Panic's Walnut Creek Highlights Fiddle Player

Violin player Ann Marie Calhoun was on hand April 26th during Widespread Panic's show at the Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh.

Ann Marie, who has a great solo performance video of 'Surprise Valley' circulating around the web, sat in on fiddle for five songs which included Surprise Valley, Driving, Heaven, Driving Song, and Fishwater.

Check out her YouTube video:

The April 26th show Bittorrent is available for download at

or stream the music from


Widespread April 22 Savannah Photos

Hey there ya'll!
There are some nice photos from Panic's April 22nd Savannah, GA show taken by Ian Rawn aka playindead.

Check out his flicker pics, including the Savannah show, here...

Widespread Panic
Savannah, GA
April 22, 2008 talks with John Bell

John Bell Loses His Illusions
Mike Greenhaus @

John Bell isn’t only one of the most influential musicians to come out of the second-wave jamband movement, he’s also one of the most intelligent. As Widespread Panic’s lead singer and primary lyricist, Bell has written some of the jam-era’s most endearing anthems, held his band together through a series of key personnel changes and helped bring a stately elegance to the festival-circuit in general (while still remaining humble both on and off the stage). While Widespread Panic is always an active force, 2008 will be a particularly busy year for the sextet thanks to the group’s first post-Katrina appearance at JazzFest, fifth headlining slot at Bonnaroo and the release of the new studio album, Free Somehow. Shortly before the album hit stores, Bell sat down with to discuss his favorite lyrical themes, jamming with Jimmy Herring and why throwing a festival is like owning a bus.

MG- Unlike Widespread Panic’s previous albums, you shied away from playing most of the material on Free Somehow before entering the studio. What was the process of reworking these songs for the stage like?

JB- Let’s see. Well, specifically, I think songs like “Tickle the Truth,” that one we played live and it’s fine where it is. I mean as far as like, when you get something like “Up all Night,” and there is a feeling that at the moment it’s cut and dry and as soon as we take the time to sit around together, we’re probably going to extend it a little bit. And that’s basically like “Crazy,” from the last album, which has that essence to it too. It’s full of cool parts, but you want kind of a jumping off place, you know? And some songs hanker for that. So those don’t feel like they need embellishment aside from the way you approach the song as it is, which would just be from the notes you pick for that night or the tempo or words or if something else pops in or you might find something better that’ll be right for that number or just a joke or it might be something like, “Damn I wish I thought of in the studio.”

MG- Before releasing Free Somehow you previewed a few songs online for fans. What led to that decision?

JB- Well, we’re still trying to tweak that process. The delivery system from bands to fans has been constantly evolving. And obviously in a rapid exponential evolution since the digital age and the internet age came into the picture it’s like, “whoa.” Before that, things moved a little slower.

Plus, this album is a big part of our balance and our relationship with Jimmy [Herring] in the band. And it’s been a long time since our last record. It always feels like a long time, you know? You’re always ready to do something. And because the album wasn’t really finished as far as mix down and stuff went and as far as how we were feeling about wanting to share stuff, it was like, “Well OK, let’s share some stuff.” So we released a single “Up All Night” real early and then went through the same rigmarole that we do with the release of every new record.

MG- As a musician, how do you feel the “artist fan delivery method” has changed over the years?

JB- We were starting to do stuff right when everything was changing. We put out Space Wrangler on album and cassette and, at a last minute, our manager said, “You know, I think we should go ahead and do the CD.” Hell, we didn’t have any technology, we were lucky to have electricity. And he was like, “No, this is going to be big.” At that point tapes and albums were still like 90 percent of the sales. But you could watch it in Billboard, like within six or eight months, the ratio of CDs to albums in the bins started changing in the record stores. I forget what held on longer, cassettes or albums, not that it’s important, but you just watch it and go, “Oh my God there’s a phenomenon going on here.” And then people started buying CD players.

