Returning to the stage for the first time since Ride Fest in mid-July, Widespread Panic delivered a solid opening night at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in St. Augustine, FL on Friday night. The Florida skies were threatening all day with heavy rain, but by the time the band was ready, only the swampy humidity caused the 4,000+ attendees to be coated in a consistent layer of sweat.

Getting right down to the nitty-gritty, Widespread Panic charged into the first night with a rare “Papa’s Home” to get the excitement exponentially multiplied as fans in the parking lot scrambled to be processed by security and into the venue.  The band hasn’t opened a show with the hard-hitting “Papa’s Home” since 2014 in St. Louis. The band delivered their first Neil Young cover of the night in “Don’t Be Denied” just as the crowd was getting settled into the closest seats they could muster. John Bell vocals were exceptional and Jimmy Herring wasted no time to open a rift in the time-space continuum with his lightning guitar licks.

​Dave Schools led the band through another percussive classic in “Rock” as the sound thundered from the stage up to the grey skies while many audience members tried desperately to get into the pit. To their credit, many managed their way to the front for a funereal whirlwind of BloodKin’s “Henry Parsons Died”, which progressed into the dousing “Chilly Water”. Due to the necessity of hydration to ease the evening’s southern heat, the customary expulsion of water from their containers was slightly more subdued than usual. Yet, the water still managed to fly out, much to the delight of overheated attendees and the surprise of newcomers to this incredible scene.

​Herring blazed through the instrumental “Happy” before tearing into a sizzling rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman”.  For many, the cover was the highlight of the entire evening. After annihilating exultant solo after solo, Dave Schools led the Panics through a slick segue ending in a bass-thumping performance of J.J. Cale’s “Travelin’ Light”.

To finish off the 76-minute first set, as well as the trio of covers, Widespread Panic played the first of two tributes to Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead with a high-voltage rendition of “Cream Puff War”. August 1st marked Garcia’s coming-into-the-world with the destiny of altering music and society weighing heavily on his shoulders. Duane Trucks, Sonny Ortiz, and Dave Schools cranked the intensity of this song tenfold while John Bell sang with his vigorous lifeforce. Jimmy Herring sprinkled his hot-pepper licks in his casual style into the mix until a tumultuous explosion ended the first set.

Watch the band’s cover of “Cream Puff War” below.

Widespread Panic – “Cream Puff War” – 8/2/2019

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

Upon return from set break, Widespread Panic performed the second Neil Young cover of the night with “Walk On”. John Bell reminded fans early on in the second set that “Sooner or later, it all gets real! (Walk on..)”. Sonny’s drums then revealed the next tune to be the crowd-favorite in “Hatfield” in an attempt to get the grey skies to open. Herring dished a hearty solo before John Bell took over to spin a summertime yarn revolving around Charlie Hatfield and his mama, childhood games of “cops and robbers”, and the appropriate feeling of being “so hot, hot, hot in the summertime.”

JoJo’s piano harvested a bountiful “Cotton Was King” before a raucous “Tall Boy” whipped the heated audience into a frenzy, complete with “foaming at the mouth”.  A slight pause gave Herring enough time to switch guitars, before “Pigeons” took a psychedelic flight amongst the Spanish moss and palm trees.

Getting to the heart of swamp rock, Widespread performed a rendition of “Junior” which cut right to the bone. Herring kept sizzling throughout “Junior” with Schools echoing JB’s raunchiness. “Junior” was written by mixing several of Junior Kimbrough’s songs, who shared a record label with JoJo Hermann at Fat Possum Records.

Another transition kept the chain of originals cascading forth, with a pastoral “Driving Song” encapsulating a haunting “Blue Indian” for what others would argue as the juiciest jams of the night. However, as Jerry Joseph’s “Climb to Safety” concluded yet another 76-minute set in a call to brotherhood with the lyrical exclamation that “It’s no fun to die alone!”

After one last break, Widespread Panic returned for two encores that would be the undisputed highlight for the majority of people in attendance.  First, JB serenaded the audience with a soulful take on the Talking Heads’ “Heaven” before blowing minds with the second Grateful Dead cover of the night “New Speedway Boogie”, marking the first time that the band played the Dead song since 2015. The tune was dying out and the crowd took over echoing the lyrics, “One way or another…. This darkness got to give!” for the last measures. Widespread Panic, remaining classy as always, appropriately played a respectful, tribute to Jerry Garcia on the week between the guitarist’s birthday and the anniversary of his passing.

Watch the band’s performance of “New Speedway Boogie” below.

Widespread Panic – “New Speedway Boogie” – 8/2/2019

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

Widespread Panic returns to the St. Augustine amphitheater for two more shows ahead on Saturday (August 3rd) and Sunday (August 4th). Head to the band’s website for tickets to their upcoming performances.

Setlist: Widespread Panic | St. Augustine Amphitheatre | St. Augustine, FL | 8/2/2019

Set One: Papa’s Home, Don’t Be Denied (Neil Young cover), Rock, Henry Parsons Died (BloodKin cover), Chilly Water, Happy > Pusherman (Curtis Mayfield cover) > Travelin’ Light (J.J. Cale cover) > Cream Puff War (Grateful Dead cover)

Set Two: Walk On (Neil Young cover), Hatfield, Cotton Was King, Tall Box, Pigeons, Junior (Junior Kimbrough cover), Driving Song > Blue Indian > Driving Song, Climb to Safety (Jerry Joseph cover)

Encore: Heaven (Talking Heads cover), New Speedway Boogie (Grateful Dead cover)

Notes: First time performing “New Speedway Boogie” since 3/28/2015 Las Vegas (223 shows)