night stands at the more intimate venues you can’t play anymore in the South.

JB: Well, you know, you take what you can get. To me, it’s a very enjoyable way of doing things. You’ve got a little more intimate setting, you get to stay in a city for a while instead of constantly being on the road, and it works. You get in some of these fun cities, a lot of the fans like to come and plan it for a weekend and see three shows and then go back with their own lives if they’re not staying on the road, but they’ve gotten to see a good smattering of the songs we have.

TH: Do you have anything to add about the transition from George to Jimmy or have you said all you want to on it?

JB: You know, I was happy then, I’m happy now. My job is J.B. staying happy, and then that’s what I have to work with and that’s what the other guys have to work with. I wish George the best and I wish Jimmy the best. We’re having a lot of fun right now and it’s kind of the same when we switched from Mikey and it’s kind of the same switching from George.

TH: Are y’all enjoying Jimmy as much as we are?

JB: I’m really happy with what’s going on. We just did a lot of good work in the studio. When that sees the light of day I think, if that’s the phrase to use, you’ll hear it again.

TH: Tell us about it?

JB: Naaaaaaaaaaah. That’s about it. No, we went down to the Bahamas and played with Terry [Manning], the producer, and that’s about all you’re getting. But it’s really good though. Right now we’re trying to figure out how to best present it. [Editor’s Note: For a bit more from JB on the upcoming release be sure to pick up the next issue of Relix.]

TH: Y’all have headlined Bonnaroo six times, and it’s that season. Starting with your most recent, did you get to see any bands? What let to the decision to go guest-free?

JB: There were a lot of people doing guests and stuff, and we’re still working our stuff out with Jimmy, so we’re still keeping our heads down and playing. We didn’t show up early – we basically showed up for the interviews and the gig. The day before, Paolo Nutini, I saw him on the AT&T stream. He looked good – like he was into it.

TH: Memories of the first Bonnaroo in 2002?

JB: Mikey was full-on sick at that point – everybody was pretty much heads-on focused, and we had done NYE at the millennium with Dottie, so we had a working dynamic already. Then we met Steven Winwood a couple nights before, at a party, and said “yeah, you wanna come in and get something together?” So that, as part of the big sitting-in kind of thing, that’s one of our biggest memories right there, and even more so when we were backstage with Stevie, Dottie, and her crew, ‘cause everybody was jamming together. There was even dancing going on – it was very hip.

TH: Are you a good dancer?

JB: Um, I can dance when it overtakes me. I don’t know if that’s – I think dancing is good. I don’t know if I’m a good dancer. I don’t even know what that is!

TH: One thing that amazes me is your ability to keep your focus no matter what is going on onstage. How do you keep your focus when you get shit thrown at you, like Bonnaroo 2005?

JB: No, that stuff bothers me. I think those sticks are a pain. They’re really silly. I don’t know why people throw them at us. But, you know, the thing is, it’s an exercise in not taking it personally, and it’s probably a little karmic payback from when I threw shit on the stage when I was a kid. So, you know, it distracts me, and I gotta come back and refocus. But I’m glad that my being annoyed is not that visible from your point of view.

TH: OK, only a couple more questions. Any musical recommendations or concerts you went to as a youth you’d like to share with us?

JB: I still pretty much listen to old stuff, or new stuff that the older folks are playing. I remember going to see Chicago and that really blew me away. That was the first concert that I really sat there and absorbed the music. The bar shows and theatre shows with Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit were one-of-a-kind, and that I probably got the most lost in. The stuff they were doing, musically and theatrically, was just gone.

TH: Any Panic song that you love to sing, any you think suck but you sing them to be a good sport?

JB: Oh, I would say that it all goes in cycles. They take turns. As far as, what songs you feel tuned into, what songs you miss and you’d really like to play me again. New songs come with their own sense of excitement because you’re in big exploration mode. I love the songs that we’ve really written together, like where you don’t know who’s largely responsible for the song, because that takes on qualities that are way beyond what you could have done on your own, that you’re-still-part-of-the-team kind of feeling. I love singing the harmonies with JoJo. I look forward to that a whole lot.

Basically, you try not to cop a bad attitude about any of it. I try to approach them all like I’m excited to sing it. There are nights, where it’s like “I’d rather not play that, but yeah.” You could say “being a good sport” but, going beyond drudging through it, you go find a place in yourself when you go have fun with it. It’s like starting a day like “I’d love to stay in bed” but you don’t, and you end up having a great day. I pretty much treat those songs like that too.

TH: Last question – one of the things I hate about interviews is that they’re question-and-answer and sometimes, with people who are interesting enough, I wish they were answer and answer, so, anything under the sun you want to talk about or anything you want to say?

JB: I swear to God, I know the answer to that question two hours later. I’ll be on that plane and think “Man, I would have loved to share this.” I don’t know, bro. It’s easier to be prompted. You got any other questions?

TH: Um, could you have the Rockettes sit in at Radio City Music Hall?

JB: We joked about it a couple of years ago, but usually when they’re not there they really don’t want to be there – taking time off, being with their families. I don’t think we even got close to that happening, but we did talk about it, and that would be a hell of a sit-in.

TH: Do you ever play with other bands or try and sneak into bars and play for people who aren’t specifically there to see you?

JB: Nah, really my thing is Widespread Panic, or an occasional, depending on my mood, solo thing, but beyond that, I’m a one band guy.

TH: Who’s your pick for President?

JB: Oh, who knows. I just wish we had a better system.

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