MG- You’ve said that having Jimmy in the studio put him on an equal footing with you guys for the first time because he was no longer a student of the music. How did he contribute to the album’s creative process?

JB- I think it was cool because we were open and he was very, very involved. And we were hearing not only Jimmy’s voice, which was new, because we’re used to each other’s voices, but [producer Terry Manning’s] voice too. So here were two new guys, basically, that are hearing each other for the first time. So there was an element of being at the beginning of sixth or seventh grade and having a new kid move into your area. You know your pick up games and he’s new so he’s not going to try to change them just yet, but things take on a new dimension. For the first time, with this new album, Jimmy feels free to be able to contribute with the songwriting. That’s how we’ve always done things. Everybody’s in there writing.

MG- In terms of your own lyrics, do you feel there are any common themes running through Free Somehow?

JB- If I was in English class saying, “Ok now where are the threads here,” I’d notice right off the bat the premise that we’re all working in these shared realms of illusion, where whatever your reality is, you’ve got a reality that’s uniquely your own. Elements are shared so there is some kind of connectivity there. But, bottom line, you’re still in this kind of tug between realizing that it’s all an illusion and dealing with this notion that I really believe is part of the illusion. I believe that I’m working with and around other entities that are experiencing separateness with their own assumed realities.

You have your own personal reality, which I really do believe, is uniquely your own. Even though you and I can both agree to stop at the stoplight at an appropriate time because green means go it is only because we agreed and put enough force into this illusion that that becomes a recognizable reality for us both, even though we’ve never met. But while we are having our own illusions with our own personalities, there is the notion within that belief that we’re having a collectively conceived and created existence. And I just use movie as an analogy. So, I mean, that’s what I’m toying with in my own life, and hopefully not too seriously, because I’m still pretending this whole thing. But there again other things that pop up as kind of corollary considerations come up lyrically and out-of-body experiences and reincarnation pop up a little bit too.

I heard something somewhere, which really blew me away…if you have certain considerations or certain ways of thinking, whether it’s religion or theories or practices, mediations or yoga, something like that, that’s all illusion too. But then I heard, the notion was put forth, that “Hey, there are some illusions that if you incorporate them as part of your daily consideration, some of those illusions are actually windows where you can begin to let go and get closer to the ultimate reality.”

MG- Given that we are all living in a reality it is uniquely our own, do you feel your lyrics can take on truly universal meanings?

JB- When I’m tapping my subconscious for lyrics, or if I’m tapping my subconscious to try to interpret what someone else has started lyrically---because when we get together sometimes we co-write certain things lyrical---another interesting thing, which is a little bit of a departure, is a song like “Walk on the Flood.” And hopefully it’s left in enough of a metaphorical state that it can kind of tap into that window of where other people can find their own experience within that, you know what I mean?

MG- When we talked while you were in the studio last fall, you mentioned that you try to write songs that work on several different levels, some literal, some metaphorical. Do you feel this is still the case?

JB- Getting away from specifics and stuff, for me, my intention is really trying to get away from the intention of giving my lyrics meaning. It’s weird, trying to put together a meaningful song, that you know has meaning but is going to mean something to as many people as possible. Their level of observation or experience or awareness or something like that can very different. We don’t want to create a country club where you know nobody’s allowed, or that anybody’s dictating what the reality is.

But that being said, what I thought was really interesting is that in my songs there’s still a whole lot of hope involved. That’s another thread that I think that is involved no matter where we go. As far as exploring any of the dreamy or nightmarish places that pop up in your considerations, that there’s always a sense of hope. And in my belief system there is hope.

I think one of the big things, if you’re getting into a place of a making a statement or voicing a bald-face opinion, is to remember your responsibility and acknowledge your own responsibility of making that consideration a reality. I think that’s pretty important with anything.

MG- Knowing that it is all an illusion, how do you put enough stock into your thoughts to create such universally meaningful lyrics?

