Saturday, April 05, 2008

Panic in Spanish Harlem

By Pauly
New York City

When I heard Widespread Panic was coming to New York City, I was surprised to discover that they had booked the United Palace. I never heard of the venue. I looked it up and was shocked when I found out that it was located on 175th Street in Spanish Harlem.

Spreadheads in Spanish Harlem? Are you shitting me? Talk about a clash of cultures.

The United Palace was built in 1930 for vaudeville acts and to show movies. A church bought it in 1969 and renovated it. They have been showing plays and concerts there since then.

I had a hotel room on 63rd Street right across from Lincoln Center, which was being renovated. I checked into my tiny room and wrote for a bit before Derek stopped by. Eventually Bruce showed up for a pre-party before we went to the concert.

We took the A train from Columbus Circle up to Harlem. The train had an interesting mix of commuters, Yankee fans going to the game, and a sprinkle of Spreadheads. We got out at 168th Street and walked uptown a few blocks. I had not been in that part of town in a very long time. I used to be a process server many moons ago and had to served eviction notices to delinquent tenants. Luckily, I wasn't shot.

Anyway, we made our way up Broadway and there were a lot of locals (mostly Dominican) who had slightly confused and amused faces on as they soaked up the scene with wookies and Spreadheads mingling invading a few block radius in front of the theatre.

A guy in a beard and Hawaiin shirt wandered over and said, "Rolls. Molly. Yo."

Bruce was hungry and he kept saying things like, "We're in Dominicanville and I smell rice."

We separated. He went in search of a beef patty. I wanted to go inside and check out the venue. There was no pat down, much like the Beacon, and I walked right in. I grabbed a $7 beer for what seemed like 6 ounces of some sort of micro brew. I wandered up the intricate staircase and was impressed with the original artwork. There might have been new paint on stuff, but for the most part, the theatre looked just like it did when it opened in 1930.

It almost felt like I was in a church. Afterall, they do preform bilingual religious ceremonies in there, so it wasn't too far fetched that the theatre also doubled as a place of worship.

I had very low expectations of the show mainly because I had such a horrible week that I was happy to see any concert. The fact that it was Panic on the first of a two night run in New York City was just a bonus.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter what the setlist was on paper or whether or not the band sounded great. And it just comes down to the enjoyment factor of the show. Some of the best shows in my life have sounded and seemed unappealing to others, but for me they were awesome because I really needed to be at that place at the right exact time. This past week was tough for me. I had a lot of stressful situations with family and work and getting sick earlier in the week. In short, I was having a shitty week and the concert was exactly what I needed.

When the Joker asked me my thoughts on the show, I had to qualify my answer. He understood.Sometimes it's not about who is playing or what or how they played... the simple fact that they played was good enough.

I'll have to listen to the show again to get into more depth about how they played, especially the new stuff. I didn't take notes. I didn't even write down a setlist or bring my camera. I was there just to party it up and dance and have a great time and leave my bad week behind me.

With that said, I had a awesome time. We were in the upper loge area in the center. I was seat 1 and smack in the middle. Old school theatres have odd and even seating, so the aisles was the demarcation line. The sound was crisp, although the vocals could have been mixed a tad better.

Everyone in my section was chill and having a good time. As Bruce said, "Everyone is so fuckin' polite at Panic shows."

"That's because everyone is from the South. They have manners down there," I joked.

I love the crowd at Panic shows. They like to have fun. They get rowdy and drink and get shitty and I like hear the occasional Carolina twang.

4.4.08 Widespread Panic, United Palace Theatre, NYC

Set 1: Holden Oversoul > Better Off, Climb to Safety, Papa Johnny Road > Sleeping Man, Sleepy Monkey > Free Somehow > Pleas > Love Tractor

Set 2: Space Wrangler > Radio Child > Jack, Wondering > Second Skin > Drums > Surprise Valley** > Protein Drink** > Sewing Machine**

E: This Part of Town, Walk on the Flood

** with Warren Haynes
The boys got off to a great start with Holden Oversoul > Better Off before the threw the crowd a huge bone with Climb to Safety. My personal highlight for the first set was Papa Johnny Road. Jimmy Herring opened up a jam and went off the deep end. The boys had the double "sleep" theme in back to back songs from Sleeping Man and Sleepy Monkey. I really dug the Sleepy Monkey because thats when the drugs kicked in!

Lucky we only got two new songs. Free Somehow was one of them, but at least they had it in between a Monkey and Pleas sandwich. Panic closed the set with a booty-shaking disco-funk high-energy version of Love Tractor, which included heavy doses of bong-rattling bass from Dave Schools.

My biggest fear was an overzealous security force and a shitty first set with lots of low energy new songs. That didn't happen and I had a great first set.

Second set kicked off with another crowd pleaser Space Wrangler. I dug Jack and especially Wondering. They had a couple of layered jams with that one. Bruce dug the Second Skin.

After drums, Warren Haynes came out and played the rest of the set. he showed up at Ratdog the night before. Warren is the king of the cameo. Surprise Valley was the highlight of the second set. I'm not usually crazy about Protein Drink > Sewing Machine, but they played it loud and heavy and rocked it out. Solid versions.

The boys cheesed out on the encore. Two songs that I really didn't want to hear. Phish would do that to me. A lot.

The show was perfect for me since I had an awful week, so it rated high on my scale. I have seen much better Panic shows and I have seen a lot of worse shows. I have to wait until Saturday's show to get some more perspective.

The best part of the show for me was getting off on the subway at 79th Street to grab a slice of pizza. I noticed all these wookies and older hippies hanging out in front of Yogi's as I walked and ate my slice. That's when I realized that Ratdog had played that night at The Beacon. When I walked past the Beacon, I noticed all of these empty black balloons on the ground as a gaggle of patchy kids stood on the corner. I walked a half of a block and deflated black balloons cluttered Broadway. Someone must have had a tank! Looks like they were partying it up for Ratdog.

I kept walking South on Broadway when I spotted Gray's Papaya. It was almost 1am. I was still hungry so I walked inside and got a hot dog.

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