Widespread Panic, Asheville Style
Widespread Panic returned to Asheville NC with free onsite Covid testing or proof of vaccination required, kicking off a three day-run (August 6-8) in the Western Blue Ridge Mountains and the vibrant art scene. Moving indoors at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center required all fans to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid test for entry each and every night. This did not keep any of the fans away from seeing one the most exciting touring bands again. With plenty of local breweries, cuisine, and pre- and post-events, the weekend was set for us Spreadheads to return to Asheville for the first time since Halloween 2015.
Day 1, Friday, August 6
Opening up with “Let’s Get Down To Business,” John Bell and the band were telling, shedding a little insight on what was to come, flowing ever so nicely into “You Should be Glad,” and believe me we all are very lucky and glad to be in attendance. “Sell, Sell, Sell > Radio Child > Gimme,” as with seven previous post-pandemic shows, the energy on stage of all members is beyond explanation. Huge Jimmy Herring jams, Dave Schools’ bombs, and JB’s monster rhythms had everyone in sync and happy to be alive! “Thought Sausage” into a sweet “Good People > Dark Bar > Good People and then “Tail Dragger > Love Tractor” (with a “Heart of Gold” Neil Young jam) shut down set 1.
Opening up set 2 with a longer-that-usual heavy jam “Rumble” into Jojo Hermann and “Bust it Big,” bringing the frenzy to everyone inside the building. Next was JB’s rendition of Neil Young’s “Don’t be Denied,” a crowd favorite sing-along and rare. “Send Your Mind” followed, and then “Sleeping Man” (Vic Chesnutt) would once again take the energy to higher and higher levels. With Schools’ heavy bass, Herring’s face-melting leads, and Sunny and Duane’s percussons, the whole crowd was standing on their feet and dancing as far and high as one could see.
Easing us back into “Walking,” we recouped a little energy and were immediately rewarded with “Airplane > Take Off Jam > Drums > Run Like Hell Jam” (one of the longest ever) into a wonderful “Fishwater” to end the second set.
Encore: “Continent Blues > Expiration Day” (Vic Chesnutt). Post-pandemic show #8 was in the books, and we are ready tomorrow for More, More, More!
Day 2, Saturday, August 7
Continuing where they left off, WSP opened night two with “Pleas > Diner > All Time Low,” and we were off to the races. Another old-school gem, “Blue Indian,” would lead us to Jojo and “Visiting Day.” Smiles abounded with “Time Zones > Makes Sense to Me > Jack,” ending the first set with an explosive Dave Schools-led “Flat Foot Flewzy” ( Steve Ferguson) that once again had all of us dancing and singing along out loud and full of joy.
Second set and WSP would take it up again, opening up with Neil Young’s “Walk On > Lovelight Jam” into a very, very nice “Tie Your Shoes > Christmas Katie.” Long-time favorite “Use Me” (Bill Withers) rolled into a hard-rockin’ “Conrad the Caterpillar.” The next long segment would transition from one into the next: “Sleepy Monkey > Blight > Red Hot Mama > Drums > Red Hot Mama > Protein Drink > Sewing Machine.” Wow, power slam there, and second set over.
Encore: “Trashy” (Bloodkin, such a great song, FTP and LTP Red Rocks 2021) > “Weight of the World > Action Man.” Day 2 done, smiles as far as you can see. Post-pandemic show #9 complete, and Sunday Service is next.
Day 3, Sunday, August 8
Sunday Service, Never Miss a Sunday Show, and we would all know why when this night was done.
Opening up with “Coconuts,” and we are all ready to get down! “Greta > City Of Dreams. “Climb to Safety,” “I’m Not Alone,” “Sundown Betty > Junior,” “Party At Your Mama’s House > No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.” A strong 11-song first set, getting us primed for what was ahead: Pure Fire.
Opening second set with “From The Cradle,” next up “Dear Mr. Fantasy > Rock” with Sunny Ortiz pounding his drums harder and faster. “St. Ex > Surprise Valley > Electric Funeral Jam > Maggot Brain > I’m So Glad > Surprise Valley,” ending the second set with old-school favorite “Postcard.” That was one powerful second set. JB and the band had a few more before sending us on our way.
Encore: “Friendly War > DOWN > You Cant Always Get What You Want.” You get what you need!
YES! We needed that show. Thank you, Widespread Panic, Home Team, Paul Hoffman and Pulse Lighting, the City of Asheville, and all the volunteers helping with everything including covid testing, vaccine verification, clean-up crews. etc. Austin, Texas: you are next! See you there!***
By now, you know that JB’s positive Covid test has postponed the Austin shows to October 8-10. The next Widespread Panic shows will be at Oxbow Riverstage in Napa Valley August 27-29.