Panic bids farewell to Indy for now

Widespread Panic
Murat Theatre
Indianapolis, IN
October 11, 2011


As they prepare to take a hiatus from the road in early 2012 and fresh off of the heels of their annual Tunes for Tots benefit in their native Athens, GA city, Widespread Panic headed north to give Indy spreadheads a bittersweet farewell on October 11, 2011 at the Murat Theatre.

When the doors of the theatre opened, the house soon became flooded with those who had been anxiously awaiting the southern soul satisfaction that Widespread Panic has been delivering for over a quarter-century.

As the house lights dimmed, the mega-lights began beaming into the crowd, and shortly thereafter, the celebrated sextet — guitarist and vocalist John Bell, master of the bottom end, Dave Schools, guitarist Jimmy Herring, keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann, drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz — sauntered onto their stage to a massively uproarious applause.

The smile across Schools’ face as he walked to the front of the stage seemed to spread through the crowd, the exhilaration growing as John Bell cracked into “From The Cradle” off of their 2006 release, Earth to America. Bell’s vocals gently grabbed hold while the rhythm of his axe mingled in and out with the rhythm of the drums and eventually was swept away by an intoxicating solo from  Herring.  Driving the night onward with “Holden Oversoul,” the veteran road warriors’ southern improvisational jam would thicken, with flowing rock, jazz and blues textures that served as electrically charged juicers for the Murat’s packed house.

The rhythmic pulse of Schools’ walking bass line on “Stop-Go” grooved its own steady beat as Bell and Herring’s riffs soared and intertwined, eventually giving way to an extended improvisational jam, of which Herring would lead.The inferno of heat pulsing and ripping against JoJo’s heavy handed keys sent the throng into a wave of massive shouts before Schools dropped the bottom end for a second solid bass solo that gave way to an always welcomed rapped rendition of “Time Waits”  as a preamble to a funky and tight offering of “Sleeping Man.” On the heels of JoJo’s keys forming a perfect bridge into “Happy,” the velocity rose and dipped like butterflies.

The second set opened with Dave Schools familiar bass riff, signalling “Papa Johnny Road.” John Bell’s vocals amplified above the southern slickness of the band as they jammed into “Climb To Safety.” From the balcony looking down at the mass of dancing feet below,  it seemed like they literally were climbing on Bell’s vocal ladder, moving l as though they re rising out of the water; Herring’s guitar cries and shrieks only served as further catalyst to the persuasive energy that was initially formulated by Bell.

With a serving of the Rolling Stones number, “Time Waits for No One,” the crowd was floored as faces and minds were melted  further with this cover that had only been played twice before.

The percussionists — driven by Schools’ bass– would bring in “Second Skin;” Herring’s axe again gently crying into the crash of the drums, the slow groove sending chills and taking hold melding the dancing crowd into a tight psychedelic sea of movement.

Following  the crowd-pleasing “Coconuts, ” the assault continued with “Action Man,” leaving Bell smiling ear to ear as he watched the rambunctious crowd before him.  Panic came back out for encore with, “Last Straw,” and “Sometimes.”

As the last notes of the double-encore, “Last Straw” and “Sometimes,” dwindled down,  the crowd filtered out of the Murat and mood in tow,  into  the city streets. It’s hard to believe it would be the Panic’s last time in Naptown for an undetermined length of time, but in short, they gave one hell of a closing act.

For more photos from this show by Amber Jennings, click here.