Widespread Panic returned for the second night of their conquest for musical dominance in North Carolina last night at the newly opened Riverfront Park Amphitheater. The weather remained pristine for the Good People, sunny with a cool breeze coming off the river. Night two featured classic originals, cherished covers, and a bust-out from the Michael Houser era.
Getting down to it with a slew of originals, JB and the boys cooked up a saucy “Ribs N Whiskey” before Dave Schools strolled into “Wondering” and a serene “C. Brown”. After another mellow jam through Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me”, Panic returned to their own catalog to pulverize a heavy “Dyin’ Man”—led by Jimmy Herring’s lightning guitar work.
Like the night prior, another Jerry Joseph cover trickled into the setlist with the reggae “Chainsaw City” giving way to “Hatfield”. Using his voodoo powers, JB transformed into the rainmaker that the song describes, getting loose and rapping a whimsical improvisation that included “riding on the back of a motorcycle,” “homemade beers,” and of course “Hatfield’s mama and her two-string banjo.”
To close out the first set, Panic covered Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” for appropriate thematic punctuation. As the band walked off stage, the crowd had the chance to mingle, refill, or both in the enshrouding darkness.
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Right on cue, the Panic boys stepped back to the stage as the sun was setting to perform a scorchin’ cover of War’s “Slippin’ into Darkness”. JoJo Hermann, who is celebrating his birthday on Sunday, got down with the razzle-dazzle during “Greta” before the gang slammed back a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” like a barfly at last call. It was pure heat and the crowd responded reciprocally.
The meat of the second set consisted of a massive sandwich featuring a bust-out of “Happy Child” for the first time in almost twenty years. The tune hasn’t been played for 1,143 shows with the last time played occurring at the first-ever Bonnaroo in 2002, when Mikey was still the lingering lead. The bust-out was laid out between the first and second halves of both “Driving Song” and “The Last Straw” to create a massive 20-minute sandwich, slathered with jams.
Jorma Kaukonen‘s “Genesis” warmed the audience’s hearts before a rowdy cover of Winston Riley’s “Arleen” ripped the hearts from their chest and delivered them–still beating—to whatever rock and roll deity resides over this god-forsaken place. JB delved deep into his well of improvisational wizardry to ad-lib a “Ribs N’ Whiskey” rap (“Nobody move / Nobody get hurt!”)
To close out the second set in righteous fury and fashion, Panic seamlessly wove a molly whoppin’ “Chilly Water” into the glorious mix. Jimmy Herring—like a skilled surgeon—dissected the space-time continuum to fit as many notes as possible into the mélange of melodies.
Coming back for encore, Schools blazed the trail into “Vacation”. Looking around the crowd, there were identical, sunburnt faces reflecting smiles of quiet contentment. To finish the second night, Widespread Panic executed a flawless coup de grace with an up-tempo “Porch Song”. For the grand finale, fireworks were launched from the river to ice this frosty cake of darkness.
Widespread Panic – “Vacation” – Wilmington, NC – 7/17/21
The behemoths of rock and roll return to the stage for the third and final night at Wilmington’s brand-new Riverfront Park Amphitheater. It’s JoJo’s birthday today. Expect the unexpected. See ya’ll on the lawn tonight. Raise hell.
Listen to full audio of Widespread Panic on Saturday at Riverfront Park Amphitheater over on PanicStream.
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Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Riverfront Park Amphitheater | Wilmington, NA | 7/17/2021
Set 1 Ribs & Whiskey, Wondering, C. Brown, Wreck Me, Dyin’ Man, Chainsaw City, Hatfield, For What It’s Worth (61 mins)
Set 2 Slippin’ Into Darkness , Greta > Life During Wartime > Driving Song > The Last Straw > Happy Child  > The Last Straw > Happy Child > Driving Song, Genesis > Arleen  > Chilly Water (78 mins)
Encore Vacation, Porch Song (15 mins)
 w/ Steve Lopez on percussion, LTP 4/27/19 (41 shows)
 LTP 6/22/02 Bonnaroo (1143 shows…1st since Mikey)
 ‘Ribs & Whiskey’ rap in