July 9, 1011
Skill and patience are often acquired over time, with practice and repetition.Â It takes years to master a craft, and years more to make it second nature. Â Bay Area fans were rewarded for their own patience this past weekend, when jam rock giants Widespread Panic returned to the Fox Theater for what is becoming an annual multi-night destination for the band. In their 25th year playing together, they’re showing fans exactly what mastering one’s craft sounds and looks like, and finished the weekend on Saturday with a prime example of what makes Panic the truly Â great band that they are.
The Fox Theater in Oakland, after being renovated few years back, is quickly becoming the premier venue to see great performances be born. The interior offers its guests many visually appealing distractions like incredibly intricate patterns, paintings and moldings that are colored strong hues of red, gold and purples.Â Even at full capacity, the entire venue stays almost sweater-comfortable down to the feet thanks to piped in cold air that pumped from all directions.Â The sound is pretty good for rock shows, although this particular evening the mix was not really dialed in; Dave School’s bass was a tad high and distorted, and vocals didn’t push through the instruments easily. However, the room just glows with energy, and in events such as these, the buzz as you enter the floor area immediately engulfs you. There was a familiar scent of bourbon whiskey in the air, and as the house lights went down to signal the beginning of the show, it only grew stronger as the night progressed.
Panic began by firing out of the gates with two rockers, and “Rebirtha” set the tone from which the band was able to catapult from one level to the next throughout the entire evening. There was only one real ballad played throughout what really was an otherwise faster paced shredding of a first set. Jimmy Herring looked very comfortable as he commanded his guitars, going from lick to lick, overtly complimenting the tone of John Bell’s vocals.Â Herring continues to have his roots grow deeper into the Panic soil, and now more than ever has shown how incredibly in sync he has become with his Widespread brethren. Clearly a master of his instrument, there were several solos that had fans palpitating with adoration. His work in “Easy Wind,” which was nestled nicely between “Pigeons,” had Bay Area Grateful Deadheads bursting at the seams in response to the fine example of Garcia-channeling put on by Jimmy.Â As he is no stranger to the approach Garcia often took to the notes, Herring played the cover with a powerful but elegant combination of melodies that certainly had the propensity to transport his audience to another time entirely.
The night’s song selection perfectly teed up John “JoJo” Hermann, as he worked the keys and delivered on that signature Clav sound that defines many of the high paced Panic “Disco” style jams. For those who favor their keyboard players, JoJo was a treat to watch as he moved around his station, layering progressions that really set how the group approaches the exchange sections.Â The most prominent case in point on this night was the multiple interactions between Schools and Hermann wherein Dave would be hammering away on his bass, JoJo would find him, and the syncing that ensued made it impossible for the vets to lose.
The one regret from the entire evening was the early Fox Theatre curfew that kept the band from playing into the energy that begged for more.
Long after the final curtain dropped and the room still buzzing from post-show glow, Panic had once again shown the reasons why the beloved followers of their craft have been so for as long as they have. With a few more dates left on their domestic summer tour, fans will have to practice some of their own patience before the band gets back to it in for a fall run that begins back east.
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