Widespread Panic, Red Rocks, Morrison, CO, 6/30
The musical highlight for me in 2002 was the Sunday Widespread Panic show at Red Rocks this year. That being the last time I ever saw Michael Houser grace the stage with his beloved friends and band mates. A lot of things "clicked" that day. From the opening chords of "Driving" to the haunting lines of "LGTSOTR" it seemed that this was a monumental rock n' roll experience, one that you are lucky enough to stumble across a couple of times in a lifetime. Before they even came out to perform, you could sense there was something peculiar about this show because of all the people who were gathering on the side of stage. In the all the years of witnessing those special Red Rocks Sundays, me and a friend commented on how we had never seen those may people in that section. It then hit us that this could really be it. A chapter of our lives could actually be closing nine rows in front of us. It was fitting that they opened with "Driving", that song is timeless when it comes to experiences with this band and the lyrics speak for themselves. A couple of friends in attendance with me experienced some personal tragedy earlier in the year. Their uncle was taken from them unexpectedly and in a way, I think they were still grieving over it. When the opening chords of "Jack" began, it felt like a punch had just landed in my stomach. All I could do was peek back at them smile. I can't begin to think how much that song helped their grieving process, "And the dog he been long gone, gone to pitch for the winning team."
The second set started off with the staples Disco>Diner, there is nothing like hearing those on a Sunday at Red Rocks. A little bit after that is when things got overwhelming. I'll never forget the look on Michael Houser's face during "Chainsaw City". When the lines, "Hear that sound, it's the sound of laughter" were being belted out, he was looking up at the crowd and he just had this true sense of appreciation and happiness written across his face. I think Jerry Joseph saw this as well and played around with the lyrics by switching them to the "sound of Panic" the next verse.
When "End of the Show" came on, you could hear a pin drop in that amphitheater. It was tough seeing the people behind the stage breaking down and weeping. It hit me and my friends all hard, but I can't imagine how it felt for the people who had been there since day one. Then, to switch it up and belt out "LGTSOTR" a couple of songs later, definitely showed the courage of this band. That whole song sums up what happened to Widespread Panic in the year of 2002 but the last lines of the song still ring so true; "Well the Lord chooses the good ones, and the bad one's choose the Lord."
Even then, the band had never admitted anything was wrong with Mike or Widespread Panic in general. I think that day they communicated the way TRUE musicians do, with their hearts and instruments. Through all the shows over the years, that one was of my favorites. They sang songs about the past, present and future of the band in the best amphitheater in America. Five short days later in KC, I noticed that Mikey's stand wasn't set up and he had returned home. Little did I know, I would never see him play his guitar ever again. I can't think of a better "farewell" tribute to Michael Houser then the one I saw Sunday June 30th at Red Rocks Amphitheater.