Widespread Panic is stepping back to take in the view after 30 years in the jam band business.
“This year’s going surprisingly fast,” Panic’s John Bell said. “I think just in general the whole year, being this is the 30th year we’ve been together, that’s kind of a milestone. We’re kind of, I don’t know, kind of taking that all in. We’re gonna slow our schedule down next year and from thereafter, and so this is probably the last heavy year of extended touring that we’re going to do, so kind of taking that all in.”
The American rock band played the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys on Wednesday, July 6.
Founded in 1986 in Athens, Georgia, Widespread Panic quickly became a rising force on the American jam band scene, garnering a national reputation for its melodic rock music. Among many other accolades, Widespread Panic holds the honor of having sold out the highest number of shows at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.
Widespread Panic is Bell (lead vocals, guitar), John Herman (keyboards, vocals), Jimmy Herring (guitar), Domingo Ortiz (percussion, vocals), Dave Schools (bass, vocals), and Duane Trucks (drums). Its members make their homes in cities all across the country.
“Gone are the days when we all lived in the same house,” Bell said. “Now we’ve got one cat in Northern California, one in Nashville, one just outside of Atlanta. I’m in North Carolina and one guy in Athens.”
Panic is known for soulful rock underscored with Southern blues influences and lots of jamming.
“Well you know, it’s a traditional rock and roll set up as far as instrumentation goes,” Bell said. “You got two guitars, bass, keyboard and organ and percussion, and of course drums. Beyond that, we’ll put a set list together for the evening. That’s our blueprint and then we see where the songs are going to take us.
“Many of the songs open themselves up to exploration, hopefully with a sense of direction, and so the music will take on a life of its own and we will follow it onstage.”
Onstage, the group’s focus is primarily on the music, with Widespread Panic eschewing any performance visuals outside of a requisite bad-ass light show.
“It’s not like your gonna see a bunch of hairy dudes dancing around or anything,” Bell said. “We’re fortunate to have a very good light show, and our sound team is really top notch. So visually in the audience sense you get a sensory overload kind of thing.”
Panic is doing a number of tours this summer, with stops all across the country.
“This year’s been set up pretty neatly that we’re going out for four or five weeks and then taking four or five weeks in between,” Bell said. “You get a little excited to go out on the road and then you get to come home and lick your wounds.”
With three successful decades under the belt, Widespread Panic isn’t throwing any major celebrations or launching any memorabilia or marketing campaigns.
“We kind of blew out our 25th anniversary, and it feels like that just happened, so no, we’re more just recognizing this among ourselves,” Bell said. “It’s no secret, but we’re not doing anything different, we’re still the same guys on stage playing, just a little bit older.”
Just a crew of vintage rockers, enjoying life as performers on the road.
“When we’re onstage, it’s all about the music,” Bell said. “When we’re offstage we’re trying to find the best pizza or something like that.”
Related story: Widespread Panic concert review from Lake Tahoe. LINK