WP stops by JAM ON

Loose and Light in the Sirius-XM Studios with Widespread Panic
from Relix Magazine online

John Bell with Sirius DJ Stef Scamardo

About 40 station guests and contest winners gathered at Sirius-XM Radio’s Midtown Manhattan studios yesterday afternoon for an intimate in-studio performance by Widespread Panic. The group is in the New York-area as part of a summer tour with The Allman Brothers Band and stopped by “Jam On” to speak with station personality Stef Scamardo and to play a few songs in Sirius’s glass-enclosed performance space—“the fishbowl.” Both the performance and interview are scheduled to air on “Jam On,” which can be found on SIRIUS channel 17 and XM channel 56, shortly after Labor Day.

The group ran through a five-song, hour-plus set that spanned its career, including “Pilgrims,” “Angels On High,” “This Part of Town,” “Already Fried” and “Imitation Leather Shoes.” In order to fit into the small performance space, the band shuffled its onstage configuration slightly, with drummers Todd Nance and Sunny Ortiz set up single-file on the audience’s far left, guitarist Jimmy Herring front left, guitarist John Bell in front middle and bassist Dave Schools in the back behind him. Keyboardist JoJo Hermann was set up mid-back right behind Scamardo and in-between Schools and Bell on the far right. Bell also used the opportunity to show off his new guitar and switched to acoustic for both “Pilgrims” and “Already Fried.”

Scamardo discussed a number of topics with the band between songs, ranging from what has changed during the band’s 20-plus year career (“We got Jimmy,” Bell said in his trademark growl) to Panic’s summer tour with longtime heroes the Allman Brothers Band (“They rock—like a locomotive!,” Schools remarked about the influential rock band) to their favorite new bands (“A band I’m really proud of is Dead Confederate,” Schools said of the Athens-based indie rockers, also adding that there are over 13,000 songs on his iPod).

Scamardo also mentioned the band’s surprisingly Sporadic early summer schedule, which Bell described as a “loose and light tour.” She later crowned the band the “The Kings of Bonnaroo,” to which Bell replied that he can judge a festival by its food—“and Bonnaroo has really good food.” The members of the band also discussed how they spent their time off: Schools has “just been trying to be a good husband,” Bell focused on the Clarkesville, Ga. Wellness Center that he recently opened with his wife Laura and Jimmy Herring practiced—even after shows while on the road (“Bathrooms at most hotels have good reverb,” he admits). In one particularly honest moment, Bell even mentioned that he was nervous lecturing to a group of UGA music business students early this month, but admitted,“the business can be an art form too.”

The in-studio audience watching Panic through a glass window had an opportunity to ask questions as well. When asked about the band’s relationship with the Allman Brothers Band, Schools responded that the group was a big influence on him through the years and that fans should expect a collaboration-heavy tour with shows that span 4-5 hours. Another question touched on frequent guest fiddler Ann Marie Calhoun, which led Schools and Bell to recount how they first saw her play “Surprise Valley” on a YouTube clip. “[She] hit every lick that Michael Houser played, but on a fiddle,” they said—with Schools adding that it was a good example of a video going viral. One young audience member from Rome, Italy asked a question about how the band writes its songs. Bell said he writes songs “wherever the gift comes from,” while Schools talked about group collaboration and said, “the coolest things happen when the group is ‘tossing a potato back and forth musically.’”

As the performance came to a close, Scamardo touched upon the band’s “Driving Songs” live releases and the new “From the Vaults” series. Bell mentioned that the band is trying to release an archival show every 4-5 months, and allow vault keeper Horace Moore to select the show, along with input from fans. But there is plenty of material to work with—the band has been multi-tracking all of its performances since the early 1990s.

John Bell Goes Back To School

JB recently held a Music Business program at the
University of Georgia-Athens.

Widespread Panic's Bell tells students to follow their dream
by John Barrett with Carolyn Crist for UGA redandblack.com
Image by John Kim

As the economy pushes students to consider majors that will earn big bucks, Widespread Panic's lead singer John Bell encouraged music business students not to give up the dream.

Bell, who joined Athens' native band Widespread Panic in 1986, explained how he became a part of the music business step-by-step in a motivational talk for music business students and alumni at the Chapel on Tuesday afternoon.

Music has to move from part A, or creation, to part B, the fans, through production, he said.

The business is "not just musicians and producers," he said, describing the business as a conglomeration of "agents, management, people who put up posters ... and it spills into TV and movies."

It is a multifaceted business with job opportunities, but it requires a great deal of homework.

"You've got to have your reference books around to keep you out of the dark," he said. "There are ways of doing things and avenues that are traveled ... it's good to recognize that stuff, but there are also so many opportunities to create your own job."

