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Best of 2002

Published: 2003/01/23
by Bruce Worman

Widespread Panic, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Manchester, TN- 6/22&23

Bonnaroooo. Enough said. Approximately 70,000
music-rabid fans, all extolling common camaraderie and
kinship. By the time Widespread Panic hit the stage
that Saturday night, festival attendees already had
the chance to experience 40 or so groups, performers,
impromptu drum circles, and parades.
Widespread Panic took the stage that warm evening with
the moon in the sky rear left of the stage, and
proceeded to jam and rock red-hot style. The band
welcomed friends and collaborators Dirty Dozen Brass
Band to the stage the previous evening, and the crowd
anticipated another surprise appearance this show as
well. The first set charged off with the Panic staple
‘Chilly Water’ with a ‘Makes Sense to Me’ sandwiched
in. ‘One-Armed Steve’ was up next, and then the
‘Wondering>Diner’ duo got the bones loosened up some
more. ‘Blue Indian’ slowed things down to let folks
catch their breath, but ‘Pigeons’ heated up the crowd
again, with trademark Mikey Houser guitar work
piercing the night air. Some movement was occurring
on the side stage- JB introduced Miss Dottie Peoples
and the Peoples’ Choice Choir and they came round to
supply our souls with a dose of gospel thru ‘Ain’t
Life Grand>Tall Boy>Testify> Tall Boy’. Ain’t nobody
in attendance that can truthfully state that they
weren’t moved to dancing by that. I was still smiling
when I got on the plane to fly home 2 nights later.
Second set began with fan-favorite instrumental
‘Disco’ (always know it’s ON from there), then
‘Thousage’, and a Houser vocal moment in ‘This Part of
Town’. After ‘Action Man’, George McConnell joined
onstage, and infused his own sound on a cover of
bluesman Robert Johnson’s ‘Stop Breakin’ Down Blues’.
And now some more movement on side stage revealed the
entrance of rock legend Steve Winwood to help lead the
boys through two of his own songs: ‘Glad’ (first time
ever played by Widespread Panic) and ‘Low Spark of
High Heeled Boys’. This lead into a nice long jam,
then into the Drum solo. The always-effervescent WP
percussionist Sunny Ortiz was joined by the
always-grinning Leon Mobley (Innocent Criminals) on
djembe to lay down some world beat. One can never
guess for certain what the Panic will segue into out
of ‘Drums/Bass’, but the haunting chords of another
Mikey Houser classic ‘Vacation’ had the people singing
as one (and still brings tears to our eyes as we
remember our friend, lost to us August 10, 2002- God
Bless). This led to another Panic staple ‘Space
Wrangler’ and finished off with the raucous yeee-haw
of ‘Love Tractor’. Had to rest after all that! The
band’s encore treated us to three more songs-
‘Visiting Day’ into ‘Arleen’ into ‘City of Dreams’,
and unfortunately, that was all for the evening. Now,
I’ve been to a ‘few’ shows in 20 years, Widespread
Panic and others, and I haven’t seen one that rocked
this much ever. The combination of the whole festival
atmosphere, a great day of music, great Tennessee
weather, the common vibe of high spirits, smiles, and
all the options of entertainment to choose from,
solidified this show as the best I have had the
pleasure to witness.

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