The fifth edition of Mempho Music Festival concluded on Sunday with live music and beautiful weather inside the Memphis Botanic Gardens. With more than 170 species of trees scattered throughout the 96-acre lawn, attendees sprawled out on blankets surrounding the stages, enjoying cold refreshments in the warmth of the sun as Elizabeth King, Allison Russell, Tank & The Bangas, and Wilco hosted performances throughout the day. As the sun set and the temperature dropped, Widespread Panic took the stage to crank up the intensity with blazing riffs, doggone, dirty tunes, and a collaboration with another one of the day’s other performers, legendary bluesman Bobby Rush.

Whispers rippled through the anxious crowd as the Athens, GA outfit took the stage. When frontman John Bell walked to his position at center stage, the electric current of excitement jolted from palpable to unhinged chaos. Wild yelps echoed through the crowd as fans took note of JB’s backwards hat, a harbinger of mayhem to come. Even before JB welcomed the audience with a simple “Evenin’, everybody” and gave Wilco “a big ol’ thank you for taking care of us for all these years… beautiful bunch of souls,” this show was destined for glory.

Related: Widespread Panic Covers Allman Brothers Band, Rolling Stones With Chuck Leavell At Mempho Festival [Photos/Videos]

Back-to-back bangers smashed the door of the first set off its hinges as Bloodkin’s “Makes Sense to Me” set the stage for a scorching “Little Kin”. Jimmy Herring waited patiently throughout the opener and hit the ground running the first chance he got, tearing into “Lil Kin” like a lion hunting a gazelle. After pausing to cool off, the classic combination of the instrumental “Machine” and “Barstools and Dreamers” allowed the band to open up and jam the funk out. Next, JB picked up his slide, fired up the smoker, and mixed a special blend of herbs and spices for a particularly zesty introduction of “Ribs and Whiskey”.

Bell broke the ensuing silence to welcome Bobby Rush to the stage. With the blues stalwart in the mix, the band dug into his archive for a pair of covers. Despite being 88 years old, Bobby Rush performed with a youthful exuberance, dancing, even jumping (!!!) while singing and playing harmonica during the Widespread Panic debut of “Gotta Have Money”. JB and bassist Dave Schools echoed supporting vocal harmonies with the bluesman until Herring and Rush conducted a fiery call-and-response section between guitar and harmonica.

Related: Blues Legend Bobby Rush Tells Tales Of Segregation On The Road During Justice Comes Alive Set [Watch]

Rush stayed at the vocal helm next as Schools chiseled out the prologue to one of the bluesman’s most well-known compositions, “Bowlegged Woman”, a longtime staple in the live Panic repertoire. As Jimmy worked his guitar into the equation, Bobby Rush pointed out bowlegged women in the crowd, laughing boisterously, and thanking “all of my friends, Widespread Panic …Widespread Panic … these are my friends, Widespread Panic, love you brothers!”

Widespread Panic w/ Bobby Rush – “Bowlegged Woman” (Bobby Rush) – Mempho Music Festival – 10/2/22

[Video: Michael Wilker]

Bobby Rush left the smoldering stage as JB admitted “It’s nice to have friends over.” In response to audience members who were yelling out song requests, JB responded slyly with “Nope, we forgot all of those!” The group resumed the debauchery with assistance from Colin Butler (from Big Ass Truck) on turntables for an explosive take of “Dyin’ Man” before plowing on for the remainder of the show with the core six-piece lineup.

Sunny Ortiz‘s idle hands slapped simple rhythms and Schools growled in the downtime ahead of a lengthy sequence of unbroken jams, beginning with “Thought Sausage”. The band simmered a pot of goodness, adding ingredients to the flavorful concoction until JB announced “Stuff is ready, Come n’ git it!” Without missing a step, JoJo’s Clavinet laid the foundations for a spirited cover of J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High”.

Before the song could fade away, Sunny Ortiz and Duane Trucks rolled the unstoppable locomotive down to New Orleans for a raunchy “Fishwater”. On the heels of cascading waterfall riffs from Herring, the broke down to its bare bones, giving the percussionists time to enjoy the spotlight until Schools and JB jumped back in with a vocal exchange. The mischievous Schools even added a “Gotta Have Money” callback here (anybody here still have “Trust” issues from his “I Trusted You” teases, randomly singing it from time to time?).

Schools remained in control as he led the charge into a salacious rendition of Parliament-Funkadelic‘s “Red Hot Mama” before plummeting into the head-spinning spirals of “Tie Your Shoes”. Nearly a full hour of uninterrupted jams later, Panic bookended the sequence with a heavy interpretation of Murray McLaughlin’s “Honky Red” To finish their second headlining set in as many nights, Bell, Schools, Hermann, Herring, Trucks, and Ortiz, Widespread Panic covered the timeless pairing of Vic Chesnutt’s “Protein Drink / Sewing Machine”.

Scroll down to check out a selection of photos from Widespread Panic’s Sunday evening performance at Mempho Music Festival. As a bonus, you can also view a gallery of shots from Bobby Rush’s set earlier in the day via Keith GrinerAustin Friedline, and Patrick Hughes.

For a complete list of upcoming Widespread Panic tour dates, head here.

Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Mempho Music Festival | Memphis, TN | 10/1/22

Set: Makes Sense To Me, Little Kin, Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, Ribs and Whiskey, Gotta Have Money*, Bowlegged Woman*, Dyin’ Man, Thought Sausage > Ride Me High > Fishwater > Red Hot Mama > Tie Your Shoes > Honky Red, Protein Drink / Sewing Machine (124 mins)


* w/ Bobby Rush on vocals and harmonica
– ‘Gotta Have Money’ first time played (Bobby Rush)
– Edie Jackson with magic hands entire show (ASL interpreter)


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