Celebrating 31 Years Of Widespread Panic [Audio/Video] February 06, 2017 16:02
On this day in 1986, local Georgia musicians John Bell, Michael Houser, Dave Schools, Todd Nance took the stage at The Mad Hatter Ballroom in Athens (GA) for the first official performance as Widespread Panic. The band was opening for Strawberry Flats, and the show was said to be an