After an action-packed assortment of awesomeness, SweetWater 420 Festival in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park came to a resounding conclusion 0n Sunday with the second of two performances on the weekend for the leviathans of rock and roll, Widespread Panic.
The weather warmed up as Easter Sunday proved to be a righteous end to a memorable festival weekend. The outdoor springtime shows proved to be a stark contrast from Panic’s recent Atlanta tradition of New Year’s Eve at the Fox Theater, and the crowd’s excitement could not be contained.
From atop their SweetWater Main Stage altar, Widespread Panic opened the sermon with back-to-back covers, Van Morrison’s “Send Your Mind” followed by Jerry Joseph’s “Climb to Safety”. The latter tune features the lyrics “Baby, we can walk on water,” relevant to Easter as one of Jesus’s biblical stories. Returning to the band’s repertoire of originals, the Panics kicked it up a notch for a high-throttle “You Got Yours” from Bombs & Butterflies. The song has apocalyptic tones with the lyrics, “I’ve got my hole in the wall/ Somewhere I can go when the sky begins to fall.” Dave Schools echoed John Bell‘s vocals as Sonny Ortiz and Duane Trucks pounded the rhythms out with zealous passion before Jimmy Herring took the jam into overdrive.
The slow, rolling introduction of the Grateful Dead‘s “Cream Puff War” whipped the audience into an unholy frenzy. Although “Cream Puff War” was one of the first covers that Widespread played, this marked just the third time in as many years that the band played the early Dead tune. Walking down the tarmac, the band loaded the attendees on an “Airplane” with mellow harmonies until the “Take Off Jam” took the aircraft to unprecedented altitudes. Nugs.tv did an amazing job with the split-screen, pro-shot video to capture the development of this high-flying jam.
JoJo Hermann landed the turbulent ride into a jumping version of “Jaded Tourist”. JoJo manned lead vocals, but JB lent a helping hand with more Easter-relevant lyrics (“Walked up from the catacombs”). For those uninformed about the holiday, Easter was the day that Jesus resurrected from his tomb and walked among the living three days after his crucifixion and subsequent death. As JoJo’s keys faded out, Herring’s guitar picked up the guitar riff of “Pilgrims” and led the exodus into the Promised Land.
To conclude the first set, Widespread Panic welcomed guitarist/singer/songwriter Jason Isbell to the stage for a knockout holiday special of covers. First, Isbell and Panic worked through ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” before nailing a rendition of “I’m So Glad”. Like so many old blues songs, “I’m So Glad” has unknown origins but was first recorded by Skip James and subsequently adopted many other acts including Cream, Traffic, and the late Col. Bruce Hampton. Isbell—also on slide guitar—Herring, and JoJo traded some finger-licking good riffs throughout both tunes before walking off the stage for a chance to catch their breaths.
Upon returning from setbreak, Widespread reanimated the audience with the classic instrumental “Disco”. Staying true to the band’s early gospel, the evolutionary “Conrad” ripped apart its cocoon like Jesus out of his tomb. JoJo’s synthesized keys redirected the musical revelation into J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” before the band returned to their own catalog for a pair of originals.
The band of brethren—onstage and off—bonded in spiritual camaraderie with “I’m Not Alone” from the band’s self-titled second album. The bass-heavy advent of the original jubilee, “Tie Your Shoes”, spiraled out of control until the bass notes of Winston Riley’s “Arleen” escorted the jam from purgatory through St. Peter’s gate into musical paradise. JB and Schools seemed to experience divine improvisational epiphanies that caused them both to speak in tongues in a display of divine intervention.
With their minds still scrambled from the spiritual rendering, the band mixed up holidays and dove into “Christmas Katie” with the furious intensity before carrying over into another electrifying original, “Radio Child.” Dave Schools introduced pair of covers to round out the second set as Calvin Carter & Bobby Rush‘s “Bowlegged Woman” sizzled with “excitement on the side” before moving into Jerry Joseph’s “North”.
Reappearing mystically on stage for their encores, Widespread Panic devoted their energies to glorifying Talking Heads‘ “City of Dreams”. As expected, the shouted lyrics “And in Southern U.S.A.” brought beatific cheers from the 50,000 devoted disciples in attendance. WSP continued down their own humble path for the ensuing encore “Porch Song” before concluding their 420 Fest weekend with the frenzied bang that is “Action Man”.
Widespread Panic continues to spread the word of the swamps next weekend in North Charleston, South Carolina at their Trondossa Music & Arts Festival for two days (4/27, 4/28) alongside Umphrey’s McGee, The Wood Brothers, The Marcus King Band, and more. As always with this unstoppable band and their cult following, it’s never wise to miss a Southern show.
For a full list of Widespread Panic’s upcoming tour dates, head here. Below, you can watch a full, pro-shot video of the Sunday SweetWater 420 Fest performance courtesy of Nugs.tv:
Widespread Panic – Sweetwater 420 Fest – 4/20/19 – Full Pro-Shot Video
As always, you can also listen to an audio recording of the performance via PanicStream.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | SweetWater 420 Fest | Atlanta, GA | 4/21/19
Set One: Send Your Mind, Climb To Safety, You Got Yours, Cream Puff War, Airplane > Take-off Jam > Jaded Tourist, Pilgrims, Jesus Just Left Chicago*, I’m So Glad* (67 mins)
Set Two: Disco, Conrad, Ride Me High, I’m Not Alone, Tie Your Shoes > Jam > Arleen > Christmas Katie > Radio Child, Bowlegged Woman, North (95 mins)
Encore: City of Dreams, Porch Song, Action Man (17 mins)
Notes * w/ Jason Isbell on guitar
[‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ LTP 10/20/17 Milwaukee (58 shows)]