Most “first post” posts on these kinds of things are usually jam-packed with information about the author of the blog. What they like, what they don’t like, what they do, what they want out of life. But personally, the best way to (re)introduce myself to the blogging world is by talking about the thing I love the most: music. Specifically, Widespread Panic. & to do that I am editing the only original post from this blog that I kept. So welcome aboard. Let’s jam.
Widespread Panic is a “jam band” that was formed in 1986 in Athens, Georgia. The current members include John Bell (JB), Jimmy Herring, Dave Schools, John “JoJo” Hermann, Duane Trucks & Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz . Every member brings something different & unique to the sound, & they each have an impact on the music & everyone who listens. The first concert I ever went to was Widespread Panic, & it was back in October of 2014. The concert that inspired this post was my second Widespread show, which was February of 2016. Since then I have seen them in Nashville on New Year’s Eve of 2016, & I plan on seeing them again in July of 2017 at Sloss Fest.
Widespread Panic is one of “those” bands. You know, one of the bands you find one day that change your entire life forever. One of the bands that you never knew would matter so much to you later on. I remember being in elementary school listening to my dad’s old music. I remember going through all of his CD’s in alphabetical order & being completely mesmerized by how truly diverse & freeing music really was. Sure, being Aerosmith’s biggest fan in fourth grade separated me from my peers, but I didn’t care. My dad would drop me off at school with AC/DC, the Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd blasting through his speakers. But I will never forget the day I heard Widespread for the first time.
The first song he played for me was Coconut, & I remember feeling some dark part of the world, MY world, suddenly become illuminated. I remember being so invested in the music that when it ended, I realized I had been holding my breath. I asked my dad to play me another. He played Stop-Go, & I remember holding my breath again. & again. & again every time I heard more of their music. They are one of “those” bands, indeed. One of those bands that never stops making you hold your breath. No matter how many times you’ve heard a specific song, no matter how many times you see them live. You always catch yourself filling your lungs to the brim with breath you are too excited to let out. & I know I’m not alone in this. I read a post by someone else that said (& I am paraphrasing), “When [Jimmy Herring] plays a solo, or any one of them plays at all, you hold your breath without realizing it. It’s only when they’re done that you realize you forgot how to breathe. That’s how powerful Widespread Panic is”. It’s truly amazing to be there in the concert, surrounded by love, positivity, & the best music you could ask for. Sometimes it honestly feels like the music is being played directly to your soul. There are no words I could ever use to do the experience justice. It is so different from anything else I have ever experienced. It’s… wow.
At the 2014 show, they opened with “One Armed Steve” & I joked with my dad that they would open with it again at the 2016 show. He seriously doubted it, but as soon as Herring hit that E chord I knew. & so did my dad, because we looked at each other for a minute, pointed, & screamed “ONE ARMED STEEVE” until the music took over & we started groovin’. They played an absolutely amazing two sets, which I will include below. They played a bunch of my favourite songs, including “Ain’t Life Grand?”. “Ain’t Life Grand?” has always been one of my all-time favourite songs, & seeing them play it for the first time was an absolutely life changing event. Everyone around me started dancing with each other, & I got to dance with a few strangers. But my favourite ALG memory was watching the couple next to my dad. They were dancing & laughing just like everyone else, when suddenly the guy got down on one knee & proposed to his long time girlfriend in the middle of the song. Being so surrounded by joy & love made me realize that there is good in the world that can always be found at a Widespread show.
My whole life until then had been a whirlwind of anything & everything going wrong. Nothing made sense anymore. I was wandering in the darkness where light had once been. The last remaining joy that I had was there because of music. I had such a negative perspective. I felt like the rest of my life would be just as miserable as it had been before. But somehow, someway, that concert changed my life. Listening to ALG changed my life. Listening to Widespread became my small corner of happiness. & soon that small corner became an entire room that occupied my soul. The feet that had become still were moving again. The silence in my heart had been filled with intricate rhythms & an ever-changing beat that keeps me dancing no matter where I am.
They played for almost four hours and I danced and sang the entire time. The environment around me was wonderful, loving and warm. Everyone was so nice to each other, so willing to share cigarettes, experiences, stories & other “fun things”, & so ready to dance together. I even met someone who went to Southern Miss! She was REALLY cool to talk to & dance with. As always it was so amazing to meet & bond with so many unique & beautiful people.
Shoutout to my badass dad for taking me & being such a good sport the whole night. He was jamming with me, singing & even dancing. He is one cool dude & I am forever grateful to be his daughter & that he introduced me to such an awesome band. It was an all around awesome night & I am so glad that I got to spend the night with the greatest dad I could possibly have.
But I think the coolest thing is the tattoo I have now. September of 2016 I decided that Widespread was a big enough part of my life that I wanted to have a piece of them with me (& on me) until I die & eventually decompose. So I got “ain’t life grand” tattooed underneath some mountains, because the mountains are my happy place. It became a physical reminder that no matter how hard things get, life is still grand. There are still good times to be had with good people. There is still good music to be heard & to be made. There are still good places & good things to hold on to & look forward to. There is always a light in the darkness. & it’s always just a concert away.
Anyway, that’s my little ramble about Widespread Panic! Below is a picture they posted on their Instagram after the show of the setlist, but i’ll type it out just in case you can’t read it or just like this font better or whatever floats your boat.
- One Armed Steve
- Can’t Get High
- Cotton Was King
- Gimme –> Good People –> Me & the Devil Blues
- Better Off
- Chunk of Coal
- Ain’t Life Grand
- Second Skin –> Greta –> Christmas Katie –> Travelin’ Light
- Pickin’ Up the Pieces –> Big Wooly Mammoth
- Cease Fire –> Jamais Vu
- Space Wrangler
May Your Glass Be Filled –> Climb to Safety