JB- I listen for what feels and sounds right, a lot of songs begin with just blurting stuff out trying to kind of tap the subconscious and see what comes up. But then when I take it from a different angle or point of view and start seeing what has been bubbling up, then I take on the responsibility of seeing exactly what’s coming together and then trying craft it as a song. I do look back and there are times where, you know… well, actually, even with this booklet, we actually printed the songs in this booklet and I think it’s the first time we’ve ever done it in what, 22 years we’ve been together or whatever, but there’s a disclaimer that says all lyrics are subject to change. Because I am going to depart from them on stage, for better or worse, it is part of the adventure. But there are times where I look back and say, “Gosh if I could sit with these songs for ten years and I’d keep massaging them, stuff will keep coming out and I’ll go, “Oh, I should have picked that or this would have been more descriptive.” But at the time, I’ve tried to get out of the way and let the lyrics be very representative of open interpretation while still being, hopefully, tapping into something where there is a cohesive song there. Mostly it’s subconscious, you know? If I get into feelings and thoughts while they do emerge, they could cloud it.

MG- Having said all that, do you find it strange when someone interprets one of your lyrics in a complete different way than intended? I mean you’ve been quoted on countless people’s High School yearbook pages.

JB- But the subconscious, the shit that I’ve been hiding, that’s usually what’s the most interesting. If I get into opinion world or emotional world, then it’s kind of like that could lend itself to being a little too preachy or controlling, and I think that would be a warning sign that the song could stagnate, it would be more of a celebration of self importance or something. But I do feel the emotions and what I do feel is like on the intellectual and emotional level.

When I’m writing it’s like intellectually I go, “Oh! Ooo!” I recognize that I am not controlling this right now that I am reporting. And emotionally then I get that “Ooo! Ooo!” Feeling like “Alright alright! It’s like, Ooo! We’re here!” You’re just really happy to have found that place because you don’t always get there. You know you’re feeling the flow, and that in itself evokes an emotion of blues-man giddiness.

MG- I think many people are also curious why Widespread Panic has never organized its own festival.

JB- Well, one very really hip thing that started out in a wonderful way was H.O.R.D.E. It was a very innocent time. It was the beginning for a lot of bands like Blues Traveler and Phish. There were five bands at that time and we shared those gigs, so that festival-sense did occur. Then there was also another thing, and I wouldn’t call it a festival, but it was a multi-band situation that we were putting together, basically just like you do any gig. You have your gig and you have an opening act, and this situation it was summer time and we were adding a lot of other acts. I think in their innocence, and I got to be cool here, I think there were some folks that decided at the last minute, unfortunately, that they should go off and do their own thing, create their own kind of festival.

It’s kind of freaky because you gotta remember that you’re dealing with all the same promoters, same agents, and the same venues around the country. And everybody pretty much knows what everyone’s doing. There’s traffic out there, there are a lot of bands coming through and their promoters that are coordinating what is possible and making sure that each night is lucrative for themselves and for the bands as possible. So we did have something in the bag, and free will took its place. And that turned out to be less than a festival. It turned out to be a summer with a couple really great acts on the bill, with G Love & Special Sauce and Sister 7.

Of course we’ve done other things as they’ve popped up like Bonnaroo, aside from the already established festivals like Memphis and New Orleans, and some of the jazz fests out in Colorado. Bonnaroo really has been a wonderful example of doin’ it in a big way but not contaminating it too much with a lot of the crap that could bring a festival down. It’s stayed really hip, keeping the line-ups varied from year to year, so I don’t know. If you do your own festival, it’d be kind of the like difference between do you want to own bus or do you want to lease? If you buy a bus, you got all the headache that comes off it, which includes insurance, liability and taking care of the whole shoot and match repairs. But if you lease, you got a brand new bus and if the bus messes up, then you get another one.

MG- And it comes with its own driver! One final question, I know you are a huge Star Trek fan. Do you prefer Next Generation or the original?

