For years I have attempted to see Widespread Panic play. Being a jam band fan I have of course heard their music every where, they are on XM’s JamOn a lot and play major music festivals each year. As I have gotten older it has become more difficult to attend the festivals Widespread play at, actually I can’t remember the last one I went to that was not jazz. Throw on top of that tighter finances and a busy social life, I just have not been able to make it. It is unfortunate because they usually swing by the DC area at least once per tour. In fact during their spring tour earlier this year they played two shows at the Warner Theatre which I desperately wanted to attend.
This time around I was determined to make it out to a show. When the late summer/early fall schedule was announced the second stop on the tour was in Charlottesville on a Saturday. Check for being close, double check for being on a Saturday! I would have seen them in Baltimore on Sunday, but I didn’t want to drive back late on a Sunday night. I purchased my ticket online and waited with anticipation as the performance neared.
The beauty of a Saturday show is I have all day to bum around doing what ever the hell I wanted. I choose to hike the Southern Shenandoah National Park, I have never made it that far down the in the park. Looking at a trail map and reading a few descriptions I decided on the Riprap Trail. There are two overlooks and further down the trail a large pool to go swimming. I hiked a good portion of the trail in fact, you can read more about my excursion on another post. After 9 miles of hiking I still managed to have plenty of time to enjoy the historic downtown area which was cool, there are a ton of boutique shops and restaurants lining the street. I look forward to going back for another show and spending more time there.
By the time I made it to the pavilion it was almost time for the show to start. First thing I noticed was the audience, a very different crowd that I am use to. Everyone was very mellow and friendly with an average age slightly older than myself which was nice for once. On the way into the venue there was even a small shakedown street on a bridge, kinda looked like a yard sale. Several people had small tables peddling their wares to the enthusiastic crowd.
With not much time to spare I headed down to the pit area to secure a good viewing spot. As I looked around the pavilion has changed substantially since the last time I was here, way back in 2005 for the first ever performance featuring Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. The canopy now covers the entire seating area which for this show, and the KDTU in fact, was completely devoid of chairs to maximize the allowable audience. They also added what looked like giant white blankets hung from the roof. I assume they there to reduce the noise outside the venue, same reason I assume they have extended the canopy cover as well. Let me tell you though, it made for quite an interesting light show that night. The lights from the stage would bounce off the white ceiling and it just lit up the entire place. Never once was it dark during the show. It certainly made walking by people easy, but also made it hard for people to smoke. Everyone huddled together close to the stage. It reminded me of a school of fish being surrounded by hungry tuna, just looking to pick off the low hanging fruit.
I was very impressed with the selection of songs played that night. For not having seen them before and having only a few live concerts, I actually recognized several of the songs and thought the performance was spectacular. Jimmy Herring would thrash on guitar for his solos and I was just blown away. The sound system was so loud all I could hear was his guitar drowning out everyone else. Judging by the crowds reaction, each song was hit with the crowd. The band would play the first few notes I would see everyone around start to smile and dance, then sing along for most of the words.
Eventually I couldn’t take the crush of the people and finished the second set in the back of the pavilion where there was much more room. I finally had some breath room and enough space to dance my ass off. A guy even came up to me after Fixin’ To Die and complimented me on my dance skills, did I mention it was a very friendly crowd that night? When the show finally ended I was exhausted and had to sit down for a few minutes while the venue cleared out. I simply sat there in amazement at the performance I just watch as the jovial crowd streamed out into the cool night. I was hoping to get a bit to eat at one of the restaurants but for some reason they were all closed. Upon further inspection most closed at 9 or 10pm, on a Saturday! I couldn’t believe it.
Disappointed I headed to my truck for the two hour drive home. I don’t know how I did it, but I made it home exhausted. I can’t wait to catch another show when Widespread rolls through town. I don’t think I would follow them like I do Phish, but I could use another WSP fix real soon.