On Friday, October 15th, Widespread Panic returned to California, taking the stage at the Fox Theatre in Oakland for a 3-night run. It had been almost a year since their last 3-night run at the Fox in November 2009. This run of shows was filmed for a first-time venture. The band offered live downloads of the films after each show or mail order DVDs of the films.
The Fox is one of the coolest venues in California. A general admission pit with several bars lies below an overhanging seated area. On each side of the stage lies an enormous statue of a seated oriental warrior with glowing eyes. Air conditioners on the floor keep the dancing cool. The Fox was recently renovated and has some of the most captivating designs and architecture of any venue I have ever been to.
The show opened with “From the Cradle” into “Tall Boy.” Panic immediately kicked the weekend off with high energy. The entire first set seemed to be one crazy dance party. Songs like “Bear’s Gone Fishin’” and The Grateful Dead’s “Creampuff War” kept the energy level high. The set ended with a nice “Chainsaw City.” The first set was extremely long—about 90 minutes in total. Set two was kicked off with “Second Skin.” This set was lacking some of the energy that the first set had contained, but was fun nonetheless. Highlights included “Barstools and Dreamers,” “Machine,” and “Chilly Water” as the set two closer. The encores were “Jaded Tourist” and the Widespread Panic classic, “Ain’t Life Grand.” Overall, the first night at the Fox was fun to say the least. Between John Bell’s vocals and Jimmy Herring’s lead guitar, the crowd was very pleased.
The second night had a darker theme than the first. The entire first set seemed to be about death or dying. Opening with “Dyin’ Man” into “Worry,” the band proceeded to tear up the Fox for the next hour. Highlights included a heavy “Slippin’ Into Darkness” into “Fixin’ To Die.” The second set was very different than the first. Opening with “Porch Song,” this set was definitely mellower. Dave Schools threw down a lot more funk in this set, including an extremely funky “Bowlegged Woman” as the set closer. The “Driving Song” into “Party At Your Mama’s House,” back into “Driving Song” chilled the crowd down mid-set. Jerry Joseph stepped out with the band to play “Light is Like Water,” which was a good crowd pleaser. The encores were “Dream Song” and a version of “North” that Herring absolutely shredded.
Night three had a strange vibe. The show was sufficiently undersold, and until about halfway through the first set, seemed empty. Evidently, many people were unaware that this show started an hour earlier than the two following nights due to the fact that it was a Sunday show. The first few songs did not seem to get much crowd approval as the openers had the nights before. It was not until a “Space Wrangler” into “Disco” that the crowd fully unleashed and danced like crazy. The “Proving Ground” into “Impossible” back into “Proving Ground” was a nice way to end the set, even though the set was extremely short. Set two opened with “True to My Nature” followed by a solid “Better Off.” The “Big Wooly Mammoth” was jammed hard, and Jojo Herman’s keyboard solo was one of the highlights of the night. The “Use Me,” “Down,” and “Papa’s Home” were set two highlights. Wally Ingram joined the band onstage to play percussion during “Down” and a drum jam that was sandwiched in the middle of “Papa’s Home.”
The three nights of Widespread Panic at the Fox Theatre were fun for all. Though not the most creative setlists, the band played each song very well. I noticed few mistakes, and even fewer bored audience members. I would definitely recommend this band to any friend.
Friday, October 15, 2010:
Saturday, October 16, 2010:
*Jerry Joseph on guitar/vocals
Sunday, October 17, 2010:
*Wally Ingram on percussion