When the doors at Riverside Theater opened for the second night of Widespread Panic‘s weekend run at the Milwaukee, WI venue on Saturday, the cold and wet crowd shuffled inside to bask in the heat that was still radiating from the evening prior. The 2,5000 seats and darkened stage were still glowing to welcome the drenched masses into this weekend’s sanctuary of music. Milwaukee–and the Riverside Theater–remain a staple amongst WSP’s favorite venues to play with a mélange of breweries and hearty fixings for both pre and post-show activities and meetups.
Getting straight to it, Widespread Panic came out with a haymaker opening cover of David Bromberg’s “Sharon” which celebrated the dedication of their fanbase with the lyrics, “You know the same rowdy crowd that was here last night, is back again!” Bromberg’s tune riled up WSP attendees for the fourth time this year, and just the third time ever in the opening slot with the last time being in May 2016 at the Chicago Theatre.
Watch the band’s set-opening performance of “Sharon” below.
Widespread Panic – “Sharon” – 10/26/19
[Video: Eric Nelson]
JoJo Hermann led the six-piece band through a rowdy “Bust It Big” which started a slew of originals comprising nearly the entirety of the first set. JB mixed colors when he discovered “New Blue” for only the fifth time ever on the 18th anniversary of its debut during a New Orleans run circa 2001. The song recently resurfaced at the band’s acoustic run in Nashville earlier this year. Dave Schools carved a winding rhythm to “Stop-Go” like a mighty river snaking its way through the landscape while carving deeper and deeper embankments as it turns and winds over time.
Non-stop classics came incessantly, with a “Driving Song” encapsulating “C. Brown” for a hearty old school sandwich. Schools knocked the intensity into full throttle with an intense rendition of “Imitation Leather Shoes”. The tune was inspired by Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and contributed to the themes of the spooky season fast approaching. The thumpin’ rhythm of “Wondering” strolled about casually before Jimmy Herring and JB closed the first set with a masterpiece performance of “Space Wrangler”, an ode to their fallen bandmate, Michael Houser.
Watch the band’s performance of “Imitation Leather Shoes” from Saturday below.
Widespread Panic – “Imitation Leather Shoes” – 10/26/19
[Video: Eric Nelson]
The second set was completely enshrouded in a massive Vic Chesnutt sandwich with a “Protein Drink” opener followed by another Chestnutt tune, “Blight”, with Schools at the helm. His added quip of “So much lies…” was slipped into his traditional ad lib spot after the second verse. Without stopping, the Panics paid respect to their devoted fanbase with “Goodpeople” off 2006’s Earth to America with the rare and coveted “Dark Bar” addition included by a zealous JoJo Hermann. Another old school tune “Airplane” took off into unprecedented altitudes with Herring’s lightning guitar strikes electrifying this increasingly turbulent passage into the “Takeoff Jam”. Schools retook control for an acoustic onslaught through “Second Skin” with a furious barrage of bottom end notes. Their performance of the Jerry Joseph co-written song brought all the hellfire to this Halloween appropriate selection.
Watch the second set performance of “Blight” from Saturday below.
Widespread Panic – “Blight” – 10/26/19
[Video: Eric Nelson]
Another Mikey tune in “I’m Not Alone” from their self-titled second album reminded the audience of the power of community and brotherhood before a wild, cataclysmic maelstrom “Tie Your Shoes” spiraled around and around, descending the venue into pure madness. Closing out the second set, Widespread returned to where it all began and finished out the Vic Chestnutt with a hard-hitting “Sewing Machine”, the latter part of the combo-wombo.
Upon returning for Saturday night’s encores, Panic executed a flawless rarity of “Nobody’s Loss” featuring a sensational John Bell and his emotionally charged vocals. Concluding the second night or the run, the Southern Kings of Swampy jam-rock paid tribute to Daniel Hutchens and Bloodkin with a scorching cover of “Who Do You Belong To?” Hutchens, a fellow musician from the Athens, GA rock and roll scene, has been writing songs with Widespread Panic for decades and just recently finished a new album.
As the band walked offstage, the music was far from over for the night with another afterparty at Mo’s hosted by Big Something. The rain continued to fall, but the spirits of those in attendance refused to be dampened as they bounced from eatery to brewery in search of old friends and new companions. With one last night on the horizon, the old saying “Never miss a Sunday show!” resurfaces with its timeless wisdom. Godspeed, Good people.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Riverside Theater | Milwaukee, WI | 10/26/19
Set One: Sharon (David Bromberg Band cover), Bust It Big, New Blue^, Stop Go, Driving Song > C. Brown > Driving Song, Imitation Leather Shoes, Wondering, Space Wrangler
Set Two: Protein Drink (brute. cover) > Blight (brute. cover) > Good People > Dark Bar > Good People, Airplane > Second Skin, I’m Not Alone > Tie Your Shoes > Sewing Machine (brute. cover)
Encore: Nobody’s Loss, Who Do You Belong To?
^ 18th anniversary of ‘New Blue’ debut – 5th time played