Brings the Noise to Ascend Amphitheater (Night 2 Review)
By Matt Christie • Photos by Ryan Swerdlin
Country Music Capital of the World. The Music City. Nashville. Made famous for it’s country music influence, Nashville’s eclectic blend of rustic southern roots and modern millennial affluence has given the city of breath of fresh air. Named as one of the quickest growing cities in the country, Nashville has reemerged as a touring destination for even the biggest artists.
Resting on the Cumberland River’s meandering banks, the newly opened Ascend Amphitheatre has opened with a big bang. The Music City’s newest outdoor concert venue has already played host to jam band titans Phish and My Morning Jacket since it’s debut in August. Nashville’s newest outdoor concert venue is located a few short blocks from the famous Honky Tonk District on Broadway. Another new amphitheater, complete with private event space, is set to open south of Nashville later this year.
Widespread Panic are not newcomers to Nashville. Including this past weekend and runs at both The Ryman Auditorium and The Woods at Fontanel, the band have closed out 3 tours at 3 different venues in as many years. With limited touring scheduled for the remainder of the year, many regulars circled this holiday weekend as their “can’t miss” shows. The band has confirmed that Todd Nance (original drummer and co-founding member of Widespread Panic), will return in 2016. Many speculate that Todd’s return paired with a new album release set for later this month could mean big things for the band’s 30th anniversary. With all things considered, we must take this opportunity to praise and thank Duane Trucks. As hyper-critical as we fans can be, Duane’s performed like only he knows how: tons of energy, prideful yet humble, and a complete professional. One of the true family members of the jam scene and most certainly an honorary member of Widespread Panic. Thank you Duane.
Okay, now on to the show.
As the sun set over downtown Nashville, we were warmed by the familiar faces emerging from behind the curtains. A feel good sing-a-long Bloodkin’s “Can’t Get High” was surely welcome as Bloodkin had played the aftershow the evening prior. The cover has been a standard in the band’s repetoir for years and have made the song their own.
The following segment of “Chilly Water” > “Mr. Soul” > “Chilly Water” only affirmed that the new tenants felt right at home. The high energy combination always delivers and has seen similar pairings over previous years.
A powerful rendition of “Let’s Get The Show On The Road” gave us a chance to catch our breath and “take a look around,” even if only for a brief moment. The ballad shortly gave way to “Bear’s Gone Fishin’. Much to the help of Duane and Jimmy’s style, this is a song that has evolved from an original instrumental to an anchor in many jam focused segments of concerts in recent memory.
“Rib’s and Whiskey” seemed like it wasn’t if the song would be played, but when. It was only a matter of time before JB’s riverside blues slide guitar riff put that familiar grin on all our faces again. It soon gave way to “Steven’s Cat,” a lighthearted new tune from the impending new album, “Street Dogs For Breakfast” set for release this month.
The theme for me throughout the first set was that of mutual appreciation. A very relaxed and patient vibe rang true with the Labor Day holiday weekend we were all enjoying so fondly.
We all know the cliche, “never miss a sunday show.”
After a brief intermission, the lights dropped and we buckled up for what was sure to be a heavy hitting second set.
The opening segment of “Lil Kin” > “Machine” > “Barstools and Dreamers” found the crowd and band again swinging in unison. Barstools included a Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin rap. My favorite song from the new album is “Angels Don’t Sing The Blues.” This marked the first time seeing the song performed and was a special treat in a show already full of highlights.
The closing segment of the 2nd set followed the new tune. Spoiler alert: it was fucking awesome.
Local pianist Fish Michie joined JoJo on keys for “Ride Me High” > “Arleen” > before eventually giving way as Panic finished the show “Junior” > “Bowlegged Woman” > “Fishwater.”
These are the kinds of setlists you write up when you are bored at work. They never actually come together so seamlessly, not even in our dreams. But that closing statement was the “expect the unexpected” moment we had all been hoping for. Any kind of hyperbolic superlative you can imagine would not have done this one justice.
Following a brief recess, the band took the stage for their encore presentation. How do you follow that up?
A soothing “May Your Glass Be Filled” brought us all back to reality before a scorching “Travelin’ Light” > “North” had us all thinking the same thing- in the words of Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly.”
If this holiday weekend affair was intended to be a warm up for the Lock’n Festival in Arrington, VA this weekend, Saturday’s performance was a sign of great things to come.
Could the Ascend Amphitheater become a new vacation destination for the band over the next few years? We have seen it at Red Rocks in late June, The Wharf in late spring, Grand Targee for Independence Day and countless others. Only time will tell, but you can bet this isn’t the last we have seen of Widespread Panic at the Ascend Amphitheater.