Widespread Panic

People ask me all the time, "Why do you listen to that Widespread Panic crap?" The worst part is that I usually have no intelligent response. I usually say, "Either you get it or you don't get it, plain and simple," even when I have three days to come up with a better answer. The Athens-based jam band has been around now for close to two decades and is basically a one-trick pony: They play live music, and they play it for a really long time. If you are totally oblivious to the band and its music, don't go see it; you'll just wonder why 10,000 kids are spinning around wildly and singing every word to what probably sounds like one three-hour-long song.

But if you do own any of their 10 albums, then every concert is special. I have attended about 60 shows, and each has been unique. You can catch the band three straight nights and never hear the same song, which for me is great, but for the average concertgoer who always expects to hear the greatest-hits package, it's a letdown. Widespread Panic sells very few albums, makes all its money off its live shows and has a rabid fan base eerily similar to the Grateful Dead's. The audience listens to Widespread, takes drugs, then listens to Widespread bootlegs in their cars--freaks and proud of it. The new album Ball pretty much sucks, but it doesn't take away from what they do onstage, which, to borrow a line from Tenacious D, rocks. So go at your own risk. You'll probably hate them and hate me for recommending them to you. But you can't deny that they're brilliant musicians and write songs that have some of the catchiest grooves this side of Ambrosia. Just don't ask me why I like them, and don't talk to me at the show. I might hit you while I'm spinning around.

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Corby Davidson