After two incredible nights of music on Friday and Saturday, Widespread Panic returned to Morrison, CO on Sunday for the final show of the run—the band’s 63rd consecutive sold-out Red Rocks show as a headlining act. As many expected, the band paid tribute to recently fallen friend and fellow Athens rocker, Daniel Hutchens, with an entire first set of Bloodkin covers—from rarely-played gems to songs that have become live Widespread Panic staples through the years.
John Bell came out with his red cap on backwards, as foreboding as the incoming storm on the horizon, before leading off the Red Rocks finale with “Can’t Get High”, which has been a go-to in the band’s catalog since its live debut in 1993. The first surprise came early with a weather-appropriate “Wet Trombone Blues”. WSP has only performed this Bloodkin tune four times previously, and hasn’t dusted it off since 7/6/2016, a gap of 383 shows.
As the Denver sky offered its first hints of precipitation, JB sang Hutchens’ lyrics, “The rain’s been found to move around / Anywhere your hat is hung / Good luck, I think you’re gonna need it / When you’re caught out in the storm.”
Two more commonly played covers followed with an ethereal “Henry Parsons Died” preceding the rhetorical “Who Do You Belong To?” (“Clearly not yourself!”) before JB captivated with “Quarter Tank of Gasoline.” The band was hardly running on fumes and compressed impactful punches into every syllable of Hutchens’ poetic and weighty lyrics.
Widespread continued to rifle through Hutchens and his Bloodkin partner Eric Carter‘s repertoire, both new and old, and debuted “Trashy” off Bloodkin’s 2021 release, Black Market Tango. The track was among a handful recorded in one take by Danny, Eric, and their supporting cast for the new record. Before introducing the song, JB stated the obvious: “If you didn’t notice, we are honoring our brothers Danny and Eric tonight. Brothers, Bloodkin.”
JB modified the lyrics to the familiar tune, “Makes Sense to Me” with the lyrics “I’d rather have some love than a gun!” Never ceasing to amaze, the Panics followed with a second debut of the night in “Mercy Train to Bogart”, the last track on Bloodkin’s 1996 album, Creeperweed. Jimmy Herring donned the conductor’s hat to take this train past Bogart, through Busan, before careening off the tracks and into a black hole of spiraling scales and multi-dimensional guitar riffs.
To round out the first set, Panic delivered a pairing of “Success Yourself” and “End of the Show”, two of the final three songs off Bloodkin’s ’94 release, Good Luck Charm. “Success Yourself” hasn’t appeared on a WSP setlist since 7/6/2013—the same show as the last “Wet Trombone”. JB brought out his mandolin for this heavy-hearted “End of the Show”, which closed out the first set for the first time ever. Before walking offstage, JB stepped back to the mic for one last appreciative goodbye: “Thank you, Bloodkin. Thank you, Mr. Danny!”
Throughout the emotional tribute set, there were heart wrenching moments that softened the most stoic of hearts. Daniel Hutchens’ brutally honest lyrics mix an artful blend of self-deprecating reality with lofty romantic ideals (“We’re trashy but we’re true”). Like dreaming of the stars while lying in the gutter or finding pure happiness while drenched to the bone at a WSP show, Hutchens’ lyrics capture the struggles of everyday life, the highest of highs and the low-down and dirty feeling of rock-bottom which he explored with grace and humility. Daniel Hutchens was a supreme lyricist, and his charisma and talents will be missed. So, thank you, Mr. Danny. Thank you.
The band resumed its chartered warpath of wanton destruction upon returning from set break, channeling Hell’s fury and Heaven’s form with an absolutely raging second set. To kick off this second set of scorchers, Panic performed a hard-hitting “Postcard”, a tune inspired by fan and friend of the band Thomas “Bear” Guenther. Duane Trucks, Sonny Ortiz, and JB’s slide guitar led the band through a percussive “Rock” before an uplifting “Pleas” took the audience into Sunday Service at the Church of Red Rocks, the Reverend Jimmy Herring dispersing the remaining rain clouds with his hallowed guitar riffs.
The stream of music trickled into a monster version of Murray McLauchlan’s “Honky Red” before Dave Schools overtook the vanguard to lead the charge across the River Styx and through Vic Chesnutt’s “Protein Drink > Sewing Machine.” When Schools battered down the gates of Hell, Jimmy Herring was already standing there, mid-solo, and throwing fistfuls of fire in all directions.
