Lt. Dan of 100.1FM WRLT in Nashville and The Kynd Veggie Show had the opportunity to interview Dave Schools backstage at the Ryman Theater before Widespread Panic took the stage there on Friday.
Dave discusses vinyl records, the music business and working with Jimmy Herring and Terry Manning.
You can stream the interview HERE.
corrections made 10/29
Widespread Panic is back for Halloween gig
by Jedd Ferris, for Take 5 Music Online
Widespread Panic has always been good for a night of rowdy improvisational roots rock. But on Halloween, the Southern jam kings let it all hang out. The six-man, Georgia-based outfit has built a massive loyal following after more than two decades of hard touring, keeping fans on their toes with ever-changing set lists from a deep catalog of original material.
The band’s annual Halloween show has become a special event in Panic lore, as past gigs have been filled with elaborate stage themes and unexpected covers from the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” to The Doors’ “People Are Strange” to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” In the past, the Halloween show has been held in the more reputably decadent environments of Las Vegas, New York City and New Orleans, but this year the celebration comes to Asheville on Wednesday night at the Civic Center Arena .
In the past year Panic has found a new stride, thanks to the addition of Jimmy Herring on lead guitar. Herring—who joins founding members John Bell on lead vocals and guitar, John “JoJo” Hermann on keyboards, Dave Schools on bass, Todd Nance on drums and Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz on percussion—has done time in the Allman Brothers Band and the Dead and has enhanced the group’s signature tunes with rapid fire runs and skillful touches of Southern psychedelia. Herring is band’s third lead guitarist. Founding member Michael Houser passed away after a battle with cancer in 2002. His spot was filled by George McConnell of the Kudzu Kings until 2006.
Ahead of the big show Bell took some questions from the road.
Question: How has Jimmy Herring helped reinvigorate the group?
Answer: He is a great player, and just as importantly, he’s fun to be around. He fits into our dynamic and adds to it in a positive way. That’s crucial when you’re out there doing over 100 shows a year. He has a lot of great song ideas.
Q: You guys just finished recording with producer Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz and ZZ Top). What can you tell me about the new album?
A: It will be out in late winter or early spring next year. When we make a record, everyone is encouraged to put their two cents in. We had 25 partially baked ideas after doing some pre-production, and we brought it down to 12 tunes. They’re like a family with different kids. They all fit together with some similarities, but they’re all individuals. What we came up with is an honest reflection of where we are as songwriters, not just throwing it through a computerized meat grinder and coming up with something commercial.
Q: This was the second disc done with Manning. What do you like about working with him at his Compass Point recording studio in the Bahamas?
A: We trust Terry a lot with his wizardry. It’s good to get away from our hometown atmosphere, where everyone can be distracted. Removing ourselves and getting down there to work has had a positive effect. When we’re in the Bahamas, you’d think we’d be at the beach, but we’re in the studio 12 hours a day storming the castle. Next time we’ll take a day off and go fishing.
Q: This is your second show in Asheville this year. Why did you decide to bring this special Halloween show here to town?
A: For Widespread Panic, Halloween is a major holiday, so we like it to be someplace special. Asheville has grown on us over the years. We could tell that’s where the good vibe was going to be. We keep secret what we’re going to do. I don’t even tell the boys what I’m going to wear before the show. It’s the one time we get to play make-believe and do a lot of tunes that we wouldn’t normally play.
Q: You’ve played here 12 times since 1988. Do you have a favorite Asheville memory?
A: Playing at the Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam a few years ago was really heavy. There were some great players there, and I got to play with Sam Bush and John Cowan. It’s such a fun event for a great cause.
Q: What does Panic listen to in the tour bus?
A: Dave and Jimmy just turned me on to Jeff Buckley. His album “Grace” just blows me away, from the lyrics and vocals to the production to the overall mood. It’s a very heavy record. We also watch a lot of comedy. We just watched Patton Oswalt do a hilarious 2 1/2-hour ramble. Comedians are so performance-based. It seems a lot more live than some of the music you can expose yourself to. It’s raw nerve.
Q: Since you and Michael Houser were the original foundation of this group, did you have any reservations about continuing after he passed?
A: I considered the options and immediately realized it was never going to be the same. I think we did the right thing by sticking it out and continuing to play. But there’s still a healing process going on. We wrote so many fun songs together that I didn’t want to lock up the kid’s bedroom and never go in there again. I wanted to keep as much of the experience and relationship alive as I could. I don’t regret it at all.
Q: A lot of the grass-roots bands that Widespread came up with have called it quits. Why have you guys continued so strongly over the years?
A: You’ve got to do your best to stay open and make the right decisions along the way. A lot of it stems from recognizing each individual’s talents and forgiving each other when a lacking shows up. It’s a human thing going down. We don’t have a formula. We just go at things with the best intentions and have respect for each other. Outside of that it’s just keeping the creative juices flowing and writing songs together.
By Jeff Sherman
Widespread Panic, the Athens-based jam band, came to town this weekend for two shows at the Riverside Theater.
Of course, this also meant that their fans, many who travel from concert to concert, much like the die-hards who for years followed the Grateful Dead and Phish, also set up shop Downtown.
In the Rock Bottom parking lot, hours before the Friday show, concert goers (looking like hearty campers and tailgaters) from across the country started setting up. Dogs, people, vans, vendors and music filled the area all day and night.
From Indiana, Alabama, Nevada and other states, fans filled the lot near the Riverwalk at Plankinton and Wells Sts.
One fan, Mike, from Las Vegas follows the band from show to show. He wholesales stereo equipment on side, but like many Panic fans uses the pre-show tailgates to support his concert habits. For Mike, this means selling pizza along with his friend Christopher who called himself the "general manager" for the pizza business.
Other fans sell hats, tee shirts, stickers, photos, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, bracelets, books and other items. It's a community and a family that loves the band and the lifestyle. And when we say family, we mean family as many of the fans travel with dogs and their young children.