JB- Well, you know, I loved the original, but with Next Generation you jump ahead 20 years with the cinematography, the acting and everything, so it’s hard to say. I used to go get the Star Trek magazines at Borders and stuff, but I was under the impression that they were finished with this particular ensemble. But William Shatner really kicked ass in the original. What a character.

OMFG!! Drugs at a Widespread Panic Show?

Widespread arrests in Orange Beach
Posted by Guy Busby, Staff Reporter

Nearly 150 arrests were made in connection with the the jam band Widespread Panic's concert last weekend in Orange Beach -- many of them drug-related charges, police said.

Undercover and uniformed police patrolled the parking lot and amphitheater of The Wharf during the three-day event in Orange Beach, arresting suspects on a total of 147 charges ranging from underage drinking to felony drug possession, officials said today.

The band played Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at the venue on Alabama 180. About 23,000 people attended total, said Peter Bryan, general manager of The Wharf amphitheater.

Nearly 25 officers from Orange Beach, Foley, the Baldwin County Drug Task Force and Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board worked the concert in conjunction with security at The Wharf, Assistant Police Chief Greg Duck said. Duck said few disturbances were reported.

"It was more like a Woodstock crowd, peace and love," he said.

He said officers made 10 arrests for possession of hallucinogens, including LSD and mushrooms. Some hallucinogenic mushrooms were coated in chocolate.

"They looked like Reese's Cups, seriously," Duck said.

Widespread Panic Spring 08 -All Done!

SPRING TOUR 2008 Apr 2008 - May 2008

Apr. 01, Washington, DC -Warner Theatre
Apr. 04 & 05, New York, NY -United Palace
Apr. 06, Albany, NY -Palace Theatre
Apr. 09, Cincinnati, OH -US Bank Arena
Apr. 11, 12 & 13, Chicago, IL -Auditorium Theatre

Apr. 16, Murfreesboro, TN -Murphy Center
Apr. 18, 19 & 20, Orange Beach, AL -The Wharf
Apr. 22 & 23, Savannah, GA -Johnny Mercer Theatre
Apr. 25 & 26, Raleigh, NC -Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
Apr. 27, Richmond, VA -Landmark Theater

Apr. 29, Columbia, SC -Township Auditorium
May. 01, New Orleans, LA -New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
May. 02, Houston, TX - Showgrounds @ Sam Houston
May. 03, Dallas, TX - Nokia Theatre

Dave Schools talks Orange Beach

Panic! at the Wharf
Widespread Panic visits Orange Beach once again

By LAWRENCE SPECKER Entertainment Reporter (Press-Register@

When Widespread Panic wrapped up its 2007 spring tour with two nights in Orange Beach, it seemed like any fan of the band could hardly ask for more: An outdoor setting, pleasant spring weather, all the accommodations and a attractions of a resort area.

But of course, a true fan always has a wish list. For example, "How about three nights next time?"

Wish granted. The titans of the jam-band scene return to Orange Beach for shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A week and a half later they come back to the coast for their first appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival since before Hurricane Katrina hit.

That's a whole lot of Panic, especially the three nights in little Orange Beach. But bassist Dave Schools said it all comes down to keeping listeners happy.

"It's a cool place, it's an interesting little area," he said. "And I think the reason that it was so popular with the fans is that they could all get condos, they could all stay there, there's some things for them to do around there, there's beaches and fishing and so forth, and they just make a whole weekend out of it. They come from everywhere."

It doesn't hurt that the band, which has been making music since the late '80s, has a lot new to offer.

For one thing, there's a renewed sense of cohesion. Following the 2002 death of founding guitarist Michael Houser, the survivors -- Schools, guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter John Bell, keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann, drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Domingo Ortiz -- took 2004 off. George McConnell's tenure as a replacement ended amid tension in early 2006; since then, Jimmy Herring has settled into the role, enjoying markedly better fan response.

A new studio album released earlier this year, "Free Somehow," is Herring's first as a full contributor. Freshening things up further, the band created most of the songs in the studio rather than first developing them in live play, its usual approach.

