Just a day after the Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, declared a new holiday commemorating Widespread Panic, the band steamrolled onward for a second performance at the Riverside Theater last night. It was a bombastic Friday night with rare covers and mega jams coming from all angles of the stage and setlist.
The swampy, six-piece emerged from the shadows of the Riverside Theater to offer Brew City another sizzler led by these world-class rockstars. Jimmy Herring cut into a spiritually uplifting rendition of “Pilgrims”. As the opener disappeared over the horizon, the troupe of musical vagrants moved on to cover Bukka White‘s “Fixin’ To Die”. John Bell’s vocals embodied the cosmic spirit of Col. Bruce Hampton, who long ago incorporated the tune into his repertoire.
A triple pairing of originals followed as Panic loaded the audience into an aircraft and Jimmy Herring ascended into the atmosphere. Trays were locked in their upright position allowing Dave Schools to land a wild, turbulent jam into a classic take on “Wondering”. Rounding out the free-flowing jams, WSP galloped “Space Wrangler” into this kaleidoscopic rodeo.
Man-oh-man, a hard-hitting take on “Dyin’ Man” led the way into Vic Chesnutt‘s “Sleeping Man” featuring vocal work from Schools’ zone. To wind down the first frame of bangers, WSP crushed a white-water rapid ride through “Proving Ground” before closing with a cover Neil Young‘s “Mr. Soul”.
Panic returned to stage for the second set with guns a-blazin’ as “All Time Low” reminded any and all to “shoot first and ask questions later / if anybody mess with you.” JoJo Hermann led the group’s transition into a funky cover of J.J. Cale‘s “Ride Me High”. A second segue seeped into a surprising selection of Chuck Berry‘s “Let It Rock” to fire up the rowdy audience for the first time since the Capitol Theater run in early 2019.
After a brief pause, JoJo retook the helm to revive “Big Wooly Mammoth” for a prehistoric romp around Milwaukee. To follow, John Bell bopped into “Gradle” giving the swinging audience a chance to “dance out of all our clothes.”
The meat and potatoes of the second set began by honoring the late founder of the band and lingering lead, Michael “Mikey” Houser, with an emotionally charged “Gimme” before a heavy jam, “Entering a Black Hole Backwards”, came into fruition. Afterward, the Panics put the pedal to the floor and didn’t look back.
Chaos ensued as the heavy, percussive “Black Hole” flowed into the first half of “Chilly Water”. As is tradition, water flew from their respective confines and into the air of the confined venue. To the astonishment of the audience, Panic inserted a frenzied performance of War‘s “Four Cornered Room”—including a dirty “Room at the Top”, Tom Petty rap—before returning to the second half of a thirst-quenching “Chilly Water”. The music never stopped as WSP closed out the back nine with a boisterous cover of The Talking Heads‘ “Life During Wartime”.
The band walked offstage and hardly anybody left their seats. The zealots waited in unruly anticipation as Panic shuffled back to their instruments and strummed the casual opening notes of “Old Joe”. To close out the triumphant second night, Widespread Panic revisited Tom Petty’s catalog with a rumbling and badass rendition of “Honey Bee”.
Widespread Panic has now passed the point of no return. Halfway done, yet only halfway begun. Hope you Goodpeople saved some energy to finish this run out, surely the boys will come out swinging tonight. The scales that are currently suspended in a delicate balance will soon tip with the force of a freight train. Y’all best be ready when it does. Good luck, be safe, and look out for each other.
Below, check out a full setlist from the performance and scroll down for a gallery of images from the show, courtesy of photographer Daniel Ojeda. Head here for additional Widespread Panic tour dates and tickets.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Riverside Theater | Milwaukee, WI | 10/22/21
Set One: Pilgrims, Fixin’ To Die (Bukka White), Airplane > Jam > Wondering > Space Wrangler, Dyin’ Man, Sleeping Man (Vic Chestnut), Proving Ground, Mr Soul (Neil Young)
Set Two: All Time Low > Jam > Ride Me High (J.J. Cale) > Let It Rock (Chuck Berry), Big Wooly Mammoth, Gradle, Gimme, Entering a Black Hole Backwards > Chilly Water > Four Cornered Room (War) > Chilly Water > Life During Wartime (The Talking Heads)
Encore: Old Joe, Honey Bee (Tom Petty)
– ‘Let It Rock’ LTP 3/22/19 Port Chester (62 shows)
– ‘Gradle’ LTP 8/24/19 Nashville (40 shows)
– ‘Entering A Black Hole Backwards’ LTP 11/01/19 NOLA (32 shows)
– ‘Room At The Top’ rap (Tom Petty) during ‘Four Cornered Room’
– ‘Old Joe’ LTP 8/23/19 Nashville (41 shows)