With a near perfect weekend of weather, the loyal fans loved Milwaukee. "The churches, the architecture, the development and Mo's," said one fan when asked about Milwaukee.
The band moves on to Indianapolis Sunday. Many of the fans, who paid $8/day to park in the lot, will follow the band immediately after Saturday night's 8 p.m. show.
John Bell talks about Widespread Panic’s upcoming album, touring and the band’s longevity
By The Ear
The Daily Times-Call
LOVELAND — Long a Colorado favorite, Widespread Panic plays two sold-out shows at the Budweiser Events Center this weekend. This is the first ever back-to-back sellout for a rock band at the venue. The band’s annual three-day pilgrimage to Red Rocks attracts fans from all over the country.
Often compared to the Grateful Dead and Phish because of the three-hour shows and extended jams, Widespread Panic has crafted its own place in rock ’n’ roll. Its music resonates with Southern rock and country-western influences, but with its own stamp.
Among the many challenges this Athens, Ga., -based band has overcome was the death of founding member and lead guitarist Michael Houser in 2002 of pancreatic cancer. Following Houser’s wishes, the band never missed a show. Now, it is fresh out of the studio with its yet-unnamed 11th CD, due for release later this year, and ready to get back on the road.
The Ear chatted with the band’s frontman, vocalist/guitarist John Bell, on the eve of Widespread Panic’s fall tour.
THE EAR: Things are going well for Widespread Panic right now. Your shows are selling out from coast to coast, multiple Red Rocks shows sell out in 10 minutes, and the band has an excellent catalog of CDs. Did you ever think the band would have this level of success?
BELL: When we started out about 21 or 22 years ago, you just kind of hope while you’re having fun. And if things grow, that’s great, and if not, at least you had the experience. Right now, we’re still in the middle of it, inside looking out.
If you apply the word “successful” to us, we would define it as still being creatively viable while having fun. We’re very grateful that all that stuff is still happening.
THE EAR: Widespread Panic is about to start its fall tour. Are you looking forward to going back out on the road?
BELL: Yeah, a little bit. I get more excited when I’m out there in the thick of it. Right now, there’s that leaving-home thing that’s kind of a drag.
THE EAR: Did you take a vacation or did you work after the summer tour?
BELL: Mostly, I spent the time off doing the things you need to do to get caught up on the home front. We took a little time for ourselves. My wife and I and some of the guys from the crew and their wives piled into the car and went to the beach for a while. It was fun.
THE EAR: Widespread Panic tours are often 16 weeks or more. Is it hard to be away from home so much?
BELL: It kind of tugs at you a little bit, but it’s been part of the package for a long time now.
THE EAR: How do you account for having such a loyal fan base?
BELL: You’ll have to ask them about that (laughing). I can only say that we are real lucky to still be doing what we are doing. We’re lucky the folks keep coming out, we’re lucky to have the venues to play in, and lucky the system is in place for this thing we do to keep happening.
THE EAR: How is the new CD coming? Are you enjoying working in the studio with Jimmy Herring (The Allman Brothers, The Dead)?
BELL: We finished it! It was great working with Jimmy; he had a lot of great ideas. He fell into our unusual songwriting process very easily.
THE EAR: How does the songwriting for Widespread Panic come about? Is it collaboration, or do the individual members bring songs to the band?
BELL: This time, it was pretty hip. We had a session with Terry Manning (famed producer for Led Zeppelin, Al Green and ZZ Top) in the Bahamas for about a week, and everybody brought their ideas together. We put them in a big pile and started chipping away from there. We zeroed in on what felt good to everybody and went where inspiration led us. You are trying to get to that place where the music is at a magical level, where the music is playing itself. That’s when I’m the happiest.
And that magic is never a given; you can’t make it happen. If you try to make it happen, that can put the kibosh on it real quick.
THE EAR: Who are your musical influences? What are your favorite albums or CDs?
BELL: At home, I listen to the whole Van Morrison catalog. I always have my ear peeled for new Van Morrison stuff that comes out. He’s so prolific; he puts out a new album every six months so. I feel lucky to get to be a fan and not be picking his songs apart for song structure, a pitfall that comes with being a musician.
I’ve never seen Van Morrison live, but at the end of our last tour, we missed him by one day when he played Atlanta. If it had been a day earlier, I’d have been there.
THE EAR: Can I ask you about Michael Houser’s passing away? The band didn’t cancel any shows or take a break for more than a year. How did you have the strength to do that?
BELL: Oh, you know, maybe a little feeling of responsibility. There’s a whole machine going with a lot of people who are employed and benefit from the business side of Widespread Panic. Also, playing music for our own heads and hearts was very therapeutic. And there was probably a little dash of denial in there. It helped us from getting too wigged out about his death. It was what it was, and now it’s part of the whole story.
THE EAR: Did you enjoy the hiatus (the band took its first-ever extended break in 2004-05)? Will you be doing that again? Do you think it adds the longevity of the band to take that much time off?
BELL: Yeah, I enjoyed it while I was doing it. It was the first time we had taken an extended break, and I had to reset my gears. My autopilot system had been dismantled after taking 14 months off.
We’d do it again. It was a gas to be able to just sit there writing songs and doing other things. It helps you appreciate the rock ’n’ roll experience that much more. And it allows you to do other things that will, hopefully, complement the way you apply yourself and make you more rounded.
THE EAR: I know you are into Major League Baseball and playing golf. Does that help keep you relaxed when you are on tour?
BELL: Yeah, it was like I was saying about other things that add to the experience, that add a little spice. With both of those games, you’re out in nature, and in both games, you don’t know what’s going to happen from the first pitch or the first golf ball you hit. The turn of events (isn’t) choreographed, and that’s kind of the same with us. I like seeing that parallel in a non-musical experience.