That has its good and bad points, Schools said. On the plus side, it's a lot of new territory to play around in.

"We actually pulled them all out the very first night of the tour, because it was April Fool's Day," he said. "We thought, you know, why prolong the nervousness on our part over having to break it out over the course of a week -- you know, let's just get 'em all out there."

"Some of them are easier to pull off live than others. Some of them are going to take a few turns at the wheel before we really get our sea legs on them. But the ones we've been playing (regularly) so far have come along really well."

On the other hand, he said, the process has been a bit "divisive" for the fan base.

"There's a difference in how fans perceive it, too," he said. "They're super-analytical, they double-think everything."

He said he thinks it'll all smooth out as the band learns to fully exploit the potential in each song.

"The way we look at it is, the studio is a snapshot, and it's an opportunity to really gussy up the tunes," he said. "Whether they evolve to the forms that the appear on the record or evolve from the form they appear on the record doesn't really matter to us -- As long as they do evolve. That's what's important to us. And I think most of the diehard fans give us that."

Right up front, songs like "Boom Boom Boom" and "Walk on the Flood" strike the listener as being a bit more raucous, a bit more punchy than one might expect. This seems to come from Herring's guitar work, an impression Schools doesn't dispute.

"I think a lot of that has to do with a side of Jimmy Herring that maybe a lot of people who think they know Jimmy Herring don't know," Schools said. "Which is that he, just like us, was influenced by a lot of the hard rock must that was on the radio in the '70s when he was learning to play."

"Yeah, we're a little older and we love writing smoky ballads, because, you know, we're finally old and slow enough to do it," he said. But then he adds that "we all like a good rock and roll punch."

This might come as a surprise to those who know Panic only as "a jam band." But those who've witnessed them at work know there's a lot more cooking than an endless soup of stereotypically mellow meandering. The reality is more like a musical stew: A big hambone hunk of Southern rock might roll to the surface one minute, or one might encounter a positively jazz-like segue in the next.

So if the flavor has a little more gritty guitar rock this time around, why not? Schools said that in a case like the song "Walk on the Flood," where Bell was moved to write about the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, "that harder edge just seems like the right costume for those words."

Anticipating what their fellow band members are going to do is part of the magic, Schools said. But they don't try to anticipate the crowd, he said, even when they know they're going to be seeing many of the same people three nights in a row.

How does he expect the Orange Beach run to go?

"I think it depends on how much partying they do the first two nights," he said, laughing. "Those who've been into this band for a long time have learned how to pace themselves fairly well.

"As far as how we approach something like that, it is what it is. The one thing can really hurt us, we've found, is trying to overly second-guess what we think the audience wants. Because then the special things aren't going to happen that make us unique. It's best if we just look at the tour as a long arc."

"We try not to stuff the new material down their throats too much. And at the same time we try not to represent ourselves as some sort of nostalgia act, playing music from albums we put out 15 years ago. It's a delicate balance. But if we do what comes naturally to us, then I think everybody, band and audience, are pleased in the end."

To the extent that a certain percentage of the Widespread Panic fan base fondly links Panic imagery and marijuana references, and to the extent the numbers 4-20 are widely used to refer to denote marijuana appreciation, is there anything to be drawn from the fact that the third day of the set is April 20?

Schools jovially declined to touch the question.

"We're certainly not into numerology," he said.

What, then, about the band's return to Jazz Fest?

"One of the biggest honors we've ever enjoyed is to play Jazz Fest, and to have been a part of it for so many years," he said. "It was really difficult for us to stomach the fact, and it was a fact, that things were not working out for us to make a performance showing for New Orleans in the wake of the Katrina thing, but those were the simple facts.

"There were massive hard decisions to be made by the band and the management and the people who organized jazz Fest. We just found we weren't going to be able to do it, and that really bothered us," he said. "I mean, some of us couldn't sleep at night because of it.

"But we're just really happy that now we have a chance to come back and show our support in a way that is more publicly visible than the support we may have shown in the last few years."

