music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Widespread Panic

April 14, 2017 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

Athens, Georgia has launched a number of prominent bands. REM and the B-52’s are probably the most well-known bands to surface from Athens, but the city has also launched the careers of artists ranging from Danger Mouse to Neutral Milk Hotel to the Indigo Girls. Athens was also the starting point to one of most prominent jam-bands over the past 20 years, Widespread Panic.
Widespread Panic was formed in the mid-80’s in Athens by college friends John Bell and Michael Houser. Early versions of the band played a handful of college shows in ’84 and ’85 before joining with drummer (and childhood friend of Houser) Todd Nance in ’86 as the first official incarnation of Widespread Panic. They began touring regionally, making a name for themselves as a live act. They released their first album in 1987 on a small label, which allowed them to expand their touring base and begin to gain more exposure. They began touring cross country for the next few years, building a fan base through energetic live shows and a very liberal taping policy.
All of this hard work got the band noticed by Capricorn Records, who signed the band to their first major label contract. Widespread Panic was released in July of 1991, and the band’s first concert video Widespread Panic: Live from Georgia was released later that year. The video was directed by Billie Bob Thorton. The band continued to record in studio and tour relentlessly, both by themselves and as part of the H.O.R.D.E. tour. John “JoJo” Hermann also joined the band on keys around this time. They also released Everyday and Ain’t Life Grand around this time. While neither album was a hit, they performed well enough to give the band the support they needed to keep touring.
In 1998, the band held a free CD release party in Athens to celebrate the release of their first live album. An estimated 100,000 fans descended on Athens for the free show, proving beyond a doubt how popular the band had become. By this time they had truly arrived as major headliners in their own right, playing to sold out audiences throughout the country. They also headlined two nights of the first Bonnaroo Music Festival, and continued to release well-received live and studio albums.
The band suffered a huge blow in 2002, however, when founding member Michael Houser was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to tour with the band until about a month before his death in August of that year. However, prior to his death, Houser had been insistent that the band continue after his death, and he whole-heartedly gave his blessing to George McConnell to take his place in the band. The band released Ball in 2003, which consisted of songs that had never been played live before. In 2004 they took a break for touring but released three live albums, and they returned to the studio for Earth to America which was released in 2006.
The George McConnell era would only last 4 years and two albums, however. McConnell was fired by the band during the 2006 summer tour, leaving the band to use two replacements to finish the tour. Guitarist Jimmy Herring joined the band near the end of 2006 and proved to be a great fit. The band toured throughout 2006 and 2007 with Herring without really missing a beat. they released Free Somehow in 2008 and began releasing a series of archival concerts.
The band continued touring steadily through 2010 and released another studio album. They announced at the end of 2010 that they would be touring in 2011 for their 25th anniversary but would be taking 2012 off. They mainly stuck to that, although they did an acoustic tour in early 2012 called The Wood Tour. They returned with a destination event in The Dominican Republic in early 2013. They brought back a short Wood Tour in 2014. Also in 2014 it was announced that Todd Nance would be temporarily replaced by Duane Trucks on drums. Nance rejoined the band for a few shows in 2016, but it was announced afterwards that Trucks would be the band’s drummer moving forward. Also in 2016 the band announced that they would be reducing their touring. They haven’t broken up and have kept a regular schedule, but not one nearly as extensive as their earlier days.
Throughout the years, Widespread Panic has proven themselves to be a champion of the jam band scene. They plan each shows set to assure maximum variety from show to show. The go so far as to revisit the setlist between sets on nights when they’re playing multi-set shows. Their reputation as a spectacular live band have allowed them to set records for the most sold-out shows at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena and the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. They continue to headline almost every festival that they’re a part of, and they’re doing their best to fill the void left by the retirement of The Allman Brothers. There’s no reason to think that the band will be hanging it up any time soon.

Outside Lands announces lineup
The 10th annual Outside Lands festival will take place in San Francisco from August 11-13. The festival will feature headlining sets from Metallica, The Who, and Gorillaz, as well as sets from The Avett Brothers, Dawes, Shovels & Rope, Rebelution, and a huge variety of other acts.

Umphrey’s adds dates
Umphrey’s McGee is continually adding dates to their schedule, and they’ve set shows leading into August.

May 18 Norfolk, VA – The NorVa
May 19 Baltimore, MD – Pier Six Pavilion*
May 20 Hampton, NH – Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
May 26–28 Chillicothe, IL – Summer Camp Music Festival
June 1 Augusta, GA – Augusta Common^
June 2 Columbia, SC – Music Farm
June 3 Minden, WV – Mountain Music Festival
June 11 Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo
June 17 Grand Rapids, MI – Founders Fest
June 30 Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre+
July 1 Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre#
July 2 Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre@
July 7 New York, NY – Central Park SummerStage
July 8 Marshfield, MA – Levitate Festival
July 9 Asbury Park, NJ– Stone Pony Summer Stage
July 21 Chicago, IL – Northerly Island**
July 22 Indianapolis, IN – White River State Park**
August 11 Raleigh, NC – Red Hat Amphitheater*
August 12 Scranton, PA – The Peach Music Festival
August 17 Birmingham, AL – Sloss Furnaces^^
August 18 Atlanta, GA – Chastain Park Amphitheatre^^
August 19 Nashville, TN – Ascend Amphitheater^^
August 20 Knoxville, TN – Tennessee Theatre
August 24 Arrington, VA – Lockn’ Festival
*w/ Aqueous
^w/ Marcus King Band
+w/ Stick Figure #w/ Snarky Puppy and Bokante
@w/ Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers **w/ Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
^^w/ White Denim

John Butler Trio announces North American dates

The John Butler Trio will be heading to North America this summer for a run of dates. The dates include a stop at Lockn’ and the Britt Music & Arts Festival.

