Widespread Panic brought their traveling road show to the Royal Oak Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan last night, and the Traveling Rothburys were there in full force to immerse ourselves in the experience. Daughter Rosie has been telling me for the last two or three years how incredible these guys are, but they stayed pretty much off my radar until after our experience at Rothbury this summer, when I figured that I had better check them out and I loved what I heard. When tickets went on sale a few months ago, we were first in line to buy ours and since Rosie has seen them on many occasions and turned us on to them, it seemed only fitting that we fly her up from the Keys and all go together. As things turned out, it just couldn’t have been a better time.
The band was ON from note one and stayed on though the final encore. If you haven’t heard Panic, they’re something like a theoretical blend of the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Lynard Skynard, with a dash of Curtis Mayfield for good measure, but as Rosie correctly points out, their music is darker than any of those entities. Guitarist-singer John Bell has one of the most distinctive voices in rock and roll today, and lead guitarist Jimmy Herring is not just a fitting replacement for the late Michael Houser, he is an absolute monster player with dazzling technique and the good taste to put it all on full display without any sense of showing off.
We were able to capture a few video vignettes to create a small memento for Rosie
There was no opening band, so we got two solid sets of pure Panic, and they rocked HARD. Highlights included a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia,” “Thought Sausages,” “Walk On,” “Angels on High,” “Drums” interludes in both sets, and “Old Joe” and “Ribs & Whiskey” (“Well I seen your sister naked~Ain’t nothin’ I tried to see…”) for encores. A day after the show, my right ear is still ringing, not from the admittedly thunderously loud music, but rather from the crowd roaring their approval and demanding an encore for a full five minutes.
The wine served at the venue, which is otherwise a very fine one indeed, is industrial plonk, so we satisfied our thirst with Guinness Stout in cans, and that worked well enough. When we got home, we cracked a bottle of the Mionetto Prosecco Brut we’re so fond of and recounted impressions and favorite moments of the concert.
It’s not hard to see why people travel all over the country to follow Widespread Panic in much the same way that Deadheads would “go on tour” with the Grateful Dead. Their shows are more than just concerts, they are sub-cultural experiences, and during this one, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face all night. I may not travel all the way across the US to see them again, but I will take advantage of the earliest opportunity when they come somewhere reasonably close.
Interestingly, Panic is more than just a great band, they also have a very solid organization behind them. They own their own recording label, Widespread Records (what’s a record?), and even a quick look at their website and Facebook page give testimony to how on-the-ball their support staff is. Tour information is up-to-the-moment, shows are available for download within a day or two of the performances (last night’s performance is already online) and even their Facebook logo announces upcoming concerts.
There’s a lot to like about Widespread Panic, and we like them one heck-of-a-lot. If you love rock and roll like we do and these guys come anywhere near you, RUN, don’t walk to get tickets.
Reporting from Day-twah,