WIDESPREAD PANIC RELEASE EARLY SINGLE TO FANS FROM THEIR UPCOMING STUDIO CD DUE IN SPRING 2008 “Up All Night”
Going To Radio and Available for Free Download on October 15
Band Continues Fall Tour and add New Year’s Dates, December 30th & 31st at Philips Arena, Atlanta GA
Widespread Panic is excited to announce the release of their New single "Up All Night'" and their annual New Years shows at Philips Arena in Atlanta. You can listen to the new single Now on the Panic Audio Player and on October 15th, the first day of New Years Mail order, you can download the single for free to take with you.
The band’s intention is to offer the track free for download on all music sites permitting, with no strings attached. The song will be available to download free of charge starting October 15th www.widespreadpanic.com. The single will offer a sneak preview of Panic’s 10th studio album slated for full release in Spring 2008 on Widespread Records.
Recorded earlier this year, the yet to be titled CD was produced and mastered by Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, ZZ Top, and Al Green) at his Compass Point recording studio in the Bahamas, Nassau. This will be the first release with the band’s new guitarist, the legendary Jimmy Herring, who began playing with the band in Fall 06.
Herring has played with such luminaries as The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends and the Aquarium Rescue Unit.
Currently in the midst of their fall tour, Panic’s infamous Halloween show will take place in Asheville, NC for the first time. Halloween is inevitably one of most anticipated shows of the year as the band is known for their outrageous stage productions and costumes. This year is no exception with the show selling out 8,000 capacity Civic Centre in just minutes. Past Halloween shows have included themes such as Mars Attacks, where a space ship crash landed onto the stage, and a Mardi Gras themed Bourbon Street.
The annual end of year Tunes for Tots benefit show and New Year’s Eve dates will also be announced shortly.
According to Terry Manning, Widespread Panic will be releasing a single on October 15.
Wed, 10 October Manning wrote:
For any who have been following this thread, there will be a single released next Monday, Oct. 15.Earlier, Manning talked about the upcoming album and said:
The song is "Up All Night." It originated from Jojo, and then received further band input. Background vocals are sung by the same three person group that backed Al Green on all of his great soul hits, and a horn section (part of which played on the Wilson Pickett classics) honks throughout.
And it can now be told that Panic's contract with Sanctuary was up with the last album, and they have decided not to go with a major label for this new one. Their own label, Widespread Records, will be handling things directly with the consumer. A subcontracted indy distributor will ensure hard product gets into appropriate stores (any stores that are left) and one stops.
By the way, all of this happened well in advance of the recent "Radiohead" news and resultant threads, so this is not a "copycat" scenario.
The new single will be available free for download in an mp3 format from various sites.
iTunes will be carrying it, but so far Apple have not allowed the band to give it away through the iTunes site, so there (for now at least) will be a 99¢ charge for the AAC.
Radio receive the track tomorrow.
As for the rest of the album, we have been experimenting with a few other little overdubs, but things are almost finished now.
Thanks again to all for your interest.
I think the fans, as well as the general public, will be quite surprised by this album. It is something that few groups today can, or could make, both from the musical sense, as well as the ability to spend the time and money necessary to achieve the results.
We have songs in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 7/4, and other tempos I'm not sure I can quantify. We have acoustic instruments, electric instruments, synthesised instruments, antique instruments, you name it.
We have very hard rock. We have very quiet rock. We have symphonic rock. We have almost-approaching country, and jazz, and vaudeville.
12 string guitar
Wurlitzer electric piano
Rhodes electric piano
Orchestral tympani drum
Protein powder can lids
...lots more percussion instruments...
Male backing vocals
Female backing vocals
..and lots more on this album.
We all look forward to the new album coming later this year.
When the Allman Brothers Band was looking for a top-notch guitarist to fill the formidable boots of Dickey Betts?
Jimmy Herring got the call.
When The Dead needed a musician brave — and nuts — enough to take over Jerry Garcia's former role and, as the New York Times pointed out, "go in front of 20,000 fans and play music that they probably know better than you do"?
Herring was the man.
Like a hired gunslinger with a lifetime silver-bullet supply, the 45-year-old musician — who's also played lead guitar for The Other Ones and Phil Lesh & Friends — has made a career of replacing the seemingly irreplaceable. But he never stays too long. The next challenge is always too great to resist.
"It's so weird, man," Herring says, phoning from the road with his latest musical pit stop, Widespread Panic. "In my entire musical life, I've never looked for a gig. And I've been very blessed. These things just keep falling on my doorstep."
Bearing this in mind, would it not be wise for fans of Panic to avoid falling in love with Herring's incredible playing? Won't Herring eventually just leave them at the altar for a younger, more attractive band?
"No," Herring says, sounding content and relieved. "I think I'm done."
That long-term commitment is huge news for Panic fans, aka Spreadheads. The
Athens, Ga.-based band — which plays Monday, Oct. 8, at the Idaho Center — has earned a diehard following during its 20-plus-year career. For the past eight years, Panic has ranked among the top 50 grossing touring acts.
But the lead-guitar role has been difficult for Panic, known for a combination of Southern-fried rock and jam-band improvisation. Tragically, founding member and lead guitarist Michael Houser died of pancreatic cancer in 2002. His replacement, guitarist George McConnell, left the band last year.
When Panic phoned Herring, he was not about to refuse.
An expert player with a background in Southern rock and jazz fusion, Herring might still be playing bars in Atlanta if not for Houser, singer-guitarist John Bell, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo Ortiz and keyboardist John Hermann.
Herring was a struggling local musician when Panic walked into a bar he was playing in early 1989. Herring had a one-night-a-week-gig with a gleefully inaccessible act called the Aquarium Rescue Unit, a band led by the irreverent frontman Col. Bruce Hampton. Herring describes the group as "a sort of a free jazz group in rock 'n' roll clothing."
