Over the past 25 years, Georgia-based band Widespread Panic has crafted a reputation as one of the most acclaimed live bands by keeping the audience guessing whether the next song would be a directionally straight, album track-length version, or simply serve as the on-ramp to an extended jam session that would take them on a remarkable journey through sonic corridors.
During their performance at the Fillmore Silver Spring, the band took the road less travelled with a 23-song all-acoustic set list that transformed the music venue into an intimate living room setting, marking the first night of an their “Wood” tour, the band’s first-ever acoustic tour.
A “paperless ticket” tour meant fans had to jump through more hoops than usual as ID and the purchasing credit card were required for admittance. Yet the Fillmore had plenty of staff on hand to manage the line that veered around the block to Rostas'. Some fans that were not lucky enough to score one of the limited tickets to the two-night stand in Silver Spring were frustrated, yet happy for the band.
“Man, I used to be able to just go to the box office at the Warner [theatre] and get day-of tickets, but this is something else – good for the band, but not cool for me,” said D.C. resident Patrick Stevens.
With as many blazers as blue jeans, and grey hairs as college kids, the crowd was as diverse as the catalog of music the band had to select from to entertain their 2,000 visitors.
After taking their places on regal-looking maroon leather chairs, the band opened with “This Part of Town” from 2008’s “Don’t Tell the Band.” Four songs later, Widespread found their hook with the crowd who vigorously sang along with “Wondering” from the band’s 1993 album “Everyday,” the first studio album with keyboardist John Hermann.
After 25 years many bands simply perform, looking to earn a few last paydays before retiring. Widespread Panic, by contrast, really seems to enjoy playing, and more importantly, playing together, as evidenced by the broad smiles from bassist Dave Schools, subtle winks from vocalist John Bell and the intricate interplay between guitarist Jimmy Herring and keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann.
Amanda McCoy travelled with her boyfriend Chris from Chapel Hill, NC to see the band and was enjoying “an early Valentine’s Day gift.”
“We met each other at Panic at Bonnaroo [Music Festival] and have been together ever since,” she said. “This is such a special night with the Wood Tour and we just had to be here.”
A half-hour break followed the eclectic first set, with an hour-long, 11-song second set and a three-song encore which included a track from “Earth to America.”
Tweeter @DarrylSlater described it as “Sweet! Widespread Panic with a "May Your Glass Be Filled" in encore. Sounds great in all-acoustic. Terrific song.”
Following Wednesday’s show, the band heads to The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga. for three shows, then to Mexico for the band’s first ever-set of gigs south of the border. Three nights at the Fillmore in Denver and three shows at Belly Up-Aspen will complete Widespread Panic’s touring for 2012.