Widespread Panic closed out their impressive three-night Halloween run at the Park Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, with another scorcher of mythic proportions on Sunday night. The night took on a festive Gonzo-theme, with four out of the six members dressed as Hunter S. Thompson characters save John Bell taking center stage as The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Sonny Ortiz as “Chef” from South Park. In addition to the band’s costumes, the stage was arranged like a set out of Fear and Loathing, and swirling kaleidoscopic cutout faces of Hunter S. Thompson spiraled across the visual monitors throughout the night.
To open the first set, Widespread juxtaposed the introduction of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with an extremely psychedelic video of the faces of the band members’ melting and morphing in lysergic style. The music then melded esoterically into the debut of the classic folk song “Home on the Range”, continuing the Gonzoesque “Where the Buffalo Roam” theme that was omnipresent throughout the entire night.
It didn’t take long for Dave Schools to sling his hat into the audience in his distinctive playfully impish, devil-may-care attitude that he naturally embodies. Halfway through “Home on the Range”, the band delved into the debut of Link Wray’s “Rumble”. The loose beachy jam returned to the band’s dirty Swamp sound, giving a nod to fellow brothers of the road, Bloodkin, with a heavy “Henry Parsons Died”. JoJo Hermann’s keys echoed eerily throughout the number, before the band settled into a haunting version of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues”, appropriate for the Halloween festivities.
The band busted out “Don’t Tell the Band” next—a poignant song that hasn’t been played since founding member Mikey Houser’s days with the band, with the band last playing the song in June of 2002. Reigniting the atmosphere, the group followed up “Don’t Tell The Band” with a saucy, gritty, and soulful version of Bill Wither’s “Use Me.” The band’s engine raged onward into the crowd favorite “Up All Night”, an inverted “Shut Up and Drive”, and a blazin’ “Conrad”, which closed the first set in Widespread’s fiery bass-thumpin’, guitar-screeching, trademark style.
For the second set, the band came out swingin’ with the raucous and dehydrating anthem “Chilly Water” and continued with Robert Johnson’s blues classic “Tail Dragger”, during which JB doggedly warned that “he will get what he wants, but he won’t come sneakin’ back.” A standout “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” followed—a stark contrast to the previous night’s dedication to the ladies. The band then sawed out a jagged version of their original tune “Proving Ground”, which housed the vocal-less second half of “Home on the Range” featuring Jimmy Herring carving out the notes on his mythical guitar.
Another Halloween-inspired debut followed with Steppenwolf classic “Magic Carpet Ride”, which maintained the high energy of the show. The band took a brief respite while Duane Trucks and Ortiz hammered out an extended drum solo, with the solo eventually emerging into their original song “Cease Fire” from their last album, Street Dogs. This transitioned seamlessly into an impeccably appropriate cut of the optimistic “City of Dreams” before the group ended the set with another Neil Young cover from his Buffalo Springfield days, “Mr. Soul”.
“Magic Carpet Ride”
With all the stops already removed, the band encored with the old traditional “House of the Rising”—the hauntingly soulful and foreboding ode to a tragically doomed gambler. The song hasn’t been played since 2014, and the audience responded uproariously. The song lingered momentarily before the band segued once more into the final section of “Home on the Range” with JoJo tinkering the lead on his keys. What better way to finish the wild and unprecedented night of music than with another debut, this time of Free’s “All Right Now”, with JB nailing the vocals.
In true Gonzo tradition, the three unbelievable nights left all spectators with the content satisfaction that it “did, in fact, get weird enough.” Bravo, boys, way to bring the Georgian swamps to the bat ravished wasteland that is Las Vegas.
Listen to the full audio below, courtesy of Z-Man via JamBuzz:
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Park Theater | Las Vegas, NV | 10/29/2017
Set One: Intro to Fear and Loathing, Home on the Range*, Rumble* > Henry Parsons Died, Vampire Blues, Don’t Tell The Band^, Use Me, Up All Night, Shut Up And Drive, Conrad
Set Two: Chilly Water, Tail Dragger, Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Proving Ground > Home on the Range, Magic Carpet Ride* > Jam > Drums > Cease Fire > City of Dreams, Mr. Soul
Encore: House of the Rising Sun > Home on the Range, All Right Now*
* First time played | ^ Last time played, 6/25/02
Check out the gallery below, courtesy of Chris Burgess.