Since its launch in 2005, PanicStream has served as the primary database for all things Widespread Panic, tracking setlists, consolidating audience recordings of every show, hosting an ongoing live chat, and gathering other various news, media, and information for the benefit of the band’s famously enthusiastic fan base. Curtis George, the site’s owner and operator, runs PanicStream as a free utility for Panic fans everywhere. It’s a labor of love, a project that he maintains on his own time out of adoration for the band and the close-knit community that surrounds it. However, the costs of running a site of this scale are inherently high. Donations and merch sales help offset the cost of the widely-used fan resource, but Curtis often still winds up personally footing the majority of the site’s roughly $500 monthly server costs.

This holiday season, thousands of Widespread Panic fans banded together to give Curtis and PanicStream a truly amazing holiday gift. In the waning weeks of 2017, Curtis’ “partner in crime” and fellow superfan Rayner Jackson (better known by her online moniker, LG&M), set up a secret Facebook group. The group was named “PanicStream Secret Santa Server Supporters” (often referred to by its appropriately secretive acronym, PSSSSS!), and sported a cover photo with a simple yet imperative instruction: “Don’t Tell Curtis!”

In the group’s description, Rayner laid out the plans for a surprise Secret Santa gift of enormous proportions. As LG&M’s note reads,

PanicStream is operating in the RED right now which means Curtis pays for the servers out of his own pocket, which is a healthy amount each month (Almost $500). The thought came up that the BEST Xmas gift for the person who does so much daily for all of us to enjoy PanicStream would be donations to the site. In order for it to be a surprise as a Xmas gift…We are going to use my PayPal address, and I will make a total donation on December 23rd and send a card with everyone’s name… If you would like to donate…. my heartfelt thanx in advance. I think all of you know how dear to my heart both Curtis and PS are to me…. so I thank you kindly. If you know of anyone to add to this message please do so or send me their name. This is only a start! Thank you Tim McDonnell for the fantastical idea! And what goes down in this message STAYS in this message…

As Rayner explains to Live For Live Music, “Within 12 hours this group grew to 2,000 people and took on a life of its own.” Over the course of the month of December, fans everywhere began adding their friends to the group. Those friends added their friends. More and more people got wind of the beautiful gesture in the works as New Year’s Eve–the show selected as the occasion for the big reveal–drew closer.

PSSSSS! members set up 2 big raffles (or “Waffles,” as they became known in the group) to benefit the cause, with people donating poster prints and other memorabilia to sweeten the pot and entice more fans to donate. They even got the Panic production crew involved, convincing them to give Curtis a spotlight during set break for the presentation of a commemorative giant check. By the time the calendar read 12/31/17, more than 4,000 people had joined the “PanicStream Secret Santa Server Supporters” group, and over $20,000 had been donated to the cause. It seemed as though everyone in the extended Widespread Panic community was talking about the Panic Stream Secret Santa Surprise… Everyone, that is, except Curtis George…

Somehow, against all odds, thousands of people managed to keep the secret and preserve the surprise. As Curtis tells Live For Live Music, “It’s hard to wrap my head around [the fact that] no one, not one person, slipped up and said anything to me or made a post that led me to believe there was something going on. I was completely and utterly surprised.” Adds Rayner, “Never did this man who has his finger on every bit of social media and is in so many different groups get a hint of what we were doing.”

Curtis recalls the moments before the big reveal: “In fact, in the minutes leading up to it, I was getting irritated with everyone crowding me. During setbreak I usually update the site and post the setlist to social media, and I couldn’t understand why so many people were standing around me and not moving. I just wanted people to stop talking to me so I could do the updates on my phone. And then the spotlight hit me. Oh shit…”

Below, you can watch taper Steven Ziegler (better known as Z-Man) and Rayner surprise Curtis with the check for $20,000 in fan donations to PanicStream at Widespread Panic’s New Year’s Eve show in Atlanta via Z-Man’s Facebook Page:

Later that night, Curtis rehashed the evening’s exciting events with friends. “After NYE we are sitting in the hotel room and they are bringing me up to speed with what happened during the month and it blew me away,” explains Curtis, “I said I’m in every WSP group on Facebook and I never heard a peep about it. Someone responded with ‘Well there’s one group you weren’t in’…Makes me proud to be a Panic fan.”

[via Curtis’ Facebook page]

[Curtis and Rayner post-show]

You can read Curtis George’s full response to this incredible act of kindness and appreciation below, via a post on his Facebook page:

Full Circle! Happy New Year! Cheers to our pal. Love & Light Curtis.

A post shared by © 2017 Satisfied Entertainment (@satisfiedentertainment) on

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