Widespread Panic - Alpharetta, GA

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I've probably heard a Widespread Panic song before, but I'm not a "fan."  They have plenty, who travel around the country with them catching as many shows as they can.  I went last night because... my concert buddy asked, they're a well known band, and I hadn't been to the venue before (at the time of ticket purchase anyway, See Dukes of Sept).  Plus, I had never been to a "jam band" concert.

Panic played mostly blues-based songs, each featuring extended solos by guitarist Jimmy Herring.  Not taking anything away from the other band members, but Herring deserves a double share - he carries the full load for the jam in the "jam band."  A dueling lead guitarist ala the Allmans would have been my expectation, but Herring played wonderfully.



The sound quality was generally poor for the vocals, but the fans sang along on all but the newest songs - what few vocals there were.  The band was solid throughout, but despite, bass, percussion and drum solos, Herring was really the only one asked to display virtuosity.  The band changes their playlist nightly to keep it fresh, but there were only several songs that had a distinguishable groove.  The rest sounded pretty much the same, and/or maybe the second set just wasn't as good.

These moccasins were made for dancing

That said, to review a Widespread Panic concert seems to be more about the crowd than about the music.  This is fair, as the band all but ignores the audience anyway.  For once, my concert buddy and I raised the average age of those attending, as most were in their 20's or early 30's. I missed the announcement, but there appears to be a dress code.  Guys are supposed to wear sunglasses in the dark, and girls are supposed to wear sundresses.  The venue was packed, and though seats are provided, the crowd had no real interest in using them.  Each song seemed familiar to the crowd, but usually in terms of whether each was more or less danceable.

It was a party scene.  Drinking (outrageously priced $8 beers), smoking, dancing, hugging, shouting... Damn, I'm old.

That doesn't do justice in describing the crowd, so let me talk about those around me - most of which were very chatty before the show and during the intermission.  I'll start with three single ladies in front of us.  One was a divorced 20 something living with her parents in Huntsville.  She came to party and be somewhere other than home.  She had a cigarette-thin friend from Oregon who has seen several other shows on the current tour.  She had interestingly tattooed arms with floral prints and would qualify as "skilled in the art of interpretive dance" as she didn't stop moving when the music was playing. After yelling what I thought to be I "pulled her hair," she kindly repeated herself : "it smells like burning air!"  That's much clearer. Their other friend seemed to be suffering from a literal overdose of pre-concert partying, but she danced when she was able, letting her inner freak out.

To our left was a fairly short girl with a microskirt and polka-dotted underwear. I know the latter because of the former.  They were color coordinated, too.  She danced for her own enjoyment, and her boyfriend's as well.  If she hadn't danced with a pole before, I'd be surprised.

To my right was a fairly conservative looking couple from Dalton, GA.  She attended UGA and has seen WP over 30 times.  Compared with the hordes around us, she was rather stoic and absorbed the music and the crowd's antics much like the few "old folks" in the crowd, like me.

Another couple in front were more attuned to the historical legacy of a jam band experience.  In tune with another unpublished guideline, they lit of a joint about 20 seconds into the second set, and they weren't alone.  They remained stoned the remainder of the show, she dancing in slow circles and he staring at the audience to the rear, each obviously experiencing the show in their own way.



Would I go back again?  Probably not - the music was enjoyable, but not as "in the moment" as I had hoped.  I'd definitely check out another jam band, though.

First set:

Pleas - Mr. Soul
Dirty Side Down
Shut Up and Drive
Tie Your Shoes
Airplane - jam
Aunt Avis
Goin' Out West
Junior

Second Set:

Little Kin
Bust It Big
Saint Ex
Party at Your Mama's House
Ribs and Whiskey
Fairies Wear Boots
Impossible - Solos
Surprise Valley
All Time Low
North

Encore:

This Part of Town
Henry Parsons Died

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