Widespread Panic, the kings of psychedelic jam rock, returned to the stage in Memphis on Saturday night for one more headlining performance at Mempho Music Festival.
After a full day of performances by Dirty Streets, Julien Baker, Andy Frasco & The U.N., Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Moon Taxi, Widespread Panic retook their throne to a lively audience of nearly 10,000. In their customary Southern swagger, Panic played a festive set with over two hours of scorching jams consolidated into one set of old-school classics.
Panic kicked the night off with a pairing of originals with the rhetorical rager “Ain’t Life Grand” evolving into “Big Wooly Mammoth.” JB’s grizzly vocals did a downright dirty take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” that burned hot like whiskey in the morning.
Jimmy Herring soared through a careening “Saint Ex” before Dave Schools grounded the melodies with a heavy “Little Lily > Arleen” combo wombo. Once again, JB’s gritty vocal work and improvised quips electrified the frenzied crowd.
A hard-hitting “Proving Ground” encapsulated JoJo Hermann’s hazy piano reflections of “Blackout Blues” before finishing the second half of “Proving Ground.” Another tasty combination of originals had a hearty serving of “Second Skin” lead the way into “Pilgrims.” Herring shepherded the Memphis vagrants, slowly accelerating his river of notes from a meandering trickle into white-water rapids.
JB and “the ghost of a clown, danced in and warmed the farmer’s soul” with “Holden Oversoul” before Duane Trucks and Sonny Ortiz dueled and exchanged tumultuous percussions that boomed like artillery shells. A quenching “Chilly Water” reminded the thirsty audience to drink (or throw) their water with a few measures of “We Want the Funk” teased.
Winding down, Panic ran through another original from the band’s earliest days with a poignant rendition of “I’m Not Alone”. To close out the lengthy set, Widespread constructed a massive “Fishwater” sandwich with a zealous rendition of “Bust It Big”.
Panic returned for a celebratory three-song encore with Vic Chesnutt’s “Bastards in Bubbles”, played for only the fourth time ever. With one sweeping finale, two more classics followed in succession with “The Take Out” bleeding into “Porch Song”.
Widespread Panic’s busy month rolls onward with shows slated next week in Austin, then four nights in Milwaukee, and finally a Halloween Spooktacular in New Orleans. Until next week, get some BBQ and take one of those naps that only 2,000 calories of meats can provide.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Mempho Music Festival | Memphis, TN | 10/2/21
Set (8:32 CT): Set Ain’t Life Grand > Big Wooly Mammoth, Smokestack Lightning, Saint Ex, Little Lilly > Arleen, Proving Ground > Blackout Blues > Proving Ground, Second Skin > Pilgrims, Holden Oversoul > Drums & Bass, Chilly Water, I’m Not Alone, Fishwater > Bust It Big > Fishwater (135 mins)
Encore: Bastards in Bubbles, The Take Out > Porch Song (12 mins)
– “Smokestack Lightning” LTP 4/27/19 Trondossa (49 shows)
– “Bastards in Bubblees” LTP 3/17/19 Washington DC (58 shows, 4th time total)
– “Hard To Handle’ tease during” Arleen’
– “We Want The Funk” tease during ‘Chilly Water’