Friday, April 15, 2005

Widespread Panic!!

4.15.05 Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
Set 1: Thin Air, Dyin Man, Rebirtha, Second Skin, Monstrosity, Stop Go, Give, Makes Sense to Me, Ain't Life Grand

Set 2: Longer Look**, Fishing**, Space Wrangler, Papa Johnny Road, Pleas, Jack, Travelin Light, Barstools and Dreamers, Blight, Guilded Splinters, Henry Parsons

Encore: This Part of Town, Love Tractor

** solo acoustic from JB

The band also appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and performed Action Man.

Where to begin? Amazing show. I dunno the exact number, but I've seen Widespread Panic well over 50 times, more times than the Grateful Dead. I just checked my Tao of Pauly archives and last night was my 56th Panic show. Very nice.

I have not seen the boys since November 1st of 2003. Haley tagged along for her first show. Inside of a two month span, we'd see a slew of shows together; Radiohead, Widespread Panic, Charlie Hunter, and Phish. I took Bruce (who has seen well over 100 Grateful Dead shows) to his first Panic show on Halloween 2003 at Madison Square Garden. Great show and he had a great time, but I think last night's performance was a notch better.

Senor on the other hand had not seen Panic in a few years, since their last 3 night run at the Beacon Theatre. That happens to be my favorite place to see WSP in NYC. Nothing against Radio City Music Hall... it's a remarkable and historic venue. Every musician dreams about playing there. But there's something about the Beacon's smaller and intimate size that makes a rockin' Panic show slightly more epic.

Fifteen years ago, when I was tripping my balls off on a fistful of mushrooms in a small club in downtown Atlanta, I never expected to be see the scraggly lookin' boys from Athens sell out Radio City Music Hall a decade and a half later. Widespread Panic had undergone an amazing twenty-year run, almost in obscurity, and outlasted second and third generation jambands despite the death of their lead guitarist Mikey Houser. He was the Panic in Widespread Panic.

We got in line early. Didn't have to wait more than five minutes before we were escorted inside without a major search or patdown. Found our seats on the first mezzanine and had a nice view of the stage. We were in the last row. In 2000, Senor and I sat in a similar seat for Phish's run at Radio City, a few weeks before the Japan run. That was the night of the infamous Split Open and Melt when Phish's lighting guru Chris Kuroda messed with the house lights halfway and things got freaky. Bruce on the other hand, saw The Grateful Dead at Radio City in 1981. Man, talk about a fuckin' show! My last visit to Radio City was for Trey Anastasio Band in 2002.

The late crowd slowly filled up just after 8pm. At 8:10 the boys came out and started the show with Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi). Got the crowd dancin and grooving right away. Was pretty happy to hear Dyin Man and that's when I started to get a little shitty. Beers were moderately priced (for NYC) at $7. How could you not like sipping warm Corona's (in can form) while catching the tantalizing aroma's of kind nugs with a few whispers of Southern accents filling the surrounding seats?

Rebirtha is one of those Panic songs where I was hooked on the lyrics from the first time I heard it.

First time
It's not the first time
Last time
No, I know I seen your place before
Maybe in a past time
Maybe it was just last night
Don't just know

I wasn't all that familiar with Second Skin. Senor and I were checking out the cool light setup behind the band. It looked like several sections of the equalizer on your stereo set up. Almost a hundred vertical bars of light (each about six to ten feet tall) were lit up in various colors and designs. A few times I got that Close Encounters of the Third Kind vibe from that scene at Devil's Tower when they played music for the aliens.

Monstrosity is one of those songs you'd totally be digging on hard core drugs. I turned to Senor at one point during the song, when Dave Skools' bass was hitting that funkified trance groove, and said something like, "This is the point of the show that if you were rollin' on ecstasy... you'd be fuckin' loving life." He smiled and said, "I was just thinking that."

Stop Go is an old favorite of mine and the boys did a nice job mixing the setlist so there was never a long lull. I thought they were going to close with Give. It's kinda upbeat and would have been a smoking closer. The Joker had told me his nickname for new guitar player George McConnell is the "wha wha guy." Since that's the most common lick you'd hear from his guitar during some of the more intense jams. He busted out some serious wha wha during Give and I finally accepted the fact that he's not Mikey and he's George the wha wha guy. Makes you appreciate how amazing a guitar player Mikey Houser really was.

I tried to pull a veteran move and hit the pisser and the beer line before the set ended. While in line, I overheard the first few notes of Makes Sense to Me. Man, they weren't ending the set with Give! Just as the girl behind me said to her friend in a lazy North Carolina drawl, "I really like this song!" I bolted from the line and headed back to our seats.

I was talkin to a homeless drunk about religion.

Man, I've been singing that lyric since 1990! To just top off a hot opening set, the boys busted out Aint Life Grand. Bruce was digging that tune. There are certain Widespread Panic songs which are gateways to instant flashbacks about my reckless late teens and early twenties living in the South. Ah, youth and music! Panic puts me right back to the porch of my fraternity house... I'd have a big cup of ice, coke, and Jim Beam keeping me sane while I oggled at the cute sorority girls who decided to jog down fraternity row during their late afternoon workouts. Those were special times when you didn't have a care in the world and hearing Phil Lesh's bong-rattling bass on a scratchy Dead bootleg from someone's stereo was the closest thing to achieving nirvana.

At setbreak I hung out with the crew of folks from Virginia in the row in front of us. I got some good tips on some killer music festivals in West Virginia. I can't go because I'll be in Vegas! The folks in front of him were outta control. That group consisted of two women in their late 30s. One of them was pretty wasted. I'm guessing it was the booze and the ecstasy. She'd reach across two rows just to give me a "high-five". Man, I miss the rowdy Panic crowds. Their a little more drunkerand a lot more Southern than your average Phishy crowd. But the girls are just as adorable. I'm a sucker for crunchy girls with Southern accents.

JB came out and sat down in a chair and joked around that "he's an old man." He played a solo acoustic tune, Longer Look. Then the rest of the band came out for Fishin, and he still stayed on the acoustic. That's when they boys turned up the heat several notches. By the time Space Wrangler started, I was pretty shitfaced. It's another one of those songs that reminds me of my college days, as I was blazing up.

He gets off at a stranger's place
Where the girls dance different with familiar grace
He's knowing that he found the place
That pours the coldest beer
Skol, very cold beer
Cheers, to your friends so near
High, your dreams so clear
Raise another glass to the dreams so near

The guy in front of us called Papa Johnny Road. They followed that up with solid, mellow, yet funky jamming in Pleas and Jack. Seriously, Dave Skools carried Panic for a good forty-five minutes. He was laying out some heady bass. The busted out some more old school favorites like Travelin Light. More gushing flashbacks and I wished I got off my ass and tried to see more Panic shows on this tour! Then it was back to some more tight jamming in Barstools, Blight, and one of my favorite random cover songs that Panic does... Guilded Splinters. Nice to see a Henry Parsons and I was hoping they'd keep playing!

They started set 2 at 10pm and ended at 11:40 before they came out for a two song encore. The first song was a mellow This Part of Town. I joked with Senor that Phish would walk off the stage after a lame slow-song encore. But we knew Panic would have a second kick ass tune. They brought the house down with Love Tractor! The coolest thing about Love Tractor is that someone in the production department of TBS loves Panic because during the outro to commercials in Atlanta Braves games, at least once ever telecast, you'll hear a snippet of Love Tractor. Anyway, it was another fan favorite and another flashback for me. The crowd was singing along and hootin and hollerin during all the audience participation parts. Damn, I missed Widespread Panic more than I thought. Thank God I'm seeing them tonight!

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