Photos by Grace Kelly for Bullet Music
My first Widespread Panic show was an experience. Their reputation, as well as the reputation of their fans is definitely not misleading. The gravel and grass parking lot of the Verizon Amphitheatre was packed out with huge vehicles and interspersed between vehicles were chairs, tents and tables with vendors hawking everything from freshly grilled food to t-shirts and beer, so much beer. Bud Light specifically. It was basically like being back home, (Tuscaloosa) tailgating on the quad during football season.
I walked through the pop up festival-esque lot and made my way to the box office outside the amphitheater to pick up my will call ticket. After standing in line for a few minutes I reached the window and was told to go around to the other window where I could pick up my ticket. As soon as I moved to that line it became clear that will call was a mass of miscommunication. The guys in line in front of me had been waiting an hour for their tickets, without a decent explanation of why things were taking so long. The only thing we were told was that they were calling the other box office to see if they had the tickets. Somehow, this process managed to take an extraordinarily long time for almost every person in the will call line.
Will call was also where I learned that WSP fans were not the peaceful hippies I had rather imagined in my head. As I was waiting for my own personal ticket complications to be handled I was flanked in line on either side by couples yelling and cursing. The guy in front of me raged out on the receptionist while the couple behind me began screaming at a guy who had cut in line. My line buddy, who’s name was Wes, stood beside me and tried to smile it off while he made small talk with me. In the meantime Umphrey’s McGee was playing a roaring set inside.
Finally, after receiving my ticket and photo pass I made my way through the venue. This was also my first time at Verizon and it is a huge, very impressive place. The show itself was a mix between a jam session, with some blues and jazz riffs thrown in and what I imagine a southern rock concert to be. Guitar shredding and keyboard pounding abound with nice raspy rock vocals and some bad ass brass solos. Those individuals sober enough to do so were dancing in the aisle, everyone else was swaying, holding onto each other and singing along passionately with every song.
Judging by the crowd around me, the show was a roaring success. The fans are amazing in their own right. The guys around me knew every song and showed more love for the band than a lot of people do for their own religion. One kid I spoke to had been to 33 shows, Wes had been coming to see them since he was around 15-years-old. I spoke to a friend who was at the show and he said it was one of the best set lists he had heard. Personally, I did have some favorites. I enjoyed the hand drums, gospel keyboard and swing rhythms of "Big Wooly Mammoth" and the sweet strains of "Walkin’ (For Your Love)." The guy beside me said his favorite was "Space Wrangler," a nice picking number with breathy falsetto vocals.
Obviously WSP is a huge success, they are loved and followed by an obscenely loyal fan base, so they are doing something right. However, their music didn’t do anything special for me.
For a complete set list click here.
To purchase tickets to see the band play at Sweetwater 420 Festival click here.