After a tropical day filled with margaritas, mojitos, and direct sunlight—marking the first warm-weathered day of Panic En La Playa after its stormy start—the audience was slightly more subdued when Widespread Panic took the stage. For day three of Panic En La Playa Siete, this feeling of lethargy dissipated with the band’s spirited show-opening version of “Conrad” led by Dave Schools’ heavy, thunderous bass riffs.
For those still sluggish on their feet, the next song, David Bromberg‘s “Sharon”, fully captivated the audience, as John Bell wound the notorious circus tale that posits “Sharon, what do you do to these men?”. After a slight pause, the powerhouse of rock ‘n’ roll dove into a pair of originals, “Holden Oversoul” off Space Wrangler and an intense “You Got Yours” from Bombs and Butterflies.
A spectacular rendition of “Time Zones” followed, featuring an extensive jam with Dave Schools and Jimmy Herring going back and forth. A rarely played version of the instrumental “Happy” came next, which transitioned beautifully into a stirring performance of Vic Chestnutt’s song “Aunt Avis”. Segueing smoothly through an extended version of the rowdy fan favorite “Rebirtha”, to close the first set, JoJo Hermann took lead vocals on the notorious ode to excessive drinking, “Blackout Blues”, to conclude the nearly-80 minute frame.
Widespread Panic began the badass second set by performing a cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” in its entirety before Dave Schools took the vocal reins on a cover of the traditional blues song “One Kind Favor.” The band once again displayed their diversity as they transitioned smoothly from a soft bass line to the violent hammering of the original tune “Imitation Leather Shoes”—describing a Kafka-esque Metamorphosis” with an extended “The Other One” tease in between. The band’s lively elegy to the ways of the old South followed with “Cotton Was King”.
After allowing silence to fall, Sonny Ortiz and Jimmy Herring hinted the opening licks to the comical true story of “Hatfield”, who was paid $10,000 by the city of Los Angeles to concoct rain to end a severe drought (soon thereafter, the city flooded). Luckily, the rains held off, even after John Bell threatened to invoke the sorcery of Hatfield and his brother. This version of “Hatfield” had all the good improvisation from John Bell, in which he describes Hatfield’s mama (“A big, beautiful German woman…), and the entire band executed an impeccable performance from start to finish.
The band then called on the talents of George Porter Jr. for an outstanding rendition of The Meters’ song “Ain’t No Use” with George Porter Jr. lending his bass and vocals to the music. The smiles on every single musician’s face on stage was priceless, and Dave Schools and George Porter Jr. looked like they were having an absolute blast sharing the bass pocket together.
“Ain’t No Use”
To continue the destructive nature of having two bassists on stage, the band then continued into a swampy, mired version of “Arleen”. The bassists rocked, John Bell entranced, Jimmy Herring mesmerized with his sorcery, Jojo danced his digits up and down the piano, and Duane Trucks and Sonny Ortiz kept the rhythm punctuated flawlessly. The sextet resumed the tropical debauchery with a cover of Jerry Joseph’s “Chainsaw City” and finished the set energetically and boisterously with a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime”.
To keep the tone lively and badass, the band came back to play “Honky Red”, a Murray McLauchlan cover from Widespread Panic’s latest album Street Dogs. Another reference to Mexico followed with a cover of Jerry Joseph’s shakin’ tune “North” which had John Bell singing:
Some look for religion; others look for truth
Baby, it seems I spend my days, looking all over for you
You think that it’s stupid, I say that it’s cool.
Haul you back to Mexico, Send me back to school.
With one more night of music still on the table, the band perseveres to energize a fatigued, sun-burnt, and drunk crowd once again. With a “1986” theme for the last night, it is without doubt that Widespread Panic is returning to their roots with an old-school set. It’s time for the audience to use whatever gas that they still have in the tank and expend the remainder of their energy on the dance floor. Let’s do it, folks, every single one of you has made me proud this weekend; time to finish strong.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Panic En La Playa Siete | Riviera Maya, Mexico | 1/28/2018
Set One: Conrad, Sharon, Holden Oversoul, You Got Yours, Time Zones, Happy > Aunt Avis > Rebirtha, Blackout Blues
Set Two: Mr Soul, One Kind Favor > Imitation Leather Shoes, Cotton Was King, Hatfield, It Ain’t No Use*, Arleen**, Chainsaw City, Life During Wartime
Encore: Honky Red, North
* w/ George Porter Jr on bass & vocals
** w/ George Porter Jr on bass
‘The Other One’ jam out of ‘One Kind Favor’
Check out the full gallery below from Dave Vann.