On the final night of their Las Vegas run, Widespread Panic took their audience back in time to the late ’60’s for a Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In-style Summer of Love-themed Halloween show. Just like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ World Series contention, all things must end. Speaking of the Dodgers, Jimmy Herring came out in full L.A. Dodger baseball attire, while the rest of the band sported costumes from classic variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In to close out Widespread Panic‘s Halloween run at the Park Theater.
John Bell as Dick Martin and Dave Schools as Dan Rowan came out with slicked-back hair, traditional black suits, and clean-shaven faces (except for a crisp, dyed mustache and goatee, respectively). JoJo Hermann was dressed in a New York Jets jersey as “JoJo Namath,” Duane Trucks as Dude Love (Mick Foley), and Sonny Ortiz as the “Home Team”. Beloved American Sign Language interpreter Edie Jackson was costumed as a Goldie Hawn, keeping up with the theme of the evening.
The stage was constructed to mirror the Laugh-In set, and the band opened the show with a humorous skit that featured individual bandmates making one-liners and cheap jokes at each others’ expense—In the introductory skit, Jimmy Herring wisely enlightened the audience that if you watch Godzilla backwards, it is about “a benevolent lizard who rebuilds Tokyo and then moonwalks into the ocean.”
That being said, the Widespread Panic boys kicked off the final night with an exhilarating cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Godzilla.” This song has only been played by Widespread three times before, all on Halloween, with the last time coming at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom 2011. It has never opened a show before, and the original movie was shown on the visual backdrop.
To follow, JoJo Hermann recounted his personal story about his first show with the band in the comical tale known as “One Arm Steve”. The hard-hitting original tune “Imitation Leather Shoes” featured a prominent Dave Schools dropping bass bombs. The song is based on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and fit perfectly with the paranormal vibes of Halloween.
A jumping rendition of “Better Off” preceded the crowd-favorite “Time Zones”, which was co-written by Jerry Joseph and opened the 2nd night of the band’s recent St. Augustine run. Another fan-favorite, “Diner”, followed with John Bell improvising an extremely funny and rare “Hatfield” rap and humbly admitting, “No, no, no, I think you’re thinking of another song… Sometimes, I think of all the songs together, Ms. Lee; voices, so clear on some days, other days just a subway full of conversations.“
JoJo Hermann dazzled through the drunkard’s anthem “Blackout Blues” before the band closed the first set with a never-before-played cover of the Rolling Stones‘ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” complete with two scantily clad Vegas showgirls dancing onstage. However, it quickly became obvious that the bust-outs and Halloween weirdness had just begun.
When the band returned for the second set, they aced another debut with a percussive cover of Jethro Tull‘s “Aqualung”. The song’s opening lyrics (“Sitting on a park bench”) described a creepy stage prop: a mannequin lady sitting on a bench between Jimmy Herring and JB.
Threatening to return to normalcy, the boys kicked into a raucous “Pigeons” with the go-go dancers back on the wings of the stage dancing along. However, it soon got weird again, when the band dropped into a cover of Pigmeat Markham’s “Here Comes the Judge” for the first time ever. After wrapping it up, the Panics finished the second half of “Pigeons” in a rare sandwich.
For the 6th time ever, the band whipped up a trance-inducing version of their original tune, “Sundown Betty” which debuted at Panic en la Playa in Mexico earlier this year. Giving the hungry fans more treats, the boys covered back-to-back War songs for the first time with a slick combination of “Four Cornered Room > Slippin’ Into Darkness”. During “Four Cornered Room”, Jimmy Herring teased the Allman Brothers Band‘s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, which must have been fresh in his mind from his recent guest appearance with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the legendary Beacon Theater in New York City a few weeks ago. Tour Manager Steve Lopez came out next to assist with percussive duties on “Slippin’ Into Darkness”.
Returning to southern tradition, the boys revived an elegiac cover of Bloodkin’s “Henry Parson’s Died” before John Bell’s haunting vocals cut through a hair-raising version of “Mercy”. A mysterious transitional jam led into another debut of a second Blue Öyster Cult gem, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, featuring the Assistant Tour Manager, Ben Draper, on the song’s iconic cowbell part. One last spooky segue landed on Jerry Joseph’s “North” to finish off the second set.
Widespread Panic – “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” [Blue Öyster Cult cover, Debut]
Keeping the setlist innovative and weird, Widespread Panic debuted Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” as the first encore with an extraordinarily strange John Bell on vocals. Yet another Widespread Panic first followed with a cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” as the second encore tune. To conclude the festive Halloween run, John Bell brandished his tiny guitar for an appropriate performance of “Ain’t Life Grand”, though Dave Schools had the last laugh with a maniacally evil chortle.
Widespread Panic – “Drift Away” [Dobie Gray cover; Debut]
From here, Widespread Panic’s next slated gigs are their New Year’s Run at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. Before returning home, Jimmy Herring returns to New York City to play two Halloween shows with Phil Lesh & Friends at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on November 1st and 2nd.
Judging by Dave Schools and Duane Trucks’ comradery in the opening skit, those two are probably going to stay in Vegas a little longer. How much longer? No one can say, but they have two months until their next gigs. JoJo has a meeting with his financial advisor to revisit his accounts and gauge how close he is to buying the New York Jets (please do). John Bell spent a night gambling in the poker halls and disappeared with the two go-go dancers and a half-full bottle of whiskey in hand. Sonny was seen at a premier day spa in the wee hours of the morning for a day of relaxation. Until next time, goodpeople, stay well and look after one another. Have a Haunted Halloween!
Thanks to PanicStream, you can check out a detailed setlist and notes from the performance below.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Park Theater | Las Vegas, NV | 10/28/18
Set One: Video Intro (Laugh-In), Godzilla, One Arm Steve, Imitation Leather Shoes, Better Off, Time Zones > Diner > Blackout Blues, Jumpin’ Jack Flash*
Set Two: Aqualung, Pigeons* > Here Comes The Judge* > Pigeons*, Sundown Betty, Four Cornered Room > Slippin’ Into Darkness*^ > Henry Parsons Died*, Mercy > Jam > (Don’t Fear) The Reaper^^* > North*
Encore: Tiptoe Through The Tulips*, Drift Away*, Ain’t Life Grand^^^* (14 mins)
* w/ GoGo Dancers on stage
^ w/ Steve Lopez (Tour Manager) on percussion
^^ w/ Ben Draper (Asst. Tour Manager) on cowbell
^^^ w/ JB on tiny guitar
– ‘Godzilla’ LTP 10/31/11 Chicago (377 shows)
– ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ FTP (Rolling Stones 1968)
– ‘Aqualung’ FTP (Jethro Tull 1971)
– ‘Here Comes The Judge’ FTP (Pigmeat Markham 1968)
– ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ tease by Jimmy during ‘Four Cornered Room’
– ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ FTP (Blue Oyster Cult 1976)
– ‘Tiptoe Through The Tulips’ FTP (Tiny Tim 1968)
– ‘Drift Away’ FTP (Dobie Gray 1973)
– Entire show with Edie Jackson, ASL interpreter
JB: Dick Martin
Dave: Dan Rowan
Jimmy: Dodgers player
Sunny: Home Team
JoJo: Joe Namath
Duane: Dude Love (Mick Foley)
Stage: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (Comedy show 1968-73)