After a solid first night and a scorching-hot Saturday night, Widespread Panic’s three-night run peaked at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a final evening of music. Last night marked the 64th time as a headlining act and the 60th consecutive sold-out show for the band at the legendary venue in Morrison, Colorado. The late-afternoon matinee threatened to be too hot, but the weather remained comfortable, even past sunset. The crowd, now running on fumes, climbed the endless sets of stairs one last time to unload their burdens and dance away their cares.
To open the final night, Panic wandered through a version of “Pilgrims” from the 1993 album Everyday. The vagrant tune featured a lively John Bell advising us, “Listen, if it feels good, we shake.” The audience was shaking for the good feelings because Jimmy Herring energized the jam from a peaceful walk in the park to an intergalactic sight-seeing trip through the universe at lightspeed.
“C. Brown” came next, reminding us that, “You can walk on home with me, you don’t even need to think a word, you don’t have to worry!” with the tune’s casual strolling pace. JoJo Hermann flourished on his piano by commandeering the helm for an intoxicating rendition of “Blackout Blues” from 94’s Ain’t Life Grand album.
The engine was firing on all cylinders when the bassline of Tom Waits’ “Goin Out West” catalyzed a fire that couldn’t be extinguished. JB nailed the vocals with the lethal precision of a guillotine before Jimmy Herring took off to interstellar domains only returning to pass the musical torch to Dave Schools, who played heartily while staring with hollow soul-stealing eyes into the abyss. As Nietzsche said, “Sometimes when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.”
Schools embraced the darkness and bounced the rhythm straight through Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues.” The band has now covered Neil Young in the first set in each of the three nights of this run. A tinkling piano revealed “Driving Song” as John Bell carved out the scenic introduction. As the Sunday drive progressed, a blazin’ “Disco” was sandwiched in-between the first and second verses of “Driving Song.”
Widespread Panic – “Driving Song” / “Disco” / “Driving Song”
Nearly completing the set, JoJo sang lead vocals of “Greta” as Jimmy Herring waited patiently until it was time to inject his own personal take on nuclear fusion into the song. As is tradition, Schools–along with the show’s raucous audience–provided the animal sounds, including dog howls, feral yelping and otherworldly manifestations (“Swarm of yellow rabbits!… How’s it gonna be?”)
An elusive transition eventually manifested into Jerry Joseph’s “North” that brought the first set to a righteous conclusion by covering half of the cardinal directions in this set alone. With a nod of appreciation toward the audience, Widespread shuffled off stage to mentally prepare for the next half of this mythical show.
Upon returning from set break, a light mist enshrouded the mountains. Widespread Panic jumped right into a double cover of The Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature” before shakin’ the venue with the transformative tale of “Conrad” the caterpillar. JB came out for second set with his baseball cap flipped backwards, so when “Conrad” burst forth from his cocoon to wreak unholy havoc, many expected the evening to take a turn towards the incredible. Sunny Ortiz was playing
percussion on anything he could find, shakers, drums, you name it, he played it.
The setlist kept getting crazier as John Dawson’s “Dirty Business” swung into the scene with JB serenading through JoJo’s gliding, piano- laden tempo. The tune was last played last October in Milwookie. Near the end of the song, Jimmy Herring sizzled through a high-voltage solo and continued to electrify throughout the heavy transition jam that was marked on setlist as a lightning bolt and was noted on Panicstream.com as “The Other One jam.”
Eventually, after an unreal, improvised jam, “All Time Low” tumbled like a barrel, thrown from the top of a waterfall. JB took lead vocals as JoJo lent his piano and voice for support. Herring, once more, waited patiently for his time to shine, but when unleashed, the pure aura of the White Wizard was visible from space as he began to whip up a batch of lightning-frosted, whoop-ass.
