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Widespread Panic’s 25th Anniversary Athens Shows

Posted: Feb 13, 2011

Widespread Panic’s 25th Anniversary Athens Shows

“Time machines, remembered scenes
A wrangler rides through a passing stream…”
“Space Wrangler”

To distill the significance of Widespread Panic’s 25th Anniversary Athens shows in such a short period of time will not do the band complete justice, but here goes…

The indelible journey of Widespread Panic does not only comprise the incandescent music, but the infrastructure they created from the best elements of artistic insight and southern culture to allow other musicians to gain exposure. It all started in Athens, Georgia. Panic’s music also created memories, signposts in time and served as the fulcrum for many life-lasting friendships.

There was snow on the ground when I woke up on the morning of the Thursday show. Anticipation mounted as the day progressed. Indeed, these shows epitomize singular events. Randall Bramblett, John Keane and Ann Richmond Boston served as musical guests for Thursday evening. Die-hard Panic fans understand the significance to the setlists on these two nights. For me, personal highlights included Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”. This counted as the first song Panic performed as a group. Other favorites included Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West”, Todd singing “You’ll Be Fine”, Vic Chesnutt’s “This Cruel Thing”, the Grateful Dead’s “Fire On the Mountain” and the classic original “Space Wrangler”.

Bloodkin sold out the 40-Watt Club for the Post Panic show. That gathering was your atypical classic late night scene…a sweaty club packed to the gills with amped-up fans, and what better band to serve up gritty rock & roll than The Kin?

Saturday contained a little more of an edge…or maybe that’s just how my day went down. Panic definitely played great, and even with an aggressive sharpness at times. Each member of Panic holds his own as far as command over his instrument--in any musical company.  Some of the highlights from the second night for me were “Red Hot Mama”, Bloodkin’s “Can’t Get High” & “Henry Parsons Died”, “Blue Indian”, Neil Young’s Don’t Be Denied”, The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie”, “Postcard” and “Porch Song”. Panic played “Knights In White Satin”, a tune they have not rendered since 1987.

I’d like to send out a Nod & A Wink to Daniel & Kristy Hutchens, Todd & Tammy Nance, Eric Carter, Eric Martinez, William Tonks, Josh Stack, Shannon Kiss, Tom Guenther, Paul “Crumpy” Edwards, Bill “Gomer” Jordan, Horace Moore and Jayne Clamp.

Not many bands can say they survived 25 years. During all those years, children grow up, friends & loved ones pass away, new friends arrive, old friendships age like wine and memories exist, but without a song, story or photograph…there’s no proof they happened—hence, the music. Panic’s imprint on American music retains its own signature. Panic represents the rags-to-riches story where nice guys--those who want to contribute to the craft--do actually sometimes win.

Panic augments the oldest forms of American music such as blues, jazz, gospel, funk soul, country and rock & roll into their own unmistakable sound. They write vivid song stories, and Panic always avoided record company traps, corporate compromises, scandals and fickle industry trends in this mean and schizophrenic business. We’re lucky to have had them around all these years. I’m looking forward to the band’s performance at the venerable Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Monday.

Hopefully, John Keane will win a Grammy tonight for his work on Panic's latest studio album--Dirty Side Down.


James Calemine

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