Halfway through the glorious four-night Panic En La Playa run in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Widespread Panic returned to the stage once more on Sunday to provide action-packed entertainment for the sunbaked crowd. Somehow, after three days of direct sunlight and two nights of music on Friday and Saturday–while also fueled from a holiday diet of mostly tacos and tequila–the audience remained unfazed as they eagerly awaited the chance to dance and holler at the moon once more.
Following an afternoon where Positive Legacy helped to make an impact on the local community by hosting a day of service geared towards cleaning up one of the last undeveloped beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula, Panic returned to the stage on Sunday where the sextet opened the first set of the night with a double dose of Bloodkin tracks–”Makes Sense to Me” followed by “Can’t Get High”. John Bell’s voice dug into the first tune while JoJo Hermann‘s electrifying organ work echoed throughout the second. Returning to their own catalog, Panic then aced a heartfelt performance of “You Should Be Glad” with a nasty jam section. Jimmy Herring ripped the song structure wide open with his harrowing guitarwork while Schools pummeled his bass with the consistency of a metronome.
To add fuel to the already raging fire, Bell led the band through a saucy version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” before Dave Schools anchored the ship to a lengthy, bass-heavy bombardment of “Second Skin”. Following this, the instrumental “B of D” led into the intrinsic jam of “Jack”. As if the 80-minute first set couldn’t get any better, Panic then dropped into an emotionally charged take of Michael Stanley’s “Let’s Get the Show On The Road” before concluding the jaw-dropping first set with “Coconuts”. Penned in the earliest days of the band’s beginnings, this appropriate tropical anthem hasn’t been covered by Panic since last year’s Panic En La Playa, while “Let’s Get the Show On The Road” hasn’t been performed electrically since the band’s 2018’s Red Rocks run–way too long of a gap for most fans!
Returning for the second set, Panic kicked open the back-porch screen door and burned through a “Holden Oversoul” sandwich with a scorching version of the Grateful Dead‘s “Cream Puff War” wrapped inside. Though extremely rare, this sandwich has been constructed four times before with the most recent performance at Panic’s Las Vegas Halloween run in 2018.
After, the slow and steady pace of “Impossible” was accelerated as Herring injected pure electricity into the tempo. A smokin’ segue dismounted into the old traditional blues song, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” that has been accredited to Sonny Boy Williamson. Schools kept the pedal to the floor with a monstrous “Imitation Leather Shoes”–the band’s musical interpretation of Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”
Switching tones, a heartfelt “Gimme” was played through and true before Panic paid tribute to the amazing group of fans with an appreciative “Goodpeople”. For the fifth time since resurfacing at last year’s Red Rocks run, JoJo included his elusive “Dark Bar” section before closing out the song.
After another brief break, Panic ended the set with a long series of uninterrupted music that began with a soaring “Surprise Valley”. Halfway through, drummers, Duane Trucks and Sonny Ortiz were given time to exchange blows in a percussive duel that would have made the Mayans proud. After the second half of “Surprise Valley”, the rhythm section bounced into J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” before closing the set with a cover of Jerry Joseph’s “North”. The tune was inspired by a hitch-hiking experience in Nicaragua with Woody Harrelson, who appears on the writing credits as a co-writer. JB’s updated lyrics heard him sing, “Haul you back to Mexico/Send you back to school!”
For an encore, Widespread Panic remerged to cover Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”. The Stephen Stills-penned song has been covered by Panic less than thirty times during the band’s long-tenured career. To conclude the third night, Widespread Panic paid homage to the late Tom Petty with a hard-hitting cover of “Honey Bee”, marking the 11th time since the rock guitarist’s death in 2017 that Panic has performed the song from 1994’s Wildflowers.
Big Something held down the late-night party, playing for the second time in a 12-hour span. Earlier that day, Andy Frasco joined them on stage wearing his customary Lakers jersey. On Sunday, the athletic apparel meant more as tragedy struck, and the world lost Kobe Bryant, one of the fiercest competitors, intelligent global citizens, and an inspirational father and role model.
Watch a portion of Sunday’s Widespread Panic performance below.
Widespread Panic at Panic En La Playa Nueve – 1/26/20
With one more night of music ahead on Monday, the dedicated crowd can enjoy one last victory lap of unlimited frozen tequila drinks, taco carts around every corner, and dozens of other activities and eateries in this surreal annual gathering. Enjoy it, Goodpeople. You may never be here again.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Hard Rock Hotel & Resort | Riviera Maya, MX | 1/25/20
Set One: Makes Sense to Me (BloodKin cover), Can’t Get High (BloodKin cover), You Should Be Glad, Pusherman (Curtis Mayfield cover), Second Skin, B of D, Jack, Let’s Get the Show on the Road (Michael Stanley Band cover), Coconut
Set Two: Holden Oversoul > Cream Puff War (Grateful Dead cover) > Holden Oversoul, Impossible, Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl (Sonny Boy Williamson cover), Imitation Leather Shoes, Gimme, Goodpeople > Dark Bar > Goodpeople > Surprise Valley > Drums > Surprise Valley > Ride Me High (J.J. Cale cover) > North (Jerry Joseph cover)
Encore: For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover), Honey Bee (Tom Petty cover)
– First electric version of “Let’s Get the Show on the Road” since 6/24/18 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
– “Coconut” Last Time Played 1/25/19 at Playa En La Playa Ocho (45 shows)
– “Holden Oversoul” Last Time Played 10/27/18 in Las Vegas
– “For What It’s Worth” Last Time Played 12/31/18 in Atlanta (47 shows)