For example, the B-52's and R.E.M. tried their own styles in Athens first.

"If enough people dig it and catch onto it, all of a sudden you're making your own rules," Bell said. "There will be people who come up with a check in one hand and a contract in the other, saying it's ironclad. You don't have to trust them or be bullied - it's your dream, and don't let someone else push you around."

But the success starts with hard work and self-promotion, even with the simple things - putting up posters, creating demo CDs and selling merchandise yourself.

"You shouldn't expect anything beyond what you're willing to put in yourself to make things happen," he said.

But working with others isn't out of the question. In fact, within the band, it should be necessary, Bell said, describing Widespread Panic as "100 percent collaborative."

"Inspiration will pop up in any shape or form," he said. "You'll go places you wouldn't normally go by yourself."

Technology is another aspect of the music business that Bell didn't anticipate.

"Using music for entertainment and inspiration hasn't changed. Everything else - computers, the Internet, even instruments - have," he said. "I'm personally in the middle of it, and I dig the chaos that's out there."

Bell encouraged the students to stick to their dreams but keep their egos in check, allowing space and respect for fellow bandmates.

He humbly dished advice to students and closed the event by singing a song with the same thought:

"My thoughts are not for sale," he sang.

Woodstock meets Widespread Panic

Evolution of the Music Festival

GMA's Bill Weir was at the original site of Woodstock '69 in Bethel,NY along with some of the "star children" who were there 40 years ago to talk about music then and how it's influenced music festivals today.

Weir now calls himself a "Spreadhead" after attending the 3-1/2 hour Panic concert at Mile High Music Festival back in July. He went along on a backstage tour with JB and sat in on the pre-show rehearsal and concert preparation.

The Woodstock experience had it's highs with it's grand assortment of music acts and performers. But it also had deep lows with horrible conditions, little food, water or even shelter from the rain and muddy fields.

Bringing in over 400,000 attendants, Woodstock took a huge financial loss as a festival but made it up with sales of it's album and documentary.
Today it's the opposite. In a sagging economy coupled with dwindling record sales and internet piracy making it difficult to make a profit bands turn to touring to make up losses.

Large festivals like Bonneroo, 10k Lakes and Rothbury can draw huge numbers of attendants and put them in a ready and well organized area with everything including rest rooms, tents and plenty of food vendors.

Today's festivals, however, are sprouting one good seed from Woodstock; the large variety and diverse performers all in one space. It's a win-win, financially for the festivals and affordable for the attendees.

As John Bells puts it, "...you can bring a large number of fans into a good environment where somebody can have their summer concert experience and not spend the baby's milk money."

Fastest Sell Out

Halloween Mail Order - SOLD OUT!
According to the WP website mail order for tickets to the Halloween show in Austin was the fastest sell out in the Band’s history!

Looks like it's going to be one HOT ticket!

Jimmy Herring as Lucifer -Halloween '07

Widespread Panic w/ ABB - Fall 09 Tour Dates

Widespread Panic and Allman Brothers Band
Their first extensive joint headline tour.

Fri Aug 21 / 09 - Camden, NJ Susquehanna Bank Center
Sat Aug 22 / 09 - Canandaigua, NY Constellation Brands Performing Arts Center - CMAC
Mon Aug 24 / 09 - Gilford, NH Meadowbrook US Cellular Pavilion
Wed Aug 26 / 09 - Bethel, NY Bethel Woods Center For The Arts
Thu Aug 27 / 09 - Wantagh, NY Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Sat Aug 29 / 09 - Mansfield, MA Comcast Center (Great Woods)
Sun Aug 30 / 09 - Hartford, CT Comcast Theatre

Tue Sep 01 / 09 - Chicago, IL Charter One Pavilion
Wed Sep 02 / 09 - Chicago, IL Charter One Pavilion

Sat Oct 03 / 09 - Charlotte, NC Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Sun Oct 04 / 09 - Charlotte, NC Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Tue Oct 06 / 09 - Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavilion
Wed Oct 07 / 09 - Portsmouth, VA NTELOS Wireless Pavilion
Fri Oct 09 / 09 - Birmingham, AL BJCC Arena
Sat Oct 10 / 09 - Birmingham, AL BJCC Arena
Sun Oct 11 / 09 - Raleigh, NC Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
Tue Oct 13 / 09 - Knoxville, TN World's Fair Park
Wed Oct 14 / 09 - Nashville, TN Riverfront Park
Fri Oct 16 / 09 - Dallas, TX Superpages.com Center
Sat Oct 17 / 09 - The Woodlands, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Fri Oct 30 / 09 - Austin, TX Austin Music Hall
Sat Oct 31 / 09 - Austin, TX Austin Music Hall

Sun Nov 01 / 09 - New Orleans, LA City Park