Widespread Panic 07/13/11
Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
It’s not that I had planned to have an 8 year and 354 day gap between Widespread Panic shows, but it just kind of happened that way. There were some shows I couldn’t make due to previous obligations. There were times when a $35 ticket with $23 in Ticketmaster fees was simply too high for my wallet. Then for a while, I just didn’t care about jam bands. So when I heard that the six headed monster from Athens would be hitting up the Wiltern for their 25th Anniversary Tour, I decided perhaps it was for the best that we re-connect before the group takes a well deserved break.
I don’t know why LAPD had Western/Santa Monica closed. I am going to assume a dead hooker or perhaps a six pack of dead hookers? Regardless, it was not easy to get to the best indoor concert theatre in Los Angeles County. Heck, when I finally handed over three Abe’s to park in that structure behind the Wiltern I was in no rush to get into the actual theatre. How could I when the car next to me offered me a margarita, the homeless guy was earning his way by selling balloons filled with nitrous and how about those dirty lesbians washing with a jug of Arrowhead Water purchased from the Ralph’s on the other side of the parking lot? If Widespread Panic was going to make Los Angeles home for two nights, I was honored to be the only fan from the great state of California at the show. No joke, none of my local friends or co-workers have heard of the band, and everyone I met was “on tour” from Boulder, Birmingham or Biloxi. That’s probably why they all offered to share their opium, molly, crank, ganja and herpes with me. Lord know most folks in LA don’t grasp the concept that sharing is caring. Heck, I am pretty sure one dude offered me the services of his mail-ordered bride but that’s more of a Penthouse Letters tale instead of a Concert Confession so let’s get to the action.
Panic took the stage just after 8pm and kicked off the two set affair with a cover of “Protein Shake” by the late Vic Chestnutt. The song got the crowd moving and as the band did for most of the night, they went right into the next song “Sewing Machine” without stopping. I felt as if the highlight of the first set was a nice run of “Can’t Get High>Greta>Better Off.” I was most impressed with the playing of guitarist Jimmy Herring. While original Panic axe-man Michael Hauser was still alive during my last WSP show, he was unable to perform and lost his battle to cancer less than three weeks later. No disrespect to his original replacement George McConnell, but my opinion is that his style and tone never gelled with the group. Herring on the other hand does and his effortless playing lead the band through roof raising versions of “None Of Us Are Free,” “Little Lilly” and the set closing “Holden Oversoul.”
Set II got underway with my all time favorite Panic song “Imitation Leather Shoes.” While the shout out to Hollywood and Vine always gets a cheer in this town, it’s the thunderous bass of Dave Schools that makes this song so freaking good. On this particular evening, I felt his bass could have been louder in the mix, but then again I am a glutton for low end and can always use a smidge more. The song jammed nicely into “Love Tractor” which got the near capacity crowd pumping their fists in unison. Looking to rock on a Wednesday night at first I felt that “Tickle The Truth” and “Picking Up Those Pieces” killed any momentum the second set had going. As it turns out, they were giving us an early breather before a solid hour plus of ass kicking action.
The group welcomed both Jerry Joseph and Wally Ingram to the stage. While Joseph only stayed around for an 18 minute trip through “Chainsaw City,” Ingram lent his talents to “Drumz” and the (so I was told) rare treat “Papa Legba.” The whole stream of songs ran “Chainsaw City>Drumz>Papa Legba>Bear Gone Fishin’>Tie Your Shoes>Walk On. I assumed that would be the end of Set II as it was well past 11pm, but the band pulled out one more hard rocking jam – “Conrad” before leaving the stage for a few minutes.
The encore consisted of two songs, “Her Dance Needs No Body” and “Big Wooly Mammoth.” The hardcore Panic fans around me seemed to have been bummed with the song choices. Knowing that the band holds records for the most sell out at massive venues like Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver and Phillips Arena in Atlanta, apparently seeing the band at the mid-size undersold theater simply wasn’t enough. For me, I was just excited I was able to help the band celebrate 25 years before they take their hiatus. If they return to the corner of Western & Wilshire in 2013, it’s going to be hard for me to say away.