"It was one of those 99-cent beer nights or something like that," Herring remembers. "These guys come in, and we didn't really know them at all."
It was the members of Widespread Panic, who were blown away by what they heard. They invited Aquarium Rescue Unit to open for them for three sold-out nights in Atlanta. Then they took Aquarium Rescue Unit on tour.
"They believed in us, man. They were so cool," Herring says. "They brought us into their family, basically."
Aquarium Rescue Unit soon met and played with Phish, Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band, "and it was all because of (Widespread Panic)," Herring says. "So when they called me (last year) and needed my help, I was like, absolutely."
Nobody mentioned this until years later ("That's the kind of people they are," he gushes), but Panic even prevented promoters from kicking Aquarium Rescue Unit off the first touring H.O.R.D.E. festival in 1992.
"The promoters didn't like Aquarium Rescue Unit. It's not hard to understand," Herring adds, laughing. "We weren't really what you call a big draw. But the musicians, for some reason, liked us."
Friendly and devastatingly talented, Herring soon became a sought-after musician. A graduate of the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, Calif., Herring is capable of slashing, jaw-dropping licks. But feeling also plays a large role in his musical vocabulary.
Feeling also is a big part of his life. It's the reason he lasted just seven months with the Allman Brothers Band, which had fired Betts.
"I never would have imagined myself being a guy that comes into bands that retired icons as a replacement," Herring says. "And it's a tough spot to walk into. You walk into Dickey Betts' spot, and think, ‘I started playing because of Dickey Betts.'
"I did that for a while, and then I was, like, ‘Man, I can't do this. I'm too much of a fan. It's so close to home.' It was an incredible experience, and I loved it, but Dickey didn't pass away or retire. I just felt like, ‘This can't be right.'"
The line between playing guitar right and wrong has been a fascinating balancing act for Herring. He likens each new situation he's been in — whether it's the Allmans or Widespread Panic — to learning a new language.
"You've gotta tip your hat to the original," Herring says, "but you can't copy it. It's really fun, and it's a big challenge. I can't just go in and play the way I play, because that's not what the gig needs. It's like, ‘OK, you've got to listen to this, you need to internalize it, and start from the same kingdom this music is from.' Eventually, you can fit your own voice into it."
Herring's searing guitar solos were more restrained with Phil Lesh & Friends than, say, his all-guns-blazing Aquarium Rescue Unit, a group he still performs with to this day. Some of Herring's friends even gave him grief about not unleashing more notes at Lesh concerts.
"That was horrible! You never even got out of first gear!" Herring remembers them protesting. "I'm like, ‘Look, man, you don't understand. You can't go 80 miles an hour in a 35 zone.'"
Herring has gained musical wisdom by filling the shoes of guitarists before him — and by studying the peers they left behind. He remembers Lesh telling his group,"OK guys, I don't want to hear any solos. I want to hear people having an interactive group conversation."
"And he had one basic rule," Herring adds: "If you find yourself in your own space, stop, listen and react. And that's a beautiful philosophy."
The joyful nature of jam-band audiences has had a significant impact on Herring's success. Whether he stepped in for Betts or the late Garcia, fans have been almost universally positive, he says.
"The common thing between all of them that I've noticed is, ‘God, they're so with you,'" Herring says. "They're so supportive. I've been very lucky, too, because it could have gone the other way."
Musicians have been equally supportive. When Herring got the call to join Widespread Panic, he had two weeks to learn songs, he says.
Talk about ... panic.
The group not only has a vast repertoire, it takes pride in never playing the same set twice and in making selections at the last minute.
"They've been really great with me," Herring says. "Because I was like, ‘Guys, please, help me out. If you could give me tomorrow's set list tonight I could work on the gig in the hotel room.'
"I'm still struggling to just keep up and learn these songs," Herring admits. "So I'm spending a lot of time listening to an iPod that's got, like, 300 Widespread songs on it. ... Luckily, everything I've done before this has kind of prepared me for this."
Joining Widespread Panic after the band helped Aquarium Rescue Unit so many years ago feels like "coming full circle," Herring says.
So it's really not just for a tour or two? Not just for the money?
No, Herring promises.
"It's funny to me," he says. "Because I've never done anything for the money. I've been blessed and got some great gigs. But I would have done them for a lot less money. It's a musical journey. I was just looking for a home, and sometimes it just doesn't work out for people. But I've never done any gig that I didn't want to do."
by Luke DiStefano
10/4/2007 - for Gratefulweb.net
Widespread Panic made their return to Memphis, this time with a new twist, a new guitarist and a few old tricks up their sleeve.
This year’s Fall Tour-opening run marked the band’s first shows in this melting pot of American Music since the end of July, 2006, and a few changes were apparent this time around.
Not only was this their first time playing the new downtown FedEx Forum, only a stone’s throw from world-famous Beale Street, but it was new guitarist Jimmy Herring’s first Memphis Panic shows since he joined the band at this time last year.
The band’s last shows at their old home, the dark, dingy and loveable old space ship that was MidSouth Coliseum, were also two of the final three shows for former guitarist George McConnell, who had replaced founding member Mikey Houser just before his death from pancreatic cancer on August 10, 2002. McConnell quit last summer’s tour after the next day’s show in St. Louis, once he confronted the rest of the band regarding rumors of his lame-duck status.
But in a new venue, with a new guitarist, the same old road warriors lit the same old town on fire, showing the versatility that has made them a stalwart of consistency for over twenty years.
This show had a little bit of everything you could ask for from a Panic show.
There was the bouncy, happy sound, exemplified by the show opening trio of A of D, Space Wrangler and Walkin’ (For Your Love). It was Herring’s first try at the instrumental A of D, a song not played since longtime producer John Keane and Houser’s old guitar tech Sam Holt shared the lead spot to help the band finish last summer’s tour, before Herring was hired for fall. Wrangler and Walkin’ got the band warmed up and the crowd in the mood and ready to keep singing along with front man and resident preacher John Bell.
