Review: (Widespread) Panic! at the Riverside

Photo by CJ Foeckler

I woke up this morning and my ears were still ringing from Sunday night’s performance by Widespread Panic at the Riverside Theater. It was the final show of a three-night run with which band ended its fall tour, and to my surprise, was the loudest show I’ve been at since Metallica in 1996. I’m by no means a Spread-Head so I asked Fan-Belt contributor TJ Fackelman (of Milwaukee Film) who had tickets to all three nights of the Milwaukee run to explain to me what I was looking at.

Live Stream Widespread Panic, Live at Riverside Theater. Saturday, November 8.

Fan Belt: How long have you been seeing Panic?
TJ: The first time I saw Widespread Panic was in 1997, when they headlined the Miller Oasis at Summerfest for two nights in a row. Since those first two shows, I have been to about 18-20 Panic shows. I’ve seen the band perform with each of their lead guitarists (from original member Mikey ‘Panic’ Houser to Jimmy Herring, most recently) and in such places as Red Rocks, Colo. and Lollapalooza.

F-B: What did you come to see?
TJ: Well, I’ve only seen Widespread Panic with their newest guitarist, Jimmy Herring, once, so I was really looking forward to see him rocking out. I also love watching bassist Dave Schools, who I like to call the Heavy Metal Teddy Bear.

F-B: Any surprises this weekend?
TJ: Probably when they busted out a cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Living in the U.S.A.” in the encore of Sunday night’s set. (I think I can guess who they voted for last Tuesday.)

F-B: What would have liked to see, but didn’t?
TJ: There were a few songs that I was hoping to see over the course of the three-night run that I didn’t get, but that’s understandable given the sheer volume of songs they have at their disposal to play. Still, I really would have liked to get a Walkin’ (For Your Love).

F-B: How were people partying?
TJ: By the smell inside the venue, I would say everyone was getting fucked up on marijiuana, whether or not by choice. There was also a group of kids who set up shop behind a dumpster on Wisconsin Ave., selling nitrous oxide balloons. It was also interesting to note that about half the fans this weekend seemed to be looking for their friend Molly, while a whole other group was constantly boasting that they were the ones with her.

F-B: Where was the crowd from?
TJ: All over the U.S., but most seemed to be from the Midwest and the South, naturally. Panic fans pride themselves on going to shows in groups, and I even overhead one telling a friend that a Spread-Head from Georgia bought out an entire hotel’s rooms for New Year’s Eve this year in Denver, where Widespread Panic is playing.

F-B: You had a hipster sighting?
TJ: I had to do a double take, but it was true. Amongst a sea of Grateful Dead and Widespread Panic shirts, there he was – giant sunglasses, Ol’ Dirty Bastard t-shirt, and a black & white checkered hoodie. Now that was a surprise.

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