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Widespread Panic

Saturday, October 11th, 2014« view all past events

Widespread Panic is:

  • John Bell guitars, vocals
  • John “JoJo” Hermann keyboards, vocals
  • Jimmy Herring guitars
  • Todd Nance drums, vocals
  • Domingo S. Ortiz percussion, vocals
  • Dave Schools bass, vocals

27 years ago this week, a singer everyone called J.B., a bass-playing future journalism school dropout and a guitarist nicknamed Panic for his bouts with anxiety went looking for a drummer for their next gig.

After striking out with the usual suspects around Athens, Georgia, the three friends made an eleventh-hour call to a high-school band mate of the guitar player living in Atlanta, thinking he might still have his kit handy.

A few days later, Todd Nance rolled up to the house at 320 King Avenue shared by John Bell, Michael Houser and David Schools in an old, beat-up white Maverick, his drums crammed into the back. After a night of rehearsing, the new quartet hopped onstage together for the first time the next day at the old Mad Hatter Ballroom to play a short set that opened with the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth.” Widespread Panic was born.

Within the year, Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz, a drummer new in town from Austin, Texas, began turning up at their regular Monday night gigs at the Uptown Lounge and never left. As weekly gigs morphed into regional tours, the band began to forge a sound unto themselves, a combination of Houser’s unorthodox guitar playing, Bell’s coarse growl, Nance’s rock-steady drumming, Schools’ lead bass playing, Ortiz’s multi-textured percussion coupled with a collective commitment to playing original songs from the outset and a willingness to walk the improvisational high wire night after night.

Landslide Records came calling and Space Wrangler, Widespread Panic’s debut album, dropped in September 1988, the first copies of which were hand-delivered to the band by Col. Bruce Hampton, an area shaman, bandleader and early mentor. Former Dixie Dreg T Lavitz manned the keyboards for the band’s self-titled follow-up released on Capricorn Records in July 1991, but it really wasn’t until John “Jojo” Hermann – a native New Yorker-turned-Mississippian equally snapped by the likes of Professor Longhair and Terry Adams – claimed the chair the following spring that the band felt like a true ensemble. With a new songwriter, vocalist and worthy onstage foil in Hermann in the fold, the band’s lineup was set.

Over the next two decades, Widespread Panic released nine more studio albums and sold more than three million records, building a loyal following on the road beginning in dingy dive bars across the South and eventually headlining nearly every major U.S. music festival and selling out some of the world’s most prestigious venues. No artist has more sold-out concerts at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater, and their headlining appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival set the single-day attendance record. The celebration for their first live album, Light Fuse, Get Away, drew more than 100,000 fans for a free show in downtown Athens and is still considered one of the largest CD-release parties in music history.

More Info: http://www.widespreadpanic.com/