Another bit of joy marked the opening of the second set, with the instrumental Party at Your Mama’s House showcasing Herring’s growing sense of comfort with his new band in the form of a very patient jam. Bell also chimed in throughout with nice work on the slide, which is pretty much the only time during a show you can easily hear his instrumental contribution. But, hey, they don’t pay the man to play the guitar.
But that wasn’t all this show had in store.
There were the hard rocking foot-stompers. The upbeat Tie Your Shoes followed Walkin’, and gave the crowd a usual second set piece of sandwich bread in the first set. The song allowed both the rapid-fire notes of Herring and the rolling bass line of Dave Schools to shine.
More songs in this vein would follow the rest of the night, from the dark rollercoaster of funk that is Pigeons in the first set to their heavy take on the traditional blues of Junior in the second set.
One of the hardest rockers came in the person of Glory, making its first appearance in a set in nearly six full years. And the band nailed this version, appropriately providing a rare surprise for the fans in a town with its own special place in Panic lore.
And while Herring continues to find his comfort zone with this group, there are still noticeable growing pains. It seemed as though he approached shows in the spring as a contest to see how many notes he could play during solos, this Eddie Van Halen-esque style being a stark contrast to the floating, psychedelic sound of Houser. He began picking his spots a little better over the summer, but he overdid it a bit this time on songs like Big Wooly Mammoth and Surprise Valley.
The rest of the band had their moments, too. One can expect some hiccups during tour openers, and this Friday in Memphis was no different. Schools started early for the encore, Imitation Leather shoes, before becoming visibly agitated. Bell appeared to sound unsure of himself as he began the vocals to Climb to Safety, which led to a slightly disjointed beginning. And a second set drop back into Chilly Water from You Got Yours was a bit sloppy.
But, as it is with most Panic shows, the good far outweighed the bad inside the Forum.
The highlight of the first set came with the jam out of Rebirtha, into the fan favorite Ribs and Whiskey. The former ended with lots of funk and great work from Herring, before dissipating into easily one of the longest, most patient Ribs intros that this reviewer has heard, with Herring accented nicely by great slide work from Bell, both flowing over Todd Nance’s steady kick drum.
More exemplary jamming followed in the second set, first with the opener, Party, and then with one of the funkiest versions of Climb to Safety you will ever hear. Keyboardist Jojo Hermann carried the jam with his clavinet, riding on top of a funky bass line from Schools that reminded one of their cover of Solid Rock, and song from Bob Dylan’s Christian revivalist period. It was a wonderful change of pace for a song too often mailed in with little variation within the jam.
Hermann was not done there, however. His next standout moment would begin a stretch of the show that exemplified why fans still come back to Panic after all these years, because they feature a dark, evil edge to their sound that is truly unmatched by anyone else in the scene.
A drum intro from Nance and percussionist Sunny Ortiz led into an especially sinister version of Dr. John’s I Walk on Guilded Splinters, featuring Hermann putting the fear into the crowd with a mix of funky Hammond B-3 and chaotic piano. The jam also featured outstanding work by Herring and a lot of call-and-response between the two of them.
Guilded segued nicely into a Chilly Water sandwich, the meat being more loud, dark, thunderous rock in the form of You Got Yours. The band followed this with the unquestionable highlight of the evening, Colonel Bruce Hampton’s Time is Free, which Herring effectively carried on his back with one stretch of psychedelic shredding after another, helped by Bell’s growling vocals and rambling raps.
The set very well could have ended after Chilly Water, and probably should have ended after the marathon version of Time is Free, but Herring jumped right into the roaring stomp of Neil Young’s classic, Mr. Soul, finally ending a monster second set and leaving much of the crowd exhausted, undoubtedly nursing sore arms from constant fist-pumping.
The crowd hardly seemed bothered by the short encore, but, after the previous stretch, who could blame them?
After all, once Imitation Leather Shoes gave them time to catch their breath, the debauchery of Beale Street awaited them outside the Forum’s doors.
09/21/07 FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
1: A of D, Space Wrangler, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Tie Your Shoes > Pigeons, Blue Indian, Rebirtha > Ribs and Whiskey, Big Wooly Mammoth
2: Party at Your Mama’s House > Junior, Glory, Smoking Factory, Surprise Valley > Climb to Safety, Guilded Splinters > Chilly Water > You Got Yours > Chilly Water, Time is Free > Mr. Soul
E: Imitation Leather Shoes
Panic Attack in Ogden
Popular band brings diverse music, youthful appeal to Dee Events Center
Widespread Panic's John Bell, known fondly as JB by friends and fans, sees himself as something of a bonsai tree.
Despite moseying into his middle years, he long ago stopped growing up.
"My mission, when I was born into this life, was to stay a kid," he laughed, calling from a shopping trip near his home in Athens, Ga.
But don't think because Bell cops to Peter Pan tendencies that he is not serious about his music. Widespread Panic is renowned for its diverse music and fan-friendly tours -- and for, in over two decades of shows, never repeating a set list.
The longtime lineup has recently been recharged with the addition of guitarist Jimmy Herring. Herring has toured with, among many others, the Allman Brothers Band and The Dead (a group comprised of surviving members of the Grateful Dead and Herring, a distinction made since about 2003).
"(Herring) has been champing at the bit -- or at least that's my impression -- to get in there and be on the creative end of the songwriting process with us," said Bell. "But I think, with a lot of his projects, that he has been coming on as a hired gun -- and it was even that with us, somewhat. But now we're really glad to get into the studio and explore that part of our relationship, see his creative contributions in a new light."
Widespread Panic heads to Ogden for the first time since 2001, playing the Dee Events Center on Thursday.
