San Antonio,TX • July 2-4 • the Majestic Theatre
Coming off one of their best Red Rocks runs in recent years, Widespread Panic decided to mix it up this year for their annual July 4th run and picked never before visited San Antonio, Texas as their destination. This year didn’t bring the usual carnival of show-goers to town due to the massive gathering of music fans in Chicago. There was, however, a palpable sense of excitement amongst the Widespread Panic fans who decided to make the trip. One thing was noticeable from the get go – the fans who made the trip were all in for Panic, no matter what else was going on. This crowd was fun and rowdy from the “A of D” opener on Thursday to the “Aint Life Grand” finale on Saturday. Each night contained some gems musically.
The first set on Thursday featured some sought after songs including “Heroes” (only recently out of the woodshed with Duane Trucks on drums), “Pleas”, “One Kind Favor”, and a “Bear’s Gone Fishin'” that featured outstanding guitar work from Jimmy Herring. The second set is must listen material as “Second Skin” featured an incredible extended jam that included “Coconut” and “Tie Your Shoes” teases, then segued into a concise but always welcomed “Stop Go”. The band was essentially playing with house money for the rest of the evening when the drop into “Fishwater” sent the crowd into frenzy. Covers of ZZ Top’s “Waiting for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” closed out a very strong second set and left the crowd itching for more.
In all honesty, Friday’s show got off to a slow start as “Tickle the Truth” opened the show, I headed to the beer line. However, Panic thrives on consistency so I knew that the show would pick up shortly thereafter. After several standard first set songs, the energy in the room picked up ten fold as JB sang the first words of “Christmas Katie”, which would feature a fun and somewhat exploratory jam lead by Jimmy Herring. We would soon find out the band was just getting started. As “Christmas Katie” came to a screeching halt, Duane Trucks laid down the opening notes to Chuck Berry’s “Let it Rock”. The crowd came alive, and the band clearly fed off the energy in the room. Jimmy, JB and JoJo locked in for a nice jam out of “Let it Rock”. The second set opened with new original “Cease Fire”, my favorite off the upcoming release “Street Dogs” (due out on September 25). “Cease Fire” is a song that will undoubtedly be used to give Jimmy a lot of room to open up his guitar playing, this version definitely did, clocking in at just over fifteen minutes. The jam out of “Cease Fire” faded away into spacey ambience and gave way to “Blight”, a Panic original co-written with the late Vic Chestnutt. At this point the band was clicking on all cylinders. The ensuing “Ride Me High > Weak Brain, Narrow Mind > Guilded Splinters” is must hear material.
Saturday night opened with “Pigeons”, a song I will never tire of and one that always fits well in the opening slot. “Disco > Pilgrims” showed the band wasn’t messing around on the last night of their stay. “Diner” was a welcome surprise in the first set that showed off some of Duane Trucks’ versatility. For those of you who aren’t on board with Duane, I suggest listening to the end of Diner and the ensuing transition to “Hatfield”. Absolutely great stuff. After listening again, Saturday night’s second set holds up as one of my favorites in recent memory. The entire band was locked in from beginning to end. “Machine” finally came out of the woodshed with Duane at the beginning of the set and Duane would nail the transition into “Barstools and Dreamers”. The crowd was treated to a “FTP” as the band debuted “Angels Don’t Sing the Blues”, a Doors-esque song that is right in JB’s wheel house. JoJo got his time to shine during high energy versions of “Big Wooly Mammoth” and “Drinking Muddy Water”. A beautiful “Mercy” and “Maggot Brain” would end up being my personal highlights from the weekend. The encore of “End of the Show > Ain’t Life Grand” would close out another fantastic weekend with the boy from Athens, GA.
The Majestic Theatre in San Antonio is an incredible venue with an incredible staff that was 100% welcoming to the band’s fans – something to never be taken for granted. The Home Team brought the heat over the 4th and I hope the Majestic will let us back soon to do it right once again. Panic will throw down one last Texas show tonight in Dallas.