October 11, 2011
As they prepare to take a hiatus from the road in early 2012 and fresh off of the heels of their annual Tunes for Tots benefit in their native Athens, GA city, Widespread Panic headed north to give Indy spreadheads a bittersweet farewell on October 11, 2011 at the Murat Theatre.
When the doors of the theatre opened, the house soon became flooded with those who had been anxiously awaiting the southern soul satisfaction that Widespread Panic has been delivering for over a quarter-century.
As the house lights dimmed, the mega-lights began beaming into the crowd, and shortly thereafter, the celebrated sextet — guitarist and vocalist John Bell, master of the bottom end, Dave Schools, guitarist Jimmy Herring, keyboardist John â€œJoJoâ€ Hermann, drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Domingo â€œSunnyâ€ Ortiz — sauntered onto their stage to a massively uproarious applause.
The smile across Schools’ face as he walked to the front of the stage seemed to spread through the crowd, the exhilaration growing as John Bell cracked into â€œFrom The Cradleâ€ off of their 2006 release, Earth to America. Bell’s vocals gently grabbed hold while the rhythm of his axe mingled in and out with the rhythm of the drums and eventually was swept away by an intoxicating solo fromÂ Herring. Â Driving the night onward with â€œHolden Oversoul,â€ the veteran road warriors’ southern improvisational jam would thicken, with flowing rock, jazz and blues textures that served as electrically charged juicers for the Muratâ€™s packed house.
The rhythmic pulse of Schoolsâ€™ walking bass line on â€œStop-Goâ€ grooved its own steady beat as Bell and Herringâ€™s riffs soared and intertwined, eventually giving way to an extended improvisational jam, of which Herring would lead.The inferno of heat pulsing and ripping against JoJoâ€™s heavy handed keys sent the throng into a wave of massive shouts before Schools dropped the bottom end for a second solid bass solo that gave way to an always welcomed rapped rendition of â€œTime Waitsâ€Â as a preamble to a funky and tight offering of â€œSleeping Man.â€ On the heels of JoJoâ€™s keys forming a perfect bridge into â€œHappy,â€ the velocity rose and dipped like butterflies.
The second set opened with Dave Schools familiar bass riff, signalling â€œPapa Johnny Road.â€ John Bell’s vocals amplified above the southern slickness of the band as they jammed into â€œClimb To Safety.â€ From the balcony looking down at the mass of dancing feet below,Â it seemed like they literally were climbing on Bell’s vocal ladder, moving l as though they re rising out of the water; Herring’s guitar cries and shrieks only served as further catalyst to the persuasive energy that was initially formulated by Bell.
The percussionists — driven by Schools’ bass– would bring in â€œSecond Skin;â€ Herring’s axe again gently crying into the crash of the drums, the slow groove sending chills and taking hold melding the dancing crowd into a tight psychedelic sea of movement.
FollowingÂ the crowd-pleasing “Coconuts, ” the assault continued with “Action Man,â€ leaving Bell smiling ear to ear as he watched the rambunctious crowd before him.Â Panic came back out for encore with, â€œLast Straw,â€ and â€œSometimes.â€
As the last notes of the double-encore, “Last Straw” and “Sometimes,” dwindled down,Â the crowd filtered out of the Murat and mood in tow,Â intoÂ the city streets. Itâ€™s hard to believe it would be the Panic’s last time in Naptown for an undetermined length of time, but in short, they gave one hell of a closing act.