Bell said his early musical tastes were shaped courtesy of his older brothers' record collections.
"This was the '60s and '70s, and the radio had a lot of freedom then, too. So we'd hear Santana and Hendrix and a whole new frontier of people doing their best to work outside the box. Neil Diamond and Carole King were cranking out hits as songwriters. Motown was huge, too -- I lived in Cleveland, and we got a Canadian station out of Windsor, Ontario, right across the border from Detroit.
"And since I was allowed to listen to the radio anytime ... I would fall asleep with it under my pillow."
One day, Bell said, he started playing music for money, without any real thought of doing it as a formal career.
"But other avenues, other jobby-jobs, weren't really working out." Bell laughed. "Thus, I was growing more cynical. So I started playing local bars in Athens, in college. It started being something I could actually do, making my own rules and hours, to some extent.
"But that gets a little lonely. So I hooked up with Mike (Houser, the band's late guitarist), and Todd (Nance, drums), Dave (Schools, bass) and Sunny (aka Domingo Ortiz, keyboards) came on board. And then came Jojo (Herman, keyboards). Then we had George (McConnell, guitar, joining for a time after Houser's death in 2002)."
The band is known for its devoted, tour-trailing fan base, often cited as being close cousins to like-minded Deadheads of yore.
"Our relationship with the fans started with our relationship among our band members," said Bell. "That's because we were the fans, the only ones listening to us, at first. A few early gigs, when you were lucky enough to even get a gig, there were maybe two tables' worth of people. They'd have to let the waitress go early, because there was no business to pay her.
"So in those situations, you just play to amuse yourselves. And turns out that when we amused ourselves, others were amused, too. I think there is something there, that interaction among us, that is something folks like to watch.
"I can say that if I am in the audience, I'd prefer to watch a band exploring, getting off, so to speak, finding inspiration and riding those waves, rather than trying to impress me with their moves or whatever."
Next big thing
Widespread Panic was working on a new album right before this latest road trip.
Bell said the tracks are all pretty much completed, noting, "Now we are in the mode to get things in place. We're kind of rearranging the furniture."
The last album, the 2006 release "Earth to America," landed the band in Billboard's Top 50. That effort was recorded at the Bahamian recording studio Compass Point, run by legendary producer Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Al Green, Lenny Kravtis, ZZ Top). The group decided to work with Manning yet again, but had limited time to make that studio time happen.
"We had only seven days there, so we got all our big musical ideas in a big pile and started sorting through. It's a good place to do it, because while it is beautiful down there, it is boring."
He laughed. "There aren't as many distractions as at home. So in that time, we came up with a little pile of CDs, 20 or 25 songs each, and took them home with us to study."
Once the final tracks were picked from the Bahamian recordings, Bell said, they were able to polish the final versions fairly quickly.
"We were going about 12 hours, 14 hours a day, and boom, got it done in about three weeks. Again, the quick work was out of necessity. We have so little time at home, so that added a new dimension to this record."
Many of the new songs will be tried out on the road, said Bell, to see how the fans take to them.
"They are good judges of our material," he said. "There are many paths to the rock 'n' roll experience, you know. And we've found that the way we do it has had its rewards along the way."
John Bell had been playing music with Michael Houser for about five years when the two formed what would become Widespread Panic. Houser was also known by the nickname Panic.
"He was our original guitar player -- very original, I might add," said Bell, chuckling. "Just as a joke, (Houser) came back one day with a poster of the Widespread Depression Orchestra. He announced he didn't want to be just Panic anymore -- he wanted to be Widespread Panic.
"We all kind of laughed. Then, right after that, we got an invitation to play a benefit for hunger in Africa. Well, we really didn't have a name, and didn't see the sense in worrying overmuch about that. We just borrowed Panic's new nickname."
The band that still bears Houser's stage name lost him to pancreatic cancer in August 2002.-end-
from the Coloradoan
Calling all readers: Do you have a Widespread Panic story to share?
Remember the time you met John Bell at the IHOP? Or when you saw Michael Houser perform his last show with the group? What about how you met your spouse in line to get into your third Panic show in a row?
We're looking for your memories of Widespread Panic shows — the good, the bad and the hazy.
E-mail your stories to StacyNick@coloradoan.com by Monday along with your name, what city you're from, any pictures you have from past shows (300 DPI jpg format ,please) and whether or not you're going to either (or both) of the Widespread Panic shows Oct. 12 and 13 at the Budweiser Events Center.
by Josh Baron
Despite the moans of “What is Relix doing covering the winner from American Idol?”—a show many probably find to be the antithesis of what this publication is about—it should be known that Taylor Hicks is one of our own. Whether it was picking up the harmonica at 15, seeing Widespread Panic and Phish in the mid ‘90s, promoting his own Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Derek Trucks show or opening for Robert Randolph, Hicks has steeped himself in the live music tradition. In fact, he credits much of it for his win. We caught up with People Magazine’s Bachelor of the Year as he was preparing to go onstage this past August as the American Idol tour rolled through Colorado
You’ve been in our “scene” for some time now, having performed on the first Jam Cruise and opened for the likes of Tom Petty, Drive-By Truckers and Robert Randolph.
I’ve been on the road for ten years. I was in a Widespread Panic cover band in college. I had some stuff I even tried to submit to Relix. I’m a music fan. As many shows as I wish I could have attended in my time, I couldn’t because I was trying to get my own music heard. These little windows of opportunity to go see Panic, MOFRO… I even played an acoustic set on the first Jam Cruise. Isn’t that funny?
To answer your first question, I need great songs. I like to write songs: I’ve written two previous albums on my own. I would like to think there are some great songs in that. Right now, I’m in the process of collaborating with some people and I just wrote a song with John Mayer that could possibly go on the album, I’m not sure. Having Ray Charles as my root—the foundation for me musically—he taught me a lot about the song and I learned from him that you have to feel a song; whether it’s yours or not, as long you can connect with the lyrics and the song emotionally, you’ll be able to connect with an audience that way. That’s how I operate. I would love to write music every day but due to a 69-out-of 80-day schedule, it’s absolutely impossible.