Widespread Panic – “All Time Low”
[Video: Michael Wilker]
The music descended into the depths of hell with Schools carrying the pitchfork as JoJo, JB, and Herring added to the madness. To ice this infernal ride of a “Zambi Jam”, Schools, like a man possessed, began to chant demonic mantras to add to the sounds of insanity resembling the ferryman Charon on the River Styx as he escorted the audience into the nether realms of the underworld. As the chanting wound its third repetition, little impish demons started circling Schools who began laughing like a mischievous child who accidentally summoned Cthulu. Duane Trucks was seen sporting a “Col. Bruce Hampton Ret. World Heavyweight Champion” and the band honored their late mentor, Col. Bruce Hampton’s philosophy with this bizarre musical breakdown.
The audience craned their necks to pinpoint the impending apocalypse and certain doom, however, no God of Destruction appeared. When the audience refocused their attention back to the stage, it was to discover JoJo giving a rundown of J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High.” Like a swiss-army knife, JoJo’s many tools were on full display with his vocals, clavinet, and piano all being utilized for this jam. Jimmy Herring’s breakfast of nitroglycerin-laced Wheaties and gunpowder-flavored protein drink provided the explosive kick that set the night over the edge with nonstop maelstrom solos.
The slow piano introduction of Steve Winwood’s “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” gave JB the opportunity to explore his vocal range and strength. Herring maintained his incredible intensity as JoJo stuck with him stride for stride delving deeper with the subsequent original “Impossible.” The jams that were cut resembled a massive circular sawblade ripping through the audience and leaving their minds dripping through their eyes and ears. Most stood open-mouthed and aghast, as the percussionists Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz pounded their way into the hard-hitting “Cease Fire.”
To round out the second set, Panic covered a dance-inducing take of Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” There appeared to be a political undertone to this song selection with “Cease Fire” bleeding into “Life During Wartime” as an observation of today’s rampant violent and war-riddled world. Nobody minded the light drizzle as the tired audience gave the rest of their energy to passionately sing and dance in the rain with each other.
Returning for a quadruple encore on the last show of the three-night run, John Bell thanked the audience immediately before Widespread Panic busted-out a cover of The Dillards’ “There is a Time” for only the second time ever. The last time played was in Asheville, North Carolina for 2015’s Halloween show. The Dillards are better known as The Darlings from The Andy Griffith Show.
Widespread Panic – “There Is A Time”
[Video: Michael Wilker]
Widespread Panic – “The Waker”
[Video: Jenn Cornelison]
The piano rhythms faded out as Jimmy Herring led the band through the instrumental diddle “The Take Out” from their debut album Space Wrangler. However, the icing of this glorious cake came as the band transitioned into “The Waker” for only the second time in nearly twenty years. Written by late founding guitarist Michael Houser for his son, Waker Houser, the band brought it off the shelf as a New Year’s Eve treat in Atlanta six months ago, and everyone rejoiced to celebrate the song staying in
rotation. To conclude the quadruple encore, Widespread Panic returned to their 1988 debut album with a fast-paced “Porch Song” to finish off the Red Rocks run in style.
After a two-week hiatus, Widespread Panic climbs further into the Rocky Mountains as a two-day headlining act at this year’s RIDE Festival in Telluride, Colorado on July 12th and 13th . To anyone that made the annual pilgrimage to Red Rocks, surely you cannot feel anything other than blessed as the band delivers one of the best runs of the year and possibly the last few years. Count your blessings, and thank your stars, Goodpeople. Until next time, be safe.
Head to Widespread Panic’s website for a full list of their upcoming tour dates, ticketing, and more information.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 6/30/2019
Set One: Pilgrims, C. Brown, Blackout Blues, Goin’ Out West > Vampire Blues, Driving Song > Disco > Driving Song, Greta > North (74 mins)
Set Two: No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature, Conrad, Dirty Business > Jam > All Time Low > Zambi Jam > Ride Me High > Low Spark of High Heeled Boys > Impossible > Cease Fire > Life During Wartime (98 mins)
Encore: There Is A Time, The Take Out > The Waker > Porch Song (18 mins)
Notes – ‘There Is A Time’ LTP 10/31/15 Asheville (173 shows) – 2nd time played
– Entire show with Edie Jackson, ASL interpreter