Monsters of swamp rock, Widespread Panic, returned to the Louisiana bayous for their first night of spooky, boogie-woogie. The three-night Halloween spectacular, commonly referred to as NOLAween, has a storied history of themed shenanigans, nasty curveballs, and off-the-wall bust-outs and debuts. The jam band took the stage at the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans for the first night. The setlist was made almost entirely originals with a glorious tribute to The Allman Brothers Band and conventional covers from Vic Chesnutt and Jerry Joseph.

A slew of originals kicked off the run with a beastly evolution of “Conrad” before Panic moved on to share workingman’s gospel through an inspirational “Pleas”. JoJo Hermann took the reins for a “One Armed Steve” and retold the story of one of his first gigs in the band. It wasn’t long before Jimmy Herring cut into an untraditional solo.

To follow, bassist Dave Schools swayed the melody into a mighty “Machine”. Like pistons firing in a six-cylinder combustible engine, this band was an absolute unit, cohesive and powerful. Rolling down the road, Widespread traversed over the horizon into a well-oiled “Barstools and Dreamers”.

Stopping for a bite to eat, Panic waited patiently for “mama’s gumbo” in a simmering “Thought Sausage”. John Bell “stirred the sauce” until finally the singer announced, “Come n’ git it!” The musicians took a breather and ate a bowl of gumbo goodness before launching into “The Last Straw” to finish out the string of originals.

The first cover of the night came to light with a jaw-dropping “Mountain Jam”, paying tribute to the Allman Brothers Band’s Duane Allman on the 50th anniversary of his tragic death. What seemed to start out as a simple tease built into the ninth-ever performance of the song. Half of the past performances occurred in ‘87-’88, the band’s fledgling years.

Wrapping up the first set with two more covers, WSP honored Vic Chesnutt with the double whammy “Protein Shake”/ “Sewing Machine” combination. Schools and JoJo on organ took advantage of the first half and gave Herring space to roam during the latter jam. After 75-minutes of scorchers, Widespread Panic walked off the stage to cool off.

Coming back for second set with a triplet of originals, Dave Schools led the vanguard into “Walkin’ (For Your Love)”. The music bottomed out, as the band gave the song a faux death before jumping back in to wallop the finish. Another bass-heavy bombardment, “Rock”, followed with the riotous Schools paving the way with fistfuls of dynamite.

Related: Widespread Panic Shares Pro-Shot Video Of “Hey Pocky Way” With George Porter Jr. [Watch]

Sonny Ortiz’s percussions introduced a mystical “Hatfield” before JB broke it down with his colorful improvisation with a unique take on the “same stuff they talk about over and over and over again.” (“Hot, hot, hot in the summertime” & “2-String banjos”). After JB quelled his imagination, the Panics ripped through the jaunty Jerry Joseph tune, “Time Zones”, for the first cover of the second set.

As Sonny’s castanets clammed the introduction, JoJo switched from piano to organ and clavinet for a funky “Pigeons” flight around the French Quarter. JB swapped out “cloudy” for a warmer perspective: “Reflections looking clearer when you’re working on a sunny day.” During the breakdown, Schools and Herring chased down different but equally uncharted rabbit holes culminating in a spiraling, cataclysmic meltdown.

Continuing the wanton destruction, JoJo’s piano laid out the initial groundwork for a tumultuous “Bust It Big” sandwich with an extended “Drums” and insatiable “Contentment Blues” inside. JB was ravenous as a man that gave up fried chicken for Lent and ended his fast for Easter dinner at KFC. Finger-lickin’ good stuff here, folks.

Related: Widespread Panic Frontman John Bell Talks Getting COVID-19 & Returning To The Road [Interview]

Panic wound down the second set with a pairing of old-school classics with the instrumental “Party At Your Mama’s House” leading the way for a spicy, set-closing “Ribs And Whiskey”. Herring shone with a golden-white aura during the instrumental that was so brilliantly dazzling, that anyone who stared too long suffered from temporary blindness, disorientation, and crispy retinas. JB featured his slide guitar for the closer.

Widespread Panic concluded the first night of festivities with an intoxicating performance of “Blackout Blues” led by JoJo’s vocals and piano. The grand finale came in the form of the second Jerry Joseph cover of the evening with a rowdy “North”. With exception to a handful of songs, most of last night’s selections debuted in the late ’80s, early ’90s for an old-school classic show.

The band returns to the stage for the second night of debauchery same time, same place. Who knows what tricks and treats these nefarious knaves have in store for us? Take care of each other out there, let’s show this city what it means to be, Goodpeople!

A reminder there is a Second Line marching today, October 30th, from 3:30-4:00 this afternoon at Santos Bar in honor of Danny Hutchens. Bloodkin is playing late night there tonight.

Setlist: Widespread Panic | UNO Lakefront Arena | New Orleans, LA | 10/29/21

Oct 29th – New Orleans – 8:19 CT
Night One
Set One (8:19 CT): Conrad, Pleas, One Arm Steve, Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, Thought Sausage, The Last Straw > Mountain Jam (The Allman Brothers Band), Protein Drink / Sewing Machine (75 mins)

Set Two: Walkin’ (For Your Love), Rock, Hatfield, Time Zones (Jerry Joseph) > Pigeons, Bust It Big > Drums > Contentment Blues > Bust It Big, Party At Your Mama’s House, Ribs and Whiskey (93 mins)

Encore: Blackout Blues, North (Jerry Joseph) (16 mins)