Exactly a year after originally scheduled, Widespread Panic posted up at the Oxbow River Stage in the hills of Napa Valley, California on Friday to begin a three-night stand. As always, the group’s community of lovable, down-home zealots left their respective swamps and abodes and flocked to wine country like the antiquated remnants of the original gold rush, if nearly 200 years too late.

That’s not to say these modern-day music prospectors didn’t strike gold, however, as they found precisely what they were looking for—a stream of inspired music glimmering with chunks of jam-heavy originals and priceless covers by Tom Waits, Bloodkin, Chuck Berry, Jerry Joseph, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Tom Petty.

After sound-checking “Surprise Valley” and “Pilgrims” earlier in the day, Winespread Panic kicked their spurs into an appropriate cover of Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West”—fitting, as these shows mark the first time the band has set foot in California since 2016’s summer tour—remember tours?

JoJo Hermann, led the six-piece band around the valley, making stops to sample the curated vintages of local wineries during “Blackout Blues”. Leaving the car, Dave Schools shepherded the crowd of winos, encouraging them not to drive with “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” before John Bell crushed the vocals of Bloodkin’s “Who Do You Belong To?”. Pouring originals until the cup flowed over into set break, Panic performed “Glory”, which featured soaring organ work from JoJo and a euphoric guitar solo from Jimmy Herring.

“Junior”, inspired by Hermann’s Fat Possum labelmate Junior Kimbrough, gave Herring a chance to shower the audience in nimble notes with a casual, light=speed coolness. Next, JoJo took the vocal helm for “Bayou Lena”, with its situationally appropriate lyrics, “Drink a bottle of cheap red wine.”

Sunny Ortiz‘s hand-drum hits hinted at and eventually introduced “Hatfield” to try and rid California of its ongoing drought just as Hatfield and his brother did for SoCal in 1915. JB channeled the spirits of the controversial rainmakers during his improvised rap, “I remember Hatfield’s mother / beautiful, big ol’ German lady / She would give us homemade beers after school / so hot, hot, hot, almost summertime…” Paying tribute to the surrounding farmers amongst their neat rows of grape vines, Panic rolled into “Love Tractor” to finish the first frame.

Returning from set break, Widespread Panic dusted off Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” for only the fifth time in as many years before dialing into an electrifying “Radio Child”. Next, the band’s tour manager, Steve Lopez, joined in for a reggae romp through Jerry Joseph’s “Chainsaw City” (“No bad vibes!”).

Dave Schools then carved a stream of bass notes into the hillside with the instrumental “Machine” before dropping into “Barstools and Dreamers”. The jams clicked throughout the show, but the highlight for most was a string of tunes that began with a nearly twenty-minute trek down the abandoned mines of John Dawson’s “Dirty Business”.

Picking up the pace once more, Panic accelerated wildly into a ten-minute cut of “Tie Your Shoes” before concluding the sequence with a scorching rendition of Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Red Hot Mama”. JB picked up his mandolin as Widespread punctuated the second set with an exultant performance of “Ain’t Life Grand”.

After walking back on stage for a victory lap, JoJo retold the humorous story of how he had got kicked out of his first show with the band because he wasn’t pictured on the poster with “One Arm Steve” (“Come back sometime when your picture’s on the wall!”). The band finally threw its weight behind Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee” to close out the show with an exclamation mark.

This one was for all the west coast GoodPeople who waited patiently for years to get thrown a bone—then waited an extra year for it to come to fruition. Here it is, boys and girls. It’s your turn to reap the bountiful harvest of Panic’s home-grown rock and roll.

Check out a selection of fan-shot videos from the first night of Widespread Panic in Napa below. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here.

Widespread Panic  – “Machine” > “Barstools and Dreamers” – 8/26/22

[Video: troop1042]

Widespread Panic – “Dirty Business” (New Riders of the Purple Sage) – 8/26/22

[Video: MrTopdogger]

Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Oxbow River Stage | Napa, CA | 8/26/22

Set One: Goin’ Out West, Blackout Blues, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Who Do You Belong To?, Glory, Junior, Bayou Lena > Hatfield > Love Tractor (68 mins)

Set Two: Let It Rock > Radio Child, Chainsaw City*, Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, Dirty Business > Tie Your Shoes > Red Hot Mama, Ain’t Life Grand (86 mins)

Encore: One Arm Steve, Honey Bee (10 mins)

* w/ Steve Lopez on percussion
– Soundcheck: ‘Surprise Valley’, ‘Pilgrims’


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