After digging up the graves of the first generation of Mississippi bluesmen on Friday night, Widespread Panic returned to their usual antics of heavily, jammed out tunes, with mostly originals and a handful of covers mixed in. For the second and final night of Panic’s two-night run in Brandon, Mississippi, the band delivered such a rockin’ show that the few in attendance that did not already have Red Rocks tickets, scrambled to purchase plane tickets and three-day admissions for the upcoming Colorado run.
The six kings of swampadelic rock and roll opened their first set with the crowd-favorite “Stop-Go, the seventh song from their debut album Space Wrangler. The audience responded with a welcoming noise that was louder than a cannon’s blast. Dave Schools dug deep rhythmic entrenchments, which echoed euphonic reverberations to the tune that was teased the night prior. The unpredictable John Bell improvised a rare “That Don’t Make it Junk” rap into the lyrics and “strutted and crowed, along the way.”
Widespread was in the midst of dismantling Van Morrison’s song “And It Stoned Me” down to the very nuts and bolts of the framework as the dark skies loomed ominously, threatening rain. “All Time Low” tumbled like a barrel off the album Til’ the Medicine Takes, which was re-released as a vinyl in celebration of its 20th anniversary earlier this year.
Challenging the sky once more, Panic re-awakened the legend of “Hatfield”, who with the help of his brother cooked up rain for the drought-stricken city of Los Angeles for a compensatory sum of $10,000. JB took on a succinct rap which began with Charlie Hatfield’s German mama, and continuing down unforeseen paths with vivid descriptions and quick-witted improvisation.
Widespread Panic – “Hatfield”
[Video: Drew Derden]
After a short section of bass fiddling, “Papa Johnny Road” was unearthed for the first time since Panic En La Playa Ocho in Mexico. To follow the cut from 2003’s Ball, Widespread Panic performed their newly-written “Sundown Betty”, which has been played ten times since the song’s debut at Panic En La Playa 7 in 2018. A pair of Bloodkin covers blazed the way into the first set with the “Who Do You Belong To?” leading into the slower “Can’t Get High.” Widespread continues to pay respect to Danny Hutchens and Eric Carter of Bloodkin, as fellow brothers and representatives of the jam scene of Athens, Georgia.
To round out the set, Widespread returned to Ball to appropriately bust-out the long-lost “Thin Air (Smells like Mississippi)”. The tune was glorified in the exuberant Night of Joy album with horn accompaniment provided by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. It was the first time that the song was performed since the Red Rocks run in the summer of 2014, as well as the first time played with Duane Trucks on drums. Naturally, the audience’s appreciation was uproarious.
Dave Schools ran rampant with his bass guitar throughout and leading into the calamitous “Imitation Leather Shoes” to finish off the first set. The heavy song was written and influenced by Franz Kafka’s supernaturally absurd short story “The Metamorphisis”, in which the main character awakens to find himself transformed into a giant insect. “Imitation” featured its distinctive triad of bass notes with a slight pause between the first consecutive pair and the heavily, resounding note that follows.
Following a short setbreak, Widespread returned to play a loose second set with 84 minutes divided between seven songs and a substantial drum section. Kicking it off, the band sauntered back on stage and JB stepped up to the mic introducing a boisterous “Junior” with the quip, “Here’s one to help the babies sleep.” The tune “was written by mixing several of Junior Kimbrough’s songs, who shared a record label with JoJo Hermann at Fat Possum Records. Even in the song’s condensed format, Jimmy Herring still managed to find time to casually dish out some lightning fast solos between JB’s declarations of love.
As the set was getting savory, the audience gobbled up a hearty serving of “Ribs and Whiskey” slathered in Panic’s own smokey flavored jam-sauce. JB changed tones from creepy and voyeuristic to the desperation of a man dying of thirst in the desert for a cutting rendition of Murray McLaughlan’s “Honky Red.”
The crowd favorites kept pouring over this bountiful waterfall as “Surprise Valley” soared for an incredible 20-minutes, building up slowly and carefully until culminating into a monstrous explosion of energy. “Airplane” taxied down the runway for six minutes before “The Take-Off Jam” doubled the length of the song and quintupled the intensity and pace.
The band members took a quick breather allowing just Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz to percolate swinging rhythms and conduct a lengthy percussive battle. The guys returned to their positions as JoJo’s piano introduced a monumental “Bust It Big”, which was also featured on the aforementioned Night of Joy album. JoJo’s vocals and piano and Herring’s guitar electrically charge the surrounding atmosphere by using the same electrostatic manipulation techniques as Dr. Frankenstein.
Widespread Panic – “Drums”
[Video: Ward Johnson]
To conclude the second set, John Bell mesmerized throughout a sizzling performance of Neil Young’s “Last Dance.” The lyrics were switched in which “the orange juice is hot / the coffee cup is cold!” adding a surreal element to the already dream-like song.
Widespread Panic encored with a heart-wrenching “Nobody’s Loss” which has rarely surfaced more than twice a year in recent times. JoJo led the band through the cut from Til the Medicine Takes with his voice and forlorn piano. Finishing off the two-night run in Mississippi, Panic paid tribute to late Southern rocker Tom Petty with one last romp through “You Wreck Me.”
Widespread Panic – “You Wreck Me”
Widespread Panic returns to the stage for a three-night run at Morrison, CO’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre on June 28th -30th. For a full list of their upcoming tour dates and ticketing information, head to the band’s website.
Hats off to you, until next time, GoodPeople.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Brandon Amphitheater | Brandon, MS | 6/8/2019
Set One: Stop-Go, And It Stoned Me, All Time Low, Hatfield, Papa Johnny Road, Sundown Betty, Who Do You Belong To?, Can’t Get High, Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi), Imitation Leather Shoes
Set Two: Junior > Ribs and Whiskey, Honky Red, Surprise Valley > Airplane > Drums, Bust It Big, Last Dance
Encore: Nobody’s Loss, You Wreck Me (10 mins)
Notes – ‘That Don’t Make It Junk’ rap during ‘Stop-Go’
– ‘Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi)’ LTP 6/27/14 Red Rocks (270 shows); 1st time for Duane