July 8 Telluride, CO—The Ride Festival
August 17 Washburn, WI—Lake Superior Big Top
August 19 Royal Oak, MI—Royal Oak Music Theatre
August 22 Jim Thorpe, PA—Penn’s Peak
August 24 Port Chester, NY—Capitol Theatre
August 25 Philadelphia, PA—The Fillmore
August 26 Arrington, VA—Lockn
August 27 Asheville, NC—Highland Brewing Company
August 30 Highland Park, IL—Ravinia Festival
September 1 Indianapolis, IN—Egyptian Room at Old National
September 3 Kansas City, MO—CrossroadsKC
September 7 Boise, ID—Egyptan Theatre
September 9 Vancouver, BC—Malkin Bowl
September 10 Bend, OR—Athletic Club of Bend
September 12 Jacksonville, OR—Britt Music and Arts Festival

Wanee Festival
April 20-22
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Bob Weir, Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, Blackberry Smoke, Matisyahu, JJ Grey & Mofro

Sweetwater 420 Festival
April 21-23
Centennial Park
Atlanta, GA
Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, moe., Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Anders Osborne, Dark Star Orchestra, Twiddle

Summer Camp
May 25-28
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Primus, Gov’t Mule, The Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mike Gordon, EOTO, The Floozies, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams KWahtro, The Wood Brothers, The Motet, TAUK, Twiddle, The Werks

May 25-28
Cumberland, MD
The Travelin’ McCoury’s featuring Dierks Bentley, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, Jeff Austin Band

Dark Star Jubilee
May 26-28
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra (x3), Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Tuna (acoustic and electric), Keller Williams and KWhatro, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Revival Music Festival
May 26-28
Harmony Park
Geneva, MN
Galactic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Turkuaz, Antibalas, Big Something, The Hip Abduction, The Main Squeeze, Aqueous

Nelsonville Music Festival
June 1-4
Nelsonville, OH
Ween, Emmylou Harris, Rodriguez, Son Volt, Sara Watkins, Parquet Courts

Mountain Music Festival
June 1-3
Wonderland Mountain
New River Gorge, WV
Umphrey’s McGee, The Revivalists, Twiddle, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Big Something, Spiritual Rez, The Southern Belles

June 8-11
Manchester, TN
U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, Turkuaz, Twiddle

Disc Jam
June 8-11
Stephentown, NY
Break Science Live Band, Dopapod, Turkuaz, The Motet, Manic Focus, TAUK, Electric Beethoven, Aqueous, Consider the Source

4 Peaks Music Festival
June 15-18
Bend, OR
Moe., Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Moonalice

Mountain Jam
June 16-18
Hunter Mountain, NY
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The String Cheese Incident, Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Elephant Revival, Shovels & Rope, The Revivalists, The Infamous Stringdusters

Electric Forest I
June 22-25
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, My Morning Jacket, The Revivalists, Lotus, Big Gigantic, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Electric Forest II
June 29-July 2
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Lotus, Big Gigantic, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Friendly Gathering
June 29-July 1
Waitsfield, VT
Twiddle, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Turkuaz, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Moon Hooch

High Sierra
June 29-July 2
Quincy, CA
Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, Galactic, Mike Gordon, Fruition

June 30-July 2
Turin, NY
Moe., Blackberry Smoke, Fishbone, Railroad Earth, Ryan Montbleau, Twiddle, Floodwood, Kung Fu

Camp Bisco
July 13-15
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
The Disco Biscuits (6 sets), Bassnectar, GRiZ, Pretty Lights, Lotus, Twidle, Turkuaz, Electric Beethoven, Break Science, Beats Antique, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Werks

Northwest String Summit
July 13-16
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, JJ Grey & Mofro, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Turkuaz,

Levitate Music & Arts Fest
July 8-9
Marshfield, MA
Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, Ziggy Marley, Lake Street Drive, The Revivalists, Twiddle, JJ Grey & Mofro, Rubblebucket

Deep Roots Mountain Revival
July 20-22
Marvins Mountaintop
Masontown, WV
Brandi Carlile, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dr. Dog, The Motet, JJ Grey & Mofro, Moon Taxi, White Denim, TAUK

Floydfest 17: Freedom
July 26-30
Floyd, VA
Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Shovels & Rope, Turkuaz, TUAK, Fruition

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
August 11-13
Alta, WY
The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s

August 18-20
Wellston, MI
Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush Band, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Fruition, Joshua Davis, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings, The Accidentals, The Crane Wives

August 24-27
Arrington, VA
The Avett Brothers, Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, moe, Greensky Bluegrass, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK

Hillberry Music Festival
October 12-15
Eureka Springs, AR
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Dumpstaphunk, Dirtfoot

Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!