It’s no secret that Widespread Panic returns to St. Augustine, FL year after year to drink from the Fountain of Youth “to be whole again.” They stock up on the mythical reservoir’s elixir to fuel the upcoming shows until their eventual return. Although the forecast called for scattered thunderstorms, the heat and humidity tripled again and the venue was even sweatier than previous nights as the showtime was moved a half-hour earlier on Sunday.

After shuffling back to their musical battle stations, Widespread Panic opened the final night of their weekend run with a stompin’ “Big Wooly Mammoth” off the highly underrated 2001 album, Don’t Tell the Band. Keyboardist JoJo Hermann blazed the way through this evolutionary whirlwind, thawing the frozen prehistoric beast with the scorching melodies and intense, swampy temperatures. No lighters were thrown, but there was a raucous cheer in appreciation of the lyrics, “Like a big wooly mammoth, ya gotta wear that coat; in the middle of the summertime!”

In customary Sunday Service tradition, the Panics rolled right into the steady rhythm of “Pleas”, giving John Bell time to remind the audience “Don’t let it get too dark!” before Jimmy Herring blasted off with his guitar licks. Returning to their Georgia roots, a segue welded a heavy jam into the Bloodkin’s “Makes Sense to Me”, describing three cases of social injustices. Van Morrison’s “Send Your Mind” followed as the two songs combined to give a powerful message in relation to the multiple mass shootings that took place over the weekend. JB sang with absolute sincerity on the lyrics, “If you can’t come home, please send your mind!”

A rarely-played “Angels on High” from Free Somehow came next, marking its first appearance since Milwaukee in 2017. An early contender for highlight of the show, Steve Winwood’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” wasflawlessly executed for the first time since the molly-whopper performance with Marcus King at Trondossa Festival in the spring. Even without the young shredder in the mix, Widespread absolutely annihilated this rendition.

John Bell led the boys through a rousing “Up All Night” to celebrate the people who are still standing after long nights and early mornings. To close the first set, the Panics entered the cocoon of “Conrad” and transformed the audience into a frenzied pack of savages as the tempo and rhythm intensified into a powerful culmination of divine righteousness.

Returning from setbreak, John Bell wielded his “tiny guitar”—mandolin, for non-PanicStream—to ace a serene “Ain’t Life Grand.” After the set’s only pause between songs, Widespread Panic tugged on heartstrings with a sentimental take on “Gimme” with the opening lyrics “Gimme a hand here, Michael” for late founding guitarist Michael “Mikey” Houser.

Following “Gimme”, the band wove the rest of the set together, bound by a long series of segues and uninterrupted jams beginning with “Jack”. The psychedelic pace accelerated into the blazin’ tempo of “Action Man” and kept rocking through a monstrous “Tie Your Shoes” uproar.

The pace slowed down for a bone-chilling take on “Mercy” from their self-titled second album. JB sang with a passion that was part emotionally distraught and part lunatic-pushed-over-the-edge-with-nothing-to-lose.

Sunny Ortiz‘s drums began what would be the undeniable highlight of the evening with a rowdy and loose flowing “Fishwater” expressing the unanimous desire for “wanting more… mo’… mo’!” Jacksonville’s hometown hero, drummer Duane Trucks, took the spotlight for an extended beatdown of his drum kit with Sunny. Jimmy Herring, Dave Schools, and JoJo remained onstage waiting patiently for Duane to finish before JB returned from the shadows to perform Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” for the first time since July 3rd, 2016. Some fans have been chasing this tune since its Halloween debut in Chicago 2001, and the band did not disappoint. JB shined as he delivered the song’s lyrics, fitting for the oldest city in America: “He came dancing across the water /With his galleons and guns / Looking for the new world /In that palace in the sun.”

To finish out the second set, Widespread furthered the debauchery with the last refrain of “Fishwater”, an utter bedlam of madness. The crowd, exhausted and dripping sweat, hooted and hollered to let the band know they still had energy left for the encore.

For the last encore of the weekend, Widespread Panic cut through Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee” off his legendary Wildflowers album like a circular saw chewing through concrete. Fast and intense, this song always kicks ass. Slowing it down, the Panics finished the three-night run with the enchanting lullaby, “The Dream Song”. Off the 1993 album Everyday, the song captured the magical realism of this entire run. In the hazy, swampy heat, the whole run came into focus through the blurs like a man delirious from dehydration spotting a mirage in the desert. As the dehydrated spectator neared, the mirage remained true and real even as the distance closed and the disbelief remained.

Once more, Widespread Panic did what they do time after time again, kick ass without bullshit or fluff, laying waste in the wake of their shows. Each time, the community steps up to look after one another as consistently as the band remains top-notch. With the power of a sledgehammer, these Panics demonstrate how effortlessly and casually they are able to craft their music out of nothing like modern-day alchemists.

The next shows come in the form of an acoustic run at the world-renowned Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on August 23rd–25th. From there, the band will return to Florida for a two-night run in Pensacola at Pensacola Bay Center on August 31st and September 1st. Thank you GoodPeople and Widespread Panic, stay well. Until next time…

For a full list of Widespread Panic’s upcoming tour dates, head to the band’s website here.

You can watch a selection of crowd-shot videos from the performance below:

Widespread Panic – “Dear Mr. Fantasy” [Traffic cover]

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

Widespread Panic – “Tie Your Shoes”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

Widespread Panic – “Fishwater”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

Widespread Panic – “Cortez The Killer” [Neil Young cover] > “Fishwater”

[Video: Fred Ramadan]

Setlist: Widespread Panic | The Amp St. Augustine | St. Augustine, FL | 8/4/19

Set 1 Big Wooly Mammoth > Pleas > Makes Sense To Me, Send Your Mind, Angels On High, Dear Mr. Fantasy, Up All Night, Conrad (57 mins)

Set 2 Ain’t Life Grand^, Gimme > Jack > Action Man > Tie Your Shoes > Mercy > Fishwater > Drums > Cortez The Killer > Fishwater (86 mins)

Encore: Honey Bee, Dream Song (14 mins)

Notes ^ JB on mandolin
– ‘Those Were The Days’ tease after ‘Tie Your Shoes’
– ‘Cortez The Killer’ LTP 7/03/16 Bend, OR (124 shows); LTP

(Thank you & for your dedication and hard work)