Widespread Panic resumed their four-night run at the Hard Rock Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico with a “1986” theme. The band certainly kicked it off in old school fashion with Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, marking the first time the song opened a WSP show since 1992, with Dave Schools performing lead vocals. JoJo Hermann then took lead vocals on his humorous tale of joining the band in “One Arm Steve”, which opened last year’s Panic en la Playa. Another original “Pleas” followed with John Bell singing lead, while Jimmy Herring and Schools weaved rhythms around each other like world-class opponents in a prestigious boxing match. The band then skillfully segued into “Christmas Katie” with the transition jam being especially noteworthy. Keeping the fire burning, the boys performed an extended rendition of “Junior”, a fan-favorite for its simple yet rough and aggressive tones.

“Contentment Blues” from the album Space Wrangler came next, delivering all the most badass components; outrageous lyrics, heavy bass lines, and several jarring tempo changes. It will be hard to beat John Bell rappin’ about how the “the air smells sweet; the chicken tastes GOOD!” Jimmy Herring polished off another smooth solo in his off-the-cuff style, before Schools, Duane Trucks, and Sonny Ortiz grounded the rhythm to end the jam. Maintaining the intensity appropriate for the last night of music, the band dove into an absolutely ripping version of “Thought Sausage”. A cover of J.J. Cale’s song “Travelin’ Light” finished the first set of music with the lyrical reminder that “Travelin’ light… is the only way to fly” with Dave Schools hammering the abbreviated bass line nearly crushing his guitar into dust with every note.

The second set kicked off with a cover of the Talking Head’s “Swamp”, which had not been played since Wanee 2016. Keeping the grit in the music, the band followed with an always raucous version of “Fishwater” which eventually segued right into the opening licks of “Surprise Valley”. The continuous flow of heaters persisted with the original “Rock”, another swampy song describing fishy water and laying at the bottom of a pool. Another heavy jam “Saint Ex” followed with Dave Schools absolutely ripping apart his bass once again. Another original, the lengthy jam, “Pilgrims”, came next, as John Bell comically improvised lyrics while Jimmy Herring soared through the inner workings of the cosmos.

Widespread Panic debuted a new original song “Sundown Betty”, ultimately hinting at new material from the band and possibly the arrival of an upcoming album. The song had some suave riffs and John Bell delivered some trademark vocals in his signature style of crooning. Jimmy Herring iced the cake with a sizzling solo to finish this tune’s debut. The band then reverted back to the notorious psychedelic jam “Pigeons” which speculates the profound, philosophical conundrum: “What it’s like washing windows when you know that there are pigeons on the roof.” For the third night in a row, Widespread Panic invited a musical guest to make an appearance, this time in the form of Marcus King, who was omnipresent all weekend.

Marcus King alternated lead guitar and lead vocals with Jimmy Herring and John Bell, respectively, on the old blue standard “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” which is accredited to Joseph ‘Blind Willie’ Johnson. The first time the band covered this song was in 1986 with the most recent time being in 2016. The band and Marcus then paid respect to fellow Georgian brethren Allman Brothers Band with an outstanding 20-minute version of “Mountain Jam” to finish the second set.

The band returned to the stage to demolish a rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic blues song “Tail Dragger”. John Bell sings suggestively that “he gits what he wants, and don’t come sneakin’ back” and eventually hints that “they just might come sneakin’ back”. Hopefully, this means that the band will be returning next year to continue this tropical paradise festival. To conclude the final night of music and to close out the jubilee, the boys played a bittersweet and beautiful version of Joe Cocker’s “High Time We Went” which they haven’t performed since 2016.

Watch “Mountain Jam” below, courtesy of MrTopDogger:

As always, the band executed each song with style, precision, and utmost professionalism. The mannerisms and facial expressions, especially with the guest musicians, are a quintessential example of the immense enjoyment that was shared by the band and the audience alike. The audience especially were very friendly, displaying nothing but love and comradery for the band and music in general. The venue once again hosted nearly three thousand lunatics, who’s zeal and enthusiasm was nearly uncontrollable. As long as the band continues playing, I will gladly return until I am physically unable to come back. Good job, ladies and gentlemen, until we dance again, stay happy and healthy.

You can check out photos from Panic En La Playa below, courtesy of  Dave Vann.

Setlist: Widespread Panic | Hard Rock Resort | Riviera Maya, Mexico | 1/26/2018

I: Werewolves of London, One Arm Steve, Pleas > Jam > Christmas Katie > Junior, Contentment Blues, Thought Sausage, Travelin’ Light (58 mins)

II: Swamp, Fishwater > Surprise Valley > Rock, Saint Ex, Pilgrims, Sundown Betty^, Pigeons, Nobody’s Fault But Mine* > Mountain Jam** (110 minutes)

E: Tail Dragger, High Time We Went (15 mins)

Notes ^ FTP – New Original – JB lead vocals
* w/ Marcus King on guitar and vocals
** Marcus King on guitar
‘Werewolves of London’ LTP 9/17/16 Asheville (50 shows) – First opener since 10/31/92 Athens (a lotta shows)
‘Swamp’ LTP 4/16/16 Wanee 92 shows)
‘Pilgrims’ with inverted intro
‘High Time We Went’ LTP 9/23/16 St Augustine (47 shows)