Widespread Panic brought a night of glorious revelry to Saint Augustine for the third night in a row, uniting the “good people” community for their never-to-be-missed Sunday show.

The boys kicked into a high-voltage “Little Kin” to open the show, segueing into the jerky rhythm of “Sell, Sell” from their most recent album Street Dogs. To follow with an explosive introduction, Panic blew the dust off of the rarely played “Dirty Side Down” for the first time since Panic En La Playa Seis, from March of 2017. Dave Schools led the vocal vanguard for a sandal stompin’ rendition of Vic Chestnutt’s “Sleeping Man”. Luring the sailors closer with their swampy sirens’ song, the band whipped into an electrifying rendition of “You Should Be Glad” from the underappreciated album Earth to America, providing an opportunity for Sonny Ortiz and Jimmy to connect forces and jam.

After an explosive ending, the Panics introduced “Rebirtha” with the crowd reacting fervently to the tell-tale opening double-notes. As is tradition, the captivating John Bell crushed the vocals in his emotionally wrought style while Jimmy Herring and JoJo Hermann ignited the music with scorching riffs and ferocious synthesized keys all woven around the beat of Duane Trucks’ pounding drum lines and Dave School’s bone-crushing bass pulses. Mellowing the tone, the good ol’ boys played a sweet finger-lickin’ “Pilgrims” before closing the first set in similar sentimentality with the beautiful ode to Michael Houser with “Space Wrangler.”

After a short set break, Widespread Panic reignited the crowd with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” which hasn’t been played since the politically charged heaters in Birmingham. John Bell crooned a slick “The Last Straw” with several tempo breakdowns and one incredible lightning Herring solo before Schools drove the heavy bassline of “Bear’s Gone Fishin’” as JB reminded us that “It’s sunny at the edge of the sea.” For the first of two Blind Faith covers, the Panics executed a flawless “Can’t Find My Way Home” which was last played almost exactly a year ago at the same Amphitheatre. The same, rowdy crowd reciprocated the vibrant energy and embraced the déjà vu before losing their sunbaked minds to the opening piano and guitar introduction to “Greta” with JoJo Hermann on lead vocals (“swarm of yellow rabbits!” ). The crowd of salty dogs howled ravenously at the appropriate opportunity before Jimmy Herring silenced them with his entrancing guitar chops.

To wind the second set down, the boys built a titanic sandwich that began with a segue into a soaring “Surprise Valley” that soon dissolved into a percussive breakdown featuring Duane Trucks and Sonny Ortiz while everyone else stayed on stage. A second smaller sandwich was encased in the larger sandwich with the first half of “Proving Ground” transitioning into the second Blind Faith cover of the night with “Do What You Like”. The cover hasn’t been played since Phases of the Moon Festival which took place outside of Chicago, Illinois in 2014 so naturally, it was the first time that Duane Trucks took part in this elusive jam. To provide the second layers–the bread if you will–the band rocked home the second halves of “Proving Ground > Surprise Valley” to complete this belly-buster of a sandwich.

To end the second set, Widespread Panic sizzled through a dreamy version of Neil Young’s “Last Dance” which was last played in Memphis during which JB opened the song with a remembrance to “Please take care of each other, watch out for each other so you can live to play another day.” Many could not help but think about this mournfully as the bittersweet feeling of the end of a three-night run wound down.

However, Widespread Panic continued to serve extra helpings with the ultra-rare performance of “Nobody’s Loss” from Til’ the Medicine Takes. JoJo dove into the song with his slow and purposeful piano playing which was accompanied by shared vocal duties from him and John Bell. The tempo accelerated for a combined cover of The Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature” with Jimmy Herring blazing trails from his crow’s nest at stage right. The crowd of wary scallywags gave whatever energy they had left to dance and applaud riotously, and in turn, Widespread Panic played a second encore out of respect. However, JoJo never got the memo and the ensuing “Porch Song” was performed without his piano expertise. The last time Widespread Panic rewarded the crowd with a double encore was during the Halloween run in Broomfield, Colorado in 2016.

Widespread Panic epitomizes the sense of community and respect in the relationship between audience and performers. They continue to show nothing but class, and stoic professionalism to make the struggles, from mundane to extraordinary, more bearable. As the world evolves, it can leave us feeling divided and isolated even as cyber connections becoming more commonplace. However, through music and community, the distance doesn’t feel as vast, and brotherhood and sisterhood is as tangible as the energy in the air. The “good people” community is an exemplary personification of the idiom, “A stranger is merely a friend you haven’t met yet.”

The band weighed anchor and realigned their looking-glass towards the autumnal plunder of Milwaukee. With Saint Augustine’s rum supply nearly emptied, the memories of this bountiful three-night run will outlive the pain of even the strongest hangover. Until next time, my friends, stay busy, stay well.

“Lawyers, Guns And Money”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

“Can’t Find My Way Home”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

“Do What You Like” > “Proving Ground” > “Surprise Valley”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

“No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

“Porch Song”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

You can listen to an audio stream of Widespread Panic’s first night in St. Augustine via PanicStream here.

Setlist: Widespread Panic | St. Augustine Amphitheatre | St. Augustine FL | 9/14/18

I: Little Kin > Sell Sell, Dirty Side Down^, Sleeping Man, You Should Be Glad, Rebirtha, Pilgrims, Space Wrangler (73 mins)

II: Lawyers, Guns & Money, The Last Straw, Bear’s Gone Fishin’, Can’t Find My Way Home^^, Greta > Surprise Valley > Drums > Proving Ground > Do What You Like^^^ > Proving Ground > Surprise Valley, Last Dance (84 mins)

E1: Nobody’s Loss, No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature (14 mins)

E2: Porch Song

Notes ^ LTP 3/02/17 Playa (49 shows)
^^ LTP 9/15/17 St Augustine (38 shows – 366 days ago)
^^^ LTP 9/13/14 Phases Festival (229 shows) FTP for Duane

[Everyone remained onstage for Drums and JB continued playing; Double encore was unplanned and ‘Porch Song’ was without JoJo; Last double encore was 10/30/16 Broomfield]
RIP Joey Tello