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Widespread Panic Begins Hiatus "Vacation" in Aspen

Photo by Amy Jacques

“God bless you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, everyone,” said Widespread Panic frontman John Bell at the end of his band’s final pre-hiatus show last night. “Aspen and Beyond.” The remark closed the band’s three-night run at Aspen, Colo.’s Belly Up, the final stop on their acoustic Wood Tour. In bassist Dave Schools’ estimation, the 450-capacity room is the smallest that the band has played since a 1999 gig in Switzerland. Despite a steep ticket price and area snowfall, the venue was packed with locals and hardcore fans who made the pilgrimage for the band’s final show of 2012.

Though the members of Widespread Panic chose not to harp on their upcoming break, they dotted their setlist with reflective and time-focused songs such as “Time Waits,” “Vacation,” “Postcard” and Talking Heads’ “City of Dreams.” Keeping their eyes focused on the future, the group also debuted three new covers—all of which dealt with the themes of time and travel: Alan Price’s “Sell Sell,” The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” and Los Lobos’ “Somewhere in Time.” (On Friday night, Widespread also busted out their rarely played cover of Willis Alan Ramsey’s
“Geraldine And The Honeybee” for the first time since the band’s acoustic Myrtle Beach, SC set on November 8, 2003).

As if to offer the run’s final credits, Bell nodded to two of Panic’s longtime songwriting companions by performing both Vic Chesnutt’s recently debuted “Degenerate” and Jerry Joseph’s “North.” The members of the band smiled throughout the show and, at one point, Schools happily received a rose from a fan.

Just as time was central theme that ran throughout the night lyrically, time is what the band is looking forward to during their hiatus. “Time to recharge,” Schools told the Aspen Times earlier in the week. He also mentioned that the members of the group are thinking of their hiatus as a vacation: Schools plans to tour with Mickey Hart Band and Stockholm Syndrome, keyboardist JoJo Hermann will play with his Missing Cats project and Bell will focus on his wellness center. “We don’t know how long the break will be. Certainly not forever, “ Schools told the local paper on February 17. “But it will be a chance for people to see their kids graduate high school, get married, run a wellness center. Time to recharge.”

Huddled together on the venue’s small stage, the group performed in front of a celestial, star-like backdrop. As Schools told the same Aspen Times reporter, Herring even played a special guitar custom-made by a Denver artisan. Like the other stops on the Wood Tour, last night’s show was entirely acoustic but contained a number of the band’s signature rock songs. Instead of simply focusing on their mellower songs or playing at a lower decibel, the group powered through a set that included “Tall Boy” The Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “Climb to Safety”, “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” and “Papa’s Home.”

Widespread Panic’s encore kicked off with one of their most recognizable songs, “Blue Indian,” before moving into the Don’t Tell the Band gem “Big Wooly Mammoth.” The latter song has special significance to local fans since the nearby ski town of Snowmass, Colo. recently adopted the number as its official town song. Bell then switched from guitar to banjo as the band brought their 25th anniversary celebration to a close with a rowdy take on their classic “Ain’t Life Grand.” The crowd then slowly left the venue as David Allan Coe’s “Take This Job and Shove It” and the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” were played over the club’s PA.

Here’s a look at last night’s setlist via

Belly Up, Aspen, Colo., February 19

Set I: Send Your Mind, Tall Boy, Ballad of John & Yoko, True To My Nature, This Part of Town, Time Waits (Body & Soul), Saint Ex, Sell Sell (^) > Who Do You Belong To?, Carmelita, Degenerate > Climb To Safety

Set 2: City of Dreams, Tail Dragger, Walkin’ (For Your Love) > Papa’s Home > Vacation, Across The Universe (^^), North, Contentment Blues > JAM > Jack, Postcard, Porch Song, Somewhere In Time(^^^)

E: Blue Indian, Big Wooly Mammoth > Ain’t Life Grand

(^) FTP Alan Price
(^^) FTP Beatles
(^^^) FTP Los Lobos

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