Given your experience prior to American Idol, is there any frustration in dealing with this album-making process, where executives or whomever are trying to dictate what they want you to do? Is there some head-butting?
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I am the old dog.
Hey now—I’m almost 29! Let’s not call ourselves old dogs yet!
I’m considered an older artist in the pop music genre. I don’t really care, though. All I really care about is making a really good, cool, hip record with great songs. They can’t package me, man. I’ve been on the road for ten years and know the direction I want to go in and I know my vision. It’s taken me this far to get where I’m going. I’m an artist that’s created this concept but used the American Idol machine as a marketing tool.
You’ve said that, “Having a number-one single is only the beginning.” How so? And secondly, what steps are you taking to insure your longevity as an artist in a climate where someone catapulted into pop culture like yourself can come and go so quickly?
That single, “Do I Make You Proud,” I tried to make that single my own but in reality it’s the show’s single. It’s not mine. I’ve brought a live feel to that song, but that song was given to me on the show. One song was given to me on the show and I walked out of the studio. The song that was given to me first, I got up from a chair and walked right out of the studio. The second was a little bit soulful—but nobody’s ever done that. They were just handed music to sing for the A.I. machine… I was handed this song and I was just like, “No way, you’re not going to make me sing this song. I’m out of here.” Just to kind of let you in on me knowing what direction I want as an artist.
The beginning for me on a national level was American Idol but obviously I’ve been trying to play as much live music as I could since I was about 15 or 16.
Jumping back to your formative years, how do you think your love of bands like Widespread Panic has contributed to your success?
I think they’ve had a lot do with it. What’s so cool about it is that it’s real music, it’s not fabricated. It’s real art. If I wasn’t a musician, these are the people I’d be traveling to go see. I would probably not have a day job [laughs]. I’ve just been lucky in getting some gigs to play music here and there and have kind of just stuck with that.
I was in a Panic cover band called Passing Through in Auburn and we played “Ol’ Miss” and we did some Phish and Ben Harper covers. A lot of my friends are in that scene and that’s the scene I like to be in because that’s the real music scene. You got to know real music to be in the scene, you know? That’s the scene I was in. I love real, live music, too. I’ve always studied live music. I like live music almost more than I like recorded music. I’ve relied on my live performance because I had no money to record in a studio. So the only thing I had, basically, was live gigs. And I’m so glad that I have the mentality because that’s where you make your money as an artist. Those people like Phish, Panic and the Dead, that scene taught me a lot about performing live music, and a lot of it—staying out there performing live music, night in and night out. I’m ever-indebted to that mentality of playing a lot of really great, live music. I want to go see it and I want to go play it.
What were some of your favorite Panic or Phish covers to do? And were there any particular shows that stood out for you?
I saw Phish at Oak Mountain Amphitheater in ‘99. I just remember them playing “Heavy Things” and me falling out of my chair. What’s funny is that I promoted a Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Derek Trucks Band show at the Alabama Theater in ‘98. That was one of those shows that I’ll never forget. I did see Panic at Halloween in New Orleans, right before that. I went down there to flyer the lot and I ended up going to the show and ended up seeing Karl Denson afterwards at the House of Blues and then Denson traveling to Birmingham and doing the show two nights later. Another show I saw was Robert Randolph and the Family Band at Zydeco in Birmingham, right when they [Robert Randolph, North Mississippi Allstarts, John Medeski] came out with The Word.
I remember seeing Panic in Montgomery in ‘96 and that’s when I started to learn about them. I had never heard their music until I started playing. I was playing “Pigeons” and never heard “Pigeons” before. That’s how I kind of learned the Panic—by actually playing it and really liking what they were doing. My music has leant its ear, so to speak, to a Widespread Panic musical configuration. My last album, Under the Radar, is very earthy. My roots are firmly planted in the good, live music earth.
Prior to last season and this most recent one, I never really watched American Idol. But in all honesty, you and Bo Bice turned my head a little bit with your musical selection.
You know what? I don’t watch it either! [laughs] You can write that.
I think a lot of music fans were impressed by your decision to cover Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble.”
“Trouble” is a great fucking song. Not only that, that’s a great fucking album. Somebody said I should listen to Ray LaMontagne right before Trouble came out and I was a definite fan and I got to meet him at The Roxy in Atlanta. I was just a big huge fan of that album and I’m glad that that album got the respect it deserved. Anything I did on the show, I have the utmost respect for. And having some idea that if that song gets on national television in front of 40 million people, then the odds are that people are going to go out and buy that music... I really wanted to pick music that would open up the eyes of the masses.
Every song I wrote on that show, I wrote half of the endings to. They gave me the first minute of the song—the second minute of the song I arranged and wrote all of the endings and melodies. I said, “Look you’re going to give me the first minute of the song. You can clear “Taking it to the Streets” but I want to be able arrange the last 30 seconds. So all the endings that you’ve seen me do on American Idol were arranged and written by me.
I doubt many people realize that.
Nobody knows. Nobody has any idea, but that’s cool, man. It gave me an opportunity to create more good music. Being a performer in Lowell, AL, opportunities are pretty slim.
Having been a performer for some time now, what’s the biggest difference between the television stage versus the traditional live one?
The visual aspect of that show [American Idol]is equally important as the musical aspect. I knew that. Let’s face it—it’s a television show. You’ve got 40 million watching you, you have to be the most visual performer that you can because it’s television.
I’m curious about post-Idol performances… that there are now certain expectations that you have to deal with versus prior to the show, where you could really just do what you want. And I would assume having a magnifying glass hovering above you at all times is probably not the most fun, either.