After a slight pause to cool off, the steady roll of Duane Trucks’ drums introduced a satisfying “Diner”. Last night’s rendition featured a colorfully JB rap in which he couldn’t sleep, but luckily the diner opened early (“at 4:48”). He then proceeded to put some music on the jukebox while drinking his coffee and put his head down to just “lay there, before the respectable people arrive.” (“Holy place show up in the funniest places”). A scorching jam slowed down and transitioned into a dreamlike “Jamais Vu” before the band took their last pause of the second set.
For the crème de la crème, Panic concocted a 29-minute “Airplane > Red Hot Mama > Fishwater” segment that took off > got down > and finally left an audience who’s been “cooped up too long” wanting “Mo’, mo’, mo!!” Both “Red Hot Mama” and “Fishwater” featured sizzling call-and-response sections with Jimmy Herring’s gold PRS guitar trading licks with Schools. Later in “Fishwater”, Trucks and Sonny dueled on their respective drum kits before Schools and JB exchanged a heated vocal conversation. When the band walked off after the second set, the stage was still smoking, and any precipitation that fell, instantly evaporated. Most fans would have gladly paid just for that last half-hour of nonstop jams.
Coming back for the encores, JB quipped, “Thank you for nursing us back to health, you weekend Red Rocksians.” To launch the three-song encore, JoJo Hermann’s tinkling piano led the group through the beloved “Blue Indian”. The sound resonated through the darkened mountain sky and echoed between the two massive rock columns as the audience embodied the living testament to the lyrics, “We got a party going on! / Many spirits strong!”
Keeping the good vibes maxed, WSP played Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” for only the tenth time ever. The song was debuted in 2003 but was shelved until Col. Bruce Hampton‘s passing in 2017 (Hampton, a longtime WSP mentor, incorporated the tune into his act many years ago). To finish out 2021’s celebratory return to live music at Red Rocks, Panics performed a bouncing “Love Tractor.”
If you missed WSP at Red Rocks, don’t you worry—there is a full schedule on the horizon. A total of 33 shows are locked in for 2021, which is already shaping up to be a legendary year. Next up for Panic is the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Riverfront Park Amphitheater in Wilmington, NC on July 16th–18th. For the full list of shows, click here. Until next time folks, stay well. Hope to see you in NC!
Check out the setlist from the third and final night of Widespread Panic at Red Rocks as well as a selections of photos and videos from the show.
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Widespread Panic – Red Rocks – Set One Preview – 6/27/21
Widespread Panic – Red Rocks – Set One Preview – 6/27/21
Widespread Panic – Red Rocks – “Blue Indian” (Partial) – 6/27/21
[Video: Mic Lipp]
Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Red Rocks | Morrison, CO | 6/27/21
Set One: Can’t Get High, Wet Trombone Blues, Henry Parsons Died, Who Do You Belong To?, Quarter Tank of Gasoline, Trashy, Makes Sense To Me, Mercy Train To Bogart, Success Yourself, End of the Show* (63 mins, all songs by Bloodkin)
Set Two: Postcard, Rock, Pleas > Honky Red (Murray McLauchlan), Protein Drink / Sewing Machine (brute.), Diner > Jamais Vu (The World Has Changed), Airplane > Red Hot Mama (Funkadelic) > Fishwater (98 mins)
Encore: Blue Indian, I’m So Glad (Skip James) > Love Tractor (18 mins)
Notes * w/ JB on mandolin
– ‘Wet Trombone Blues’ LTP 7/06/2013 Grand Targhee (383 shows)
– ‘Quarter Tank of Gasoline’ LTP 10/19/2018 Milwaukee (66 shows)
– ‘Trashy’ first time played (Bloodkin)
– ‘Mercy Train To Bogart’ first time played (Bloodkin)
– ‘Success Yourself’ LTP 7/06/2013 Grand Targhee (383 shows)
– ‘Jamais Vu’ LTP 10/19/2018 Milwaukee (66 shows)
– First time ‘End of the Show’ has closed 1st set
– All Bloodkin originals 1st set
– Entire show with Edie Jackson, ASL interpreter