As always, the road has more than its fair share of twists and turns. And to the fans headed for Orange Beach, Schools offered one last bit of advice, his tone suggesting that his tongue was firmly in cheek.

"I'll just say this: Just because there's a full moon one of the nights, don't expect us to play some crazy cover song," he said.

"We are not influenced by numerology or astrology."

Panic in the Streets - 10th anniversary

photo by Jeff Montgomery

Panic in the Streets
Honoring the 10th anniversary of Athens' Infamously Massive Spreadhead Invasion
by Chris Hassiotis for

Hearing that the city of Athens has a vibrant and integral music scene is not the same as seeing it, hearing it and being overwhelmed by it. That’s what happened to me on Saturday, April 18, 1998.

I was 18 years old and in my first year at the University of Georgia. Having lived in town for only about half a year, I had not yet navigated downtown Athens and its art and live music scene which was known to me more by reputation than through experience. I’d been to a few shows once I’d turned 18, sure, and had spent several nights trying to convince dorm friends to go to the Morton for the fledgling film festival I’d read about in a strange and scrappy paper called Flagpole that I’d found discarded on campus, but for the most part if something was going on somewhere, like many students I had no idea how accessible it was.

Widespread Panic collapsed those misconceptions on that Saturday with what came to be known as Panic in the Streets, a record-shattering outdoor concert held in celebration of the release of the band’s first official live album Light Fuse Get Away.

The group set up stage at the west end of Washington Street, right in front of the 40 Watt Club where AthFest currently takes place every summer. The space had been designed and reworked for large outdoor events prior to the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympics, but this was the first time it’d been used for such a large capacity. Furthermore, the show was free, which brought a whole lot of people to town. Conservative estimates put the turn-out at slightly less than 75,000 people; others say it’s likely there were upwards of 120,000 who came to Athens just for the show, meaning that the population of human bodies within the Clarke County lines more than doubled.

I wasn’t even a fan of the band’s music. But I was a fan of spectacle, and seeing the entirety of downtown overrun by enthusiastic music fans was magnificent. I was working as a resident assistant in UGA’s dorms, and had to be on duty in case the hippie hordes overran our facilities, but I was able to break away every few hours and wander through the madness. West Washington was a weirder area then, with no refined organic restaurants or extensively stocked foreign beerhouses. A lot of what’s there now was boarded up, abandoned. Gravel lots instead of paved outdoor seating. It was all teeming with revelry, a swarming outdoor party to which the music almost - almost - seemed secondary. The ebullient crowds were packed as far back as City Hall, and all the way to Clayton near the Globe the pot smoke, hacky sacks and awful dancing was thick.

It was my first taste of Athens’ relationship with its most valuable economic and cultural export, and if a little misrepresentative (nothing of its scale has happened in the music scene since), it at least told me that this was a town willing to set aside normalcy, easy parking and clean smells to celebrate the art that had brought the town international attention. I saw that this was a town serious about its music!
Logistical Nightmare?

Law enforcement authorities freaked out at the idea of an unknown number of music fans overrunning the town. Though it’s part of their responsibility to prepare for the worst, according to many the police were overbearing and overeager in their anticipation of trouble. Gwen O’Looney, Athens’ mayor at the time, remembers the sheriff’s office taking advantage of the situation, having used the Olympics in ’96 to justify the purchase of “some kind of Darth Vader equipment” for crowd control, she says. “It was never needed and completely foreign to the kind of feeling we had about the Olympics and the spirit of the Olympics. He pulled out those uniforms and tried to charge Widespread for more of the same, which we didn’t want and which weren’t needed.”

Navigating the space between an apprehensive, at-times combative and opportunistic government establishment and the band’s management team fell to O’Looney, and everyone interviewed for this article repeatedly credited her with making the concert happen. “Despite Gwen’s best efforts, the city really threw up some hurdles for us,” says Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools. “But I think all the press that that got did nothing but help us out. Y’know, the mayor of Macon said something to the effect of ‘Athens had better let them put their show on, ‘cause if they don’t, they’re welcome to come play in our town for free,’ and that got play in a bunch of papers.”

