So to forge a truce and—more important for me—to get a first-hand look at the Widespread phenomenon, its music and its fans, the Observer has arranged for a free Widespread Panic concert, right here, smack dab in the middle of the parking lot of our offices, sometime at the end of May (time and exact date are yet to be determined). The event is called "Widespreading the Love" and it will be an all-ages affair, but there will be a beer garden and a smoking area on the second level of the building's parking garage. Small coolers will be allowed, so you can bring your own food, but keep in mind there will also be several food stations set up, named after Observer staff so that they are easy to identify. For instance, there will be a Robert Wilonsky Smoked Turkey Leg stand, a BibleGirl Frito Pie stand and a Jim Schutze taqueria.
I have to be honest: At first I thought this was a stupid idea, but the sucker grew on me. During the series of three-hour meetings where we hashed out the details of the event, I realized that this was more than a publicity stunt or some kind of ass-kissing wimpout. Nope, it's a mature response to an ugly event. Responding with equal amounts of vitriol and venom can only prove to be destructive, immature and ultimately fruitless; better to find some common ground, and that common ground just happens to be the asphalt parking lot at 2501 Oak Lawn Ave. By the end of the third or fourth meeting, I was so inspired, I went back and downloaded several Widespread songs and realized I really liked some of them.
And here's the truly cool thing about it all: Widespread Panic has agreed to join with Polyphonic Spree, a reunited Toadies, all the original members of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians and Dallas hip-hop star Money Waters to work on a new single, a sort of ultra-supergroup, "We Are the World" kind of project, the proceeds of which will go toward various charities that work to prevent drug abuse. The supergroup will debut the song at Widespreading the Love, and we hope to have them sing it from the roof of our eight-story building, a la the Beatles or U2; considering, though, that between the Spree and Widespread there will be, like, 50 people onstage, plus the rest of the bands, logistics might prevent that (stay tuned to this column for more details as they come).
One more thing: Members of Polyphonic Spree and Widespread are already in the studio working on the new single. Word is they've been noodling around but so far have only come up with about 20 minutes of material. They also haven't decided on a name for the tune, but rumor has it the working title is "April Fools, Sucka!"