Attendees of Widespread Panic‘s ongoing Panic en la Playa event in Riviera Maya, Mexico this weekend spent their day in a variety of ways on Saturday. Some played golf on the Hard Rock Hotel & Resort‘s incredible golf course, while others played Texas Hold’em until the blazin’ sun became less aggressive. Then there were some that parked themselves on a lounge chair- poolside or by the lagoon, only requiring serious movement for another refreshment or to cool down in the water. Regardless of how the day was spent, all managed to make it back to the courtyard for the “Red Hot Mama Pajama”-themed second night to reciprocate the energy and bask in the sounds of their favorite band.
Relighting the embers that had died down overnight, Panic returned to stage to begin Saturday’s performance with a triumphant cover of David Bromberg’s “Sharon”. The carnival ride opener hammered home the finality of the first night on Friday, and raised the energy to sky-high levels to accelerate the band’s second performance of the 2020 event into full swing.
Returning to their own catalog, Panic performed a transformative “Greta” which segued into a high-octane “Worry”. Bassist Dave Schools was howling with the crowd before guitarist Jimmy Herring cut through the madness with his razor-sharp axe work. “Worry” hasn’t appeared on a setlist since last year’s Panic En La Playa Ocho, and the audience roared their appreciation as the band worked their way through the hard-hitting introduction.
Two back-to-back Van Morrison songs were played consecutively as the leisurely tempo of “And It Stoned Me” quickened into the furious rush of “Send Your Mind.” After a short pause, Panic ascended through the atmosphere with “Airplane” as the cosmic pilot in Herring gained elevation until eventually landing the aircraft safely on the Mexican runway.
With an extra wonky introduction, JoJo Hermann took the helm for a tongue-in-cheek performance of “Jaded Tourist”. The rolling drums of “Diner” followed and, appropriately, the crowd went wild. John Bell‘s vivid imagination was on full display when he improvised pictorial descriptions like a lost prophet or a Renaissance painter. After a clean segue, Panic wrapped up the first set with a raunchy cover of Howling Wolf’s “Taildragger.”
The second set began respectfully with “Henry Parsons Died”, a swampy cover written by fellow Georgian rockers, Bloodkin. JoJo’s piano introduced a hearty “Bust It Big” with the appropriate lyrics culminating in an explosion of energy. Once more, Schools teased the now-infamous “I Trusted You” melody from the Andy Kaufman-themed NOLAween performance last fall.
Another original, “Mercy”, followed, and the bone-chilling cut off the band’s self-titled 1991 album showcased John Bell’s haunting vocals. After an elusive transitioning jam, Schools grounded the rhythm into the crowd favorite in “Bowlegged Woman”. Although written by Calvin Carter and Bobby Rush, Panic plays a version more akin to Hot Tuna’s arrangement.
Dave Schools remained in the saddle for a performance of Vic Chesnutt’s “Blight”. To follow, Schools’ bass introduced “Arleen”, another beloved WSP favorite. Although written in a reggae tone by Winston Riley, the Panic staple was baptized in the Georgian marshes to epitomize their distinctively gritty vibe.
To close out the second set, Widespread Panic welcomed Jerry Joseph of Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons to the stage. It is no secret that Joseph penned many of the songs in Panic’s catalog, so there were plenty of weapons in the arsenal. However, Joseph and the Panics threw a mean curveball that nobody saw coming, as The Beatles’ “Come Together” was performed by the band for just the tenth time ever–only the third time in fifteen years. The last time the band covered the tune was during Sturgill Simpson’s sit-in at the inaugural Trondossa Festival in 2018.
Watch the second set cover of “Come Together” featuring Joseph during Saturday’s performance below.
Widespread Panic w/ Jerry Joseph – “Come Together” – 1/25/20
The lyrically complex, reggae manifesto “Chainsaw City” emerged to finish the second set in celebratory ecstasy. Panic’s tour manager Steve Lopez also supplemented the percussionists for the last song of the set.
For the encore, Panic tipped their cap to the night’s Pajama theme with a jubilant performance of George Clinton and P-Funk’s “Red Hot Mama”. After devastating the surrounding area like an earthquake, JoJo Hermann picked up the pieces with a transition into “Blackout Blues” which was partially performed during the soundcheck two days prior. A song very appropriate to the occasion as the crowd threatened to deplete the resort’s entire tequila cache.
The Playa Allstars–a powerhouse lineup of George Porter Jr., Eric Krasno, Ivan and Cyril Neville, Nicki Bluhm, Terence Higgins, and Cochemea Gastelum–kept the celebrations going until nearly three in the morning. Day three looms ahead on Sunday, and as sure as the sunrise, will test the sturdy fanbase’s endurance as they overcome the mundane obstacles of hangovers and hydration to be part of the magical wonder that is Panic en la Playa.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Hard Rock Hotel & Resort | Riviera Maya, MX | 1/25/20
Set One: Sharon (David Bromberg Band cover), Greta > Worry, And It Stoned Me (Van Morrison cover), Send Your Mind (Van Morrison cover), Airplane > Jaded Tourist, Diner > Tail Dragger (Howlin’ Wolf cover)
Set Two: Henry Parsons Died (BloodKin cover), Bust It Big, Mercy > Jam > Bowlegged Woman (Bobby Rush cover), Blight (brute. cover), Arleen (General Echo cover), Come Together* (Beatles cover), Chainsaw City^ (Little Women cover)
Encore: Red Hot Mama > Blackout Blues
* w/ Jerry Joseph on guitar/vocals
^ w/ Jerry Joseph on guitar/vocals; Steve Lopez on percussion
– “Worry” LTP 1/25/19 Playa Ocho (45 shows)
– “Come Together” LTP 5/06/18 Trondossa (68 shows)
– “I Trusted You” tease during “Bust It Big”