Widespread Panic is back. After a 15-month hiatus, the boys from Athens, GA took the stage at the venerable Fox Theatre in Atlanta last night to the roar of adoring fans. Out of the shoot, “Holden Oversoul” from the band’s first album, Space Wrangler.
The screen door to the farmer’s porch
To the back porch, to the backlands
It’s never left closed
Steve LaBate writing for Paste Magazine was there to capture the magic.
“Frontman John Bell’s voice is high, gritty, twisted, emotiveâ€”as if creeping on the breeze from some ghastly New Orleans boneyard. Gregg Allman in Robert Plant’s register. The Widespread singer has put on some pounds since I last saw him perform (at a breast cancer benefit in Athens) but he hasn’t lost a step.”
LaBate continues, “Widespread Panic is usually hailed for its loose jamming and die-hard fans, but I’ve always thought the group was underappreciated in the songwriting department.” I couldn’t agree more. In fact, here’s some of what I had to say in a piece I wrote a number of years ago on this very topic:
A crucial element to any band’s success (or lack thereof) is its ability to write songs with lyrics that embed themselves on a cellular level. This is an area where Grateful Dead–with two heavy weight poets on board–cleaned house. And now today, with new Jam Bands making it on a seemingly weekly basis, we must seek out and hold up new masters of the form. It’s my personal contention that the writing of Mikey Houser and John Bell is worthy of critical praise.
p.s. Spencer Sloan has a great photo spread on his blog. And check the comments–they’re hilarious and sad, depending on your mood and relationship to the band.