The swampy gunslingers of jam rock and roll in Widespread Panic had an action-packed week after returning to the States following their 12th Panic en la Playa destination event last week.

Widespread Panic released a new single on all streaming services (“Life As A Tree”), announced a gig opening for The Rolling Stones at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver on the day before WSP’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre run starts, and performed on the first day of the 2024 edition of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, commonly known as Jazz Fest. Like a starving artist at a picnic, WSP piled on a heaping portion of originals, including three off its forthcoming album Snake Oil King, throughout the unbroken extended festival-style set. Smells of crawfish and chronic wafted through the air as an occasional cloud granted brief refuge from the sunny, blue sky.

A few minutes behind their 4:30 set time, the Panics plodded through a contemplative “Wondering” before riling up the audience during “Greta”. Now playing for a pack of rabid dogs, Widespread eased into a pairing of “Pleas” and the first of the new material on the forthcoming album, an incendiary “Little By Little”. The performance had begun with a “King Baby” introduction. Whether intentional or not, it was badass.

Pausing to allow the swirling organ echoes to fade into the abyss, Jimmy Herring’s high-flying solo during “Saint Ex” crash landed into “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” and the steady pace of Dave Schools‘ bassline. WSP remained within its catalog as the band cracked open “Tall Boy” before segueing into “Christmas Katie” and “Radio Child” in succession.  JoJo Hermann slid from his piano to his clavinet for extra flavor.

By now, the festival grounds were littered with the enthused souls of the Good People. Easily identified by their favorite band’s t-shirts on their backs, wild-eyed smiles, and intense yearning for any and all experiences that lead to sensory overload, WSP’s fans had now overtaken the festival grounds on what is known as “Locals Thursday” when Louisana residents receive discounted admission to Jazz Fest.

Meanwhile, the six-piece onstage crowned “King Baby”—for real this time—before usurping the throne in favor of “Bust It Big”. Out of the ten times that “King Baby” has been performed since its debut at Red Rocks last summer, four of those performances were combined with “Bust It Big”. Coincidence, methinks not, WSP connects the two songs by a similar theme. (“Beware of the man who builds monuments to himself” and “King baby, ruler of the land”)

Staying within the realms of Snake Oil King, out June 14th, “We Walk Each Other Home” cut deep even among the most thick-skinned listeners. The song describes the change in daily routine after losing your dog. Losing one’s companion is a pain in the soul that too many can relate to, and in our shared grieving, we find solace through our heartfelt comradery.

The first cover emerged deep within the set as a furious version of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me” set up a string of connected tunes that wound down the lengthy set. “Pigeons” spread its wings and, after melding in a tease of War’s “Low Rider”, perched amid WSP’s crowd-favorite interpretation of Winston Riley‘s “Arleen”. Without breaking stride, Panic tumbled into “All Time Low” before closing out the monster set with the third cover of the show, Jerry Joseph and Glenn Esparza’s “Climb to Safety”.

The members of Widespread Panic disentangled themselves from their instruments and positions to shuffle offstage for barely even a minute before re-emerging immediately thereafter for a lone encore. John Bell welcomed crew member Cola Jarnigan onstage for the first time since the closing night of PELP11 to shake a tambourine during an exuberant “Ain’t Life Grand” finale.

Jazz Fest 2024 is officially underway, but Widespread Panic is only sticking around for the food and music of others. After getting their fill of gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish, the Panics head north to Memphis before goin’ out west to Denver to open for the Stones and perform three nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in its traditional June jubilee. For the full schedule or to buy tickets, click here.


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Setlist: Widespread Panic | New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival | New Orleans, LA | 4/25/24

Set: Wondering > Greta > Pleas > Little By Little, Saint Ex, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Tall Boy > Christmas Katie > Radio Child, King Baby > Bust It Big, We Walk Each Other Home, You Wreck Me (Tom Petty), Pigeons > Arleen (Winston Riley) > All Time Low > Climb To Safety (Jerry Joseph, Glenn Esparza) (116 mins)

Encore Ain’t Life Grand* (5 mins)

Notes * w/ Cola Jarnigan on tambourine

– ‘Little By Little’ with a ‘King Baby’ intro/miscommunication/recovery

– ‘Radio Child’ w/ inverted intro (ending jam played first)

– ‘Low Rider’ tease by Dave during ‘Pigeons’

– entire show with Edie Jackson (ASL interpreter)

Those hanging around New Orleans for Jazz Fest can take in Live For Live Music and GMP Live‘s Fest by Nite series of late-night concerts. See below for a full list of shows and ticket info.