The band and its record label at the time, Capricorn, also had to pay between $50,000 and $70,000 for the concert, as the city had a “principle” instituted before the Olympics, says O’Looney, that extraordinary events using city resources would have to pay their own way - Athens was one of few Georgia communities not to go into debt after the 1996 Olympics, she adds.

Of course, UGA’s Sanford Stadium held 86,500 people at the time, so it’s not as though the city was unaccustomed to a deluge of visitors. This time around, though, they wouldn’t all be the known quantity of football fans. And without sold tickets, nobody really knew how many people to expect. “This was a new animal,” says O'Looney.

Panic in the Streets took place two months before the very first AthFest, so Athens had yet to establish a steady tradition of outdoor music events (the modest and ever-diminishing Human Rights Festival notwithstanding). The fact is that there were fewer violent arrests that weekend than on most football weekends, and nobody interviewed could recall any serious problems. News reports from the time mention a handful of drug arrests, and the most serious injury came from an out-of-towner who fell out of a tree he’d climbed to watch the band.

According to former Downtown Development Authority executive director Art Jackson (interviewed about this event by Flagpole’s Ben Emanuel in 2005), “The Widespread folks said ‘We don’t have a mean crowd. You know, they don’t fight. They’re mellow.’ And it turned out, they were mellow. I mean, this was laid-back… they came in, enjoyed the music, nobody got mad, no fights, we had no major incidents. Supposedly, the police said there were - and they never showed a video, they had video cameras come in - they had like 36 sex acts that took place or something [laughs]… but of course, they never would show it.”

Cleanup the next day was a challenge for the city and the band alike - everyone had underestimated the amount of trash receptacles necessary, and rubbish covered the streets. It was so deep and so dense that the tires on all the cleanup vehicles blew out from driving over so much glass, and special tires had to be brought in at the last minute.

“It was a very successful show and I remember going down around 7:30 in the morning the next day, just to look at the trash, and it was almost all cleaned up,” says Panic percussionist Sunny Ortiz.

“I wanted to take care of our churches,” says O’Looney, who stayed up the night after the concert, helping with the cleanup. “I did not want anyone to come to church Sunday morning and find their environment polluted by what was an excellent event the night before.”

The economic effect on the town’s businesses was impressive, too, and bartenders who are around now will still occasionally recount that night, when a number of bars, stores and restaurants sold out completely of, well, everything in stock.
Could We Do It Again?

There are five Athens-related acts who could, with the right promotion - it’d have to be presented as a special event, not just any outdoor show - feasibly create a similar massive event in downtown Athens, drawing attendees from across the country as Panic did 10 years ago. It’s up to either the acts to approach the government, or some enterprising elected official or show promoter to take on the monumental responsibilities.

Widespread Panic:
Well, they did it once; why not again? “We’re a little bit older now, and we don’t have a record company to help us foot the bill on something like that,” says Ortiz. “But I can’t say it’ll never happen.” The band has steadily released albums and its fans are as committed as ever.

Whether or not an event like Panic in the Streets - documented on the 2002 DVD of the same name - can be repeated, it was an important moment in the relationship between Athens as a whole and its music scene.

“I think it’s a landmark event,” says the former mayor. “The crowd that came here will never forget that event, and I don’t think that Athens will. I think people were totally amazed, and proud of how excellently their community had executed this huge feat.

“It’s a bad thing when a community is not willing to take a risk every once in a while for an industry or a constituency that is integral to its character.“

April 14 John Bell turns 46

Happy Birthday JB!

John F. Bell turns 46 on April 14th. Widespread Panic just finished their sold out 3-night run in Chicago where JB sang the National Anthem at the White Sox game on Saturday (see video below).

