On the eve of the Memorial Day holiday, Widespread Panic commemorated Justin Townes Earle, who tragically passed away in 2020, with the debut performance of one of his covers. Carrying the torch into Brandon Amphitheater in Brandon, MS, Panic lit beacons for several of their fallen friends and musical idols including Daniel Hutchens, Junior Kimbrough, Vic Chesnutt, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Manzarek, and Dusty Hill.

The swampy six-piece returned to the stage and John Bell stepped to the microphone to deliver a simple, “Howdy, folks.” The versatile front man kicked his boots and donned his guitar slide for a rowdy “Chilly Water”. Like recent performances, JB made his way through the first verse solo before being joined by the rest of the band, led by Duane Trucks’ powerful entrance.

Dave Schools and Jimmy Herring combined to close out the tune with an unholy fervor until JB switched gears for Bloodkin’s “Make Sense To Me” and tacked on an atypical introduction. After a brief pause, WSP honored Mississippi bluesman Junior Kimbrough with a raucous rendition of “Junior” before dishing out consecutive originals “Better Off” and “Up All Night”.

Moving onward, Dave Schools manned the vocal helm during Vic Chesnutt’s “Blight”. The steadfast bassist provided some choice words in his traditional improvisation spot after the second verse: “There ain’t no words…  for what you fuckin’ put me through.” The veteran band tapped into the catalogs of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix and included short teases of “Roadhouse Blues” and “Machine Gun”, respectively.

JB retook lead vocal duties for the Daniel Hutchens-penned composition “Trashy”, the second Bloodkin cover of the set and second consecutive memorial tribute. Instead of winding down, the band accelerated into the bouncing rhythm of “Love Tractor” to close out the first set. (“I got enough fuel this time / to remember!”)

Refreshed and relieved after set break, the audience settled back into their seats as Widespread opened with a cover of fIREHOSE’s “Sometimes” to jumpstart the second set. The auditory euphoria continued as Duane Trucks carried the percussive torch through an incendiary “Cease Fire”.

“All Time Low” tumbled like a barrel before Widespread Panic debuted Justin Townes Earle’s “Don’t Drink the Water”. The son of legendary songwriter Steve Earle passed tragically in 2020. JoJo Hermann’s piano fused with JB’s voice and JT’s lyrics to create a powerful combination.

Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues” pumped oil to fuel the band’s unstoppable momentum, which spilled into the blistering jams of “Halloween Face”.  Sunny’s windchimes introduced a “Driving Song” sandwich with a hefty “Papa’s Home” baked inside.

A behemoth “Drums” breakdown split “Papa’s Home” in half. The Panics built the barebones foundation brick by brick to finish both songs, completing the sandwich and a half hour of collective jams. The second set careened to an abrupt end after “Saint Ex” soared, was shot down, and crash landed like the song’s inspiration, the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

For the final time, Widespread Panic returned to the stage for the finale’s encores. The second Vic Chesnutt cover of the night emerged in the form of a poignant performance of “Expiration Day”. Honoring the late bassist of ZZ Top, Dusty Hill, Panic showcased “Jesus Just Left Chicago” (“Took a jump through Mississippi / Well, muddy water turned to wine”) before punctuating the evening with a high-spirited “Tall Boy” closer.

Next on the horizon for WSP’s tour is the record-breaking return to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in their conventional spot on the last weekend of June. For the full breakdown and tickets, head to the band’s website.

Have a safe return home and celebrate our fallen brothers and sisters this Memorial Day. See you Goodpeople on the Rocks. Can’t wait!

Widespread Panic – Brandon Amphitheater – Brandon, MS – 5/28/23 [Full Show Audio]

Widespread Panic – “All Time Low” – 5/28/23

Setlist: Widespread Panic | Brandon Amphitheater | Brandon, MS | 5/28/23

Set 1: Chilly Water > Makes Sense To Me, Junior, Better Off, Up All Night, Blight, Trashy > Love Tractor (63 mins)

Set 2: Sometimes > Cease Fire, All Time Low, Don’t Drink The Water, Vampire Blues, Halloween Face, Driving Song > Papa’s Home > Drums > Papa’s Home > Driving Song, Saint Ex (79 mins)

Encore: Expiration Day, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Tall Boy (16 mins)

Notes  – ‘Entering A Black Hole Backwards’ tease after ‘Chilly Water’
– ‘Riders On The Storm’ and ‘Machine Gun’ teases during ‘Blight’
– FTP ‘Don’t Drink The Water’ (Justin Townes Earle)
– LTP ‘Vampire Blues’ 6/24/21 Denver T4T (94 shows)