Space Was The Place For Widespread Panic At The Orion Amphitheater In Huntsville June 2, 2022 19:19

Words by Monica Dean 

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Widespread Panic kicked off the Memorial Day run with a cover of Neil Young’s, “Keep on Rockin in the Free World”. John Bell delivered the timely message, “Here’s one more kid that will never go to school / Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool” after the recent school shooting in Texas that took the lives of 19 students and two teachers. Then it was down to business with a blow of Sunny Ortiz’s whistle into Coconuts, before Dave Schools gleefully welcomed the crowd “to space camp.”  A body shaking “Worry” before JoJo Hermann set fire to his piano with “Big Wooly Mammoth” to close the set.

Panic paid respects to several influencers and mentors Memorial Day weekend, especially to Col. Bruce Hampton. They started the second set with “Fixin’ To die,” a song Colonel Bruce loved to cover. JB's voice resonated in our soul on “Mercy,” before hurling the crowd back into outer space with a playful rap between JB and Schools on “Going Out West.”  Panic slides backwards through space and time into  “Barstools and Dreamers” with a super rare and much missed “Thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Mice Elf” rap that hasn’t been played since 2015.  Second set closed out with a tribute to Tom Petty with “Honeybee.”  Panic raps up their first night in Huntsville with JB getting growly on “Pigeons.”

They were back at it on Saturday night; sipping on a “Tallboy” served up with some “Ribs and Whiskey” to start the first set and closed out with Jojo getting rowdy on “All Time Low”.  Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” opened the second set. There was a long “Fire on the Mountain” tease during “Stop/Go,” and Neil's Young's "Walk On" was up next. “Driving Song” runs into “Surprise Valley,” takes a break for drums and a jam before Panic orbits back around into “Driving Song” and “Surprise Valley” again. The crowd had “an ass kicking time” during “Postcard” to end the second set. A hard hitting “Halloween Face” and “Flat Foot Flewzy” ended night two.

Things got real when a backwards hat JB walked onstage Sunday night for more Memorial Day tributes.  The set started with Link Wray’s instrumental “Rumble” before giving us all a “little bit of room to fly” with “Conrad”. Panic returns to tributes with Willie Dixie’s “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind”, Billy Joe Shaver’s “Chunk of Coal,” and Vic Chesnutt’s “Sleeping Man” and “Morally Challenged” which was played for just the third time ever. JB flows through Danny Hutchens’ (Bloodkin) “Trashy” before grabbing the keys and taking a ride on “Love Tractor” to end the first set. 

Memorials continue in the second set with “Down,” a song written by founding Panic drummer Todd Nance who passed away in 2021. Coming back to Col. Bruce once again for a Zambi inspired jam, “Time is Free'' with a nice “Space is the Place” rap from JB.  When asked about what Zambi meant, Col. Bruce once said in an interview that “the principal of Zambi is when in doubt, go completely out”.  Panic did just that Sunday night with an encore honoring founding Widespread Panic members, guitarist Michael Houser and drummer Todd Nance with “Blue Indian”, “Travelin’ Man” and “The Waker”.

Next up, Widespread Panic makes the yearly pilgrimage to the land of sunny rocks June 24-26 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver.