Widespread Panic : Pine Mountain Ampitheater, Flagstaff, AZ 6/25/08

Following a 25 song marathon set to close out Bonnaroo and right before playing three sold out shows at Red Rocks ( a record), it seemed only fitting that Widespread Panic would revisit their roots and keep it small. And small they did, by making their first ever visit to Flagstaff’s cozy Pine Mountain Ampitheater – a 3,000 capacity outdoor shed.
About the size of a McMansion backyard, Pine Mountain served as an early summer tour “treat” for Spreadheads who missed seeing Panic play in the 90’s, where these types of laid back/chill security venues were a common picnic.  Surprisingly, Panic didn’t even sell out this venue, but they sure had a good time, lucky for their 2500 fans or so who made the trip halfway between L.A. and Albuquerque.

It was on Fox News of all places, where Panic front-man John Bell was recently asked if his band’s fan base is growing or is everybody aging with you?  JB answered, “I don’t think its age related as much as a folks who want a type of music and activity and a lot of people like to be thrown a curve once in awhile. So hopefully we can serve up some of these curves.”
With what most die hard fans might call a meatball first set, that featured four consecutive “man” songs –  “Dyin’ Man, Sleeping Man, Travelin’ Man > Pusherman,” Widespread Panic threw Sandy Koufax curveballs the entire second set.    With an earlier than usual 6:30 start time, it took some time for the boys to swallow their dinner.  But the whole first set wasn’t a legitimate excuse to hang out in the beer garden, as first set highlights included Vic Chesnutt’s “Sleeping Man” and a rock solid “Tall Boy” opener.
Guitarist Jimmy Herring continues to tear most song apart with adventurous solos that never drag (“Imitation Leather Shoes”),  breathing new life into the aging wheel that is  Widespread Panic.  Unsung hero Sonny Ortiz continues to bang the shit out of his drums, never relenting, even during the bluesy numbers. Yeah, Widespread Panic jams, love it or hate it, and they do it as well as anybody else. And although some of their covers have grown predictable in todays world of jamband funk flavors  (Talking Heads’ “Papa Legba”  Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman") their cover of The Band’s “Chest Fever” was rock solid.
The second set flowed effortlessly behind the burning steam of “Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi” which churned into the classic favorite “Stop-Go.”  Two other Chesnutt  favorites “Protein Drink>Sewing Machine,” which the band has thrown into regular rotation the last few years, has blossomed as a dark and twisty second set tandem.
And to reference the earlier Fox News question, the crowd does seem to  be aging with the band. Unfortunately, no longer are the days when the college age crowd is consumed by trading improvisational music by the likes of Dead/Phish/Panic.  But either way, Panic has held onto their fan base, keeping things comfortable and doing what they do best – not being trendy. The fans still hoot at the top of their lungs during “Love Tractor” and Widespread Panic still appears to be having tons of fun.   Keep throwing those curveballs.


06/25/08 Pine  Mountain Amphitheater, Flagstaff, AZ

1: Tall Boy >  Weight Of The World, Tickle the Truth, Dyin’ Man, Sleeping Man, Travelin’ Man  > Pusherman, 1 x 1 > Travelin’ Light
2: Papa Legba  > Imitation Leather Shoes, Impossible > Love Tractor, Thin Air (Smells  Like Mississippi)  > Stop-Go > I Walk On Guilded Splinters, Protein Drink > Sewing  Machine
E: Trouble >  The Last Straw > Chest Fever

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