Getting to this level in this business, you kind of take it with a grain of salt: You know who your friends are, you know who your family is and you know who your fans are. The magnifying glass gets a little old at times but I want to get my music out there and this is what I have to do to do that. That’s the ultimate goal for me—spread good music.
I guess part of my question had to do with audience—that you were performing to a core group of music fans and now it’s a bit more of a pop-culture audience that wouldn’t have come to see you prior.
American Idol, for me, is fizzling out. I want to take that opportunity and that exposure… You either come to see me, come buy my album or you don’t. I’m not trying to meet expectations. I’m trying to expose my music to people who might like it, come see it and come buy it. That’s me. If pop culture doesn’t like it… If you can say you’re a working musician, then you’re doing something good. I’m just glad to be a working musician because that’s what I’ve always been.
You’ve talked a little about your upbringing: that it wasn’t always easy and that you were forced to make some tough decisions early on. Do you believe that in order to sing the blues or soul, you need to experience it?
I agree, 100 percent. You’ve got to connect emotionally with your audience. I do agree that you would have to have lived a little in whatever part of your life it may be. I lived a little more than others in a really early part of my life. Those experiences and those things that happened, I believe that gets you deeper into who you are as a person.
What was your first gig?
I was about 15. I had this great, wonderful family—not my own—but a family that cultivated and pushed my talents a little bit. I was learning to play harmonica on my own. I was repeating “Take the Long Way Home” from the Supertramp album [Breakfast in America]. I was starting to learn riffs and stuff. I remember this vividly. They were a pretty rambunctious bunch and they put this big-ass white hat on me and took me to this biker bar where this blues band was playing, Corey’s Sports Bar. It was off the beaten path. I just remember playing harp and trying to hang with this band that was performing in front of all these bikers. I’ve been in the bars, man.
What’s the story with your lucky dime?
I carry it with me. And I’m not going to lie: I’ve lost it a couple of times, but they’re replaceable.
Does any part of you sense a soul/traditional R&B revival going on as seen in artists like James Hunter, Joss Stone or Little Barrie? Granted, they’re all British. Do you think, perhaps, you’re part of the American answer to that? And why now?
Soul performing is a lost art. Watch Sam and Dave sing “Soul Man” and you’ll want to watch it more. It’s a whole a different monster. You can hear “Soul Man,” but what’s so funny is that the whole thing… I have this video tape of the Stax Soul Revue from 1969 in Denmark. It was a T.V. show and it was the first time the Stax Soul Revue had gone overseas and it had Booker T. & The MGs, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, all of these people. I started studying that as a kid, the way they moved, the way they danced. It was during the James Brown era. There’s so much footage that you couldn’t capture because technology didn’t lend itself for you to be able to just pick up and watch Sam Cooke. Some of the remarks I get on my dancing, Otis Redding could have gotten on his. They just didn’t have T.V. back then. This whole idea, this whole movement toward soul revival so to speak, I think it’s a lost art and I hope that I’ve helped spark that interest. That’s a genre of music that’s powerful in everyday music whether it be… It was just such an integral part of music that I think got lost somewhere along the way.
You were named People Magazine’s Bachelor of the Year. It seems pretty cool but is there a downside or am I trying too hard here?
I was very flattered to be called that. It’s an honor, I guess you could say, but I wouldn’t really know because I’m in the bottom of an arena in the official’s dressing room at the Pepsi Arena [in Colorado]. I’m in the darkest bowels of an arena right now, so I haven’t had much of a chance to find out.
And, finally, if you could see one person get hit in the nuts with a football, who would it be?
Probably one of those promoters that used to stiff me. The door guys at the club that knew they were screwing me on money but were ten times bigger than me. Or, after Rosanne Barr sang the “National Anthem” real bad. I don’t know if she has nuts, you might want to check.
Widespread Panic Cover Talking Heads With Heads
Widespread Panic set up camp for three nights this past weekend at Oakland, California's Paramount Theater.
The Southern rockers from Georgia are something of a jamband archetype, stretching out songs in new ways each night while never repeating the same setlist twice.
During opening night, Panic covered the Talking Heads' 'Life During Wartime' with help from two unnamed musicians who sauntered onstage with little fanfare. The band waited until the end of the show to announce the guests as Wally Ingram and original Talking Heads keyboardist, Jerry Harrison.
Panic closed the run with a nod to their Bay Area surroundings by covering the Grateful Dead's 'Cream Puff War.' Unfortunately, they were not able to bring any of the four late Grateful Dead keyboardists onstage to help out with that one.
09/27/07 Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA
1: Going Out West, Disco > Diner > No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, I'm Not Alone > Who Do You Belong To?, Christmas Katie > Little Kin > Action Man
2: Traveling Light > Barstools and Dreamers > Machine > Radio Child > Casa Del Grillo > Holden Oversoul > Life During Wartime* > Jam* > Drums* > Jack > Chainsaw City
E: Ain't Life Grand
* with Wally Ingram on percussion and Jerry Harrison on Keys
[Jam after Life During Wartime without JB]
09/28/07 Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA
1: Happy > Wondering > C. Brown, Can't Get High, Pickin' Up the Pieces > Better Off, Down > One Arm Steve > Worry
2: Ribs and Whiskey, Stop Go > Pleas > Bust It Big > Stop Go > Vampire Blues, Airplane > Protein Drink > Sewing Machine
E: Tickle The Truth > Love Tractor
09/29/07 Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA
1: From the Cradle > Make Sense to Me > Walk On, Dying Man, Heroes, Heaven, Papa Johnny Road > Papa's Home > Drums > Papa's Home > Rock
2: The Take Out > Pigeons > All Time Low > Bowlegged Woman > Impossible > Proving Ground, Pilgrims > Blackout Blues > Porch Song
E: Lets Get the Show on the Road, Postcard > Cream Puff War
from Everyday Companion