JB was born in Cleveland, OH and attended University school until he went on the the University of Georgia at Athens and soon thereafter started Widespread Panic. Today, he and wife Laura reside in northern Georgia.

When not perfoming on stage JB enjoys golf. In 2001 he gave an interview published in Maximum Golf Magazine where he talked about his boyhood dreams of the PGA. Each year JB helps host the Annual Hannah’s Buddies Charity Golf Classic to raise money for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

JB with Willie Nelson

JB celebrates his April 14th birthday with other celebrities:
Loretta Lynn, Julie Christie, Ritchie Blackmore, Brad Garrett, Anthony Michael Hall, Adrien Brody and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Chicago 4-13-08

John Bell Sings The National Anthem - Chicago

Photos - Widespread Panic Cincinnati, OH

Check out Scott Preston's photo gallery @
of Widespread Panic, 4.9.08,US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH

Set 1
Lil Kin, Can't Get High Pickin Up The Pieces, Boom Boom Boom >You Got Yours
Flicker > One Arm Steve >Solid Rock

Set 2
Good People > Bears Gone Fishin > I'm Not Alone, Goin Out West** > Drums* > Jam >
Blight > Greta, Walkin

Up All Night > Porch Song

** with Ben Ellman and Stanton Moore
* with Stanton Moore


John Bell to Sing Anthem at Chicago

Chicago White Sox Schedule: Promotions:

Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit
Saturday April 12, 12:05 PM
National Anthem

National recording artist, John Bell of “Widespead Panic” is scheduled to perform the national anthem.

Widespread Panic will be performing in Chicago April 11-13.


93 XRT Live Simulcast of the sold out 4/12 show in Chicago!

Tune in to 93.1FM or live stream on Saturday night, April 12th as WXRT broadcasts the entire Sold Out Panic concert from the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago at 7:00pm.

Albany: Widespread Panic Kicks Out The Jams

Widespread Panic Kicks Out The Jams
Special to the Times Union

ALBANY … The Palace Theatre’s still disheveled and patched-up lobby (from a car crash) was of little concern to the hordes of hippies and jam band fans that poured into the historic venue Sunday night to see longtime favorite Widespread Panic.

Hailing from Athens, Ga., stalwarts Widespread Panic have been at it since 1983, and have even survived the passing of founding member Mike Houser in 2002, its longevity due in large part to relentless touring. It recently raised the bar by adding guitarist Jimmy Herring, formerly of the Allman Brothers Band, the Dead and Aquarium Rescue Unit.

At the Palace, hardly anyone seemed to like the early start time (even on Sunday). At the scheduled showtime at 7 p.m. there were scant few folks ready to roll, but no worries, it didn’t kick off till 7:45 anyway, and by then, the theater was nearly full.

You could feel a sense of community as the band took the stage; a funkified jam kicked things off as the current lineup of guitarist/singer John Bell, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz, and keyboardist John Hermann got their footing. Herring wasted no time wailing on fast, fluid yet meaty solos. The rhythm section ruled as well, as Nance and Ortiz played inventively with each other, and Schools meandered from melodic lines to giant, low-tones bass bombs that filled the room. Herring sure-footedly climbed the stairs they built with stinging, well-constructed leads culled from a seemingly bottomless well of licks.

The band looked casual and comfortable and never moved from their assigned spots on the stage. Singer Bell never addressed the audience until midway into the second set, but the uncanny interplay of the musicians and the give and take from the crowd spoke volumes.

From the wah-wah driven “Junior,” powerful “You Should Be Glad,” propulsive “Stop-Go” to “Christmas Katie,” “Blue Indian ” and “It Ain’t No Use’,’ Bell sang in a dusty, gruff voice. The secret weapon here was surely Herring. His expressive, technique-laden solos raised the intensity and forced the rest to keep up. Herring could possibly be the best player in the genre at the moment.

In fact, Widespread have never sounded better, and judging by this show … with its power and sheer musicality … could eat some of the younger bands on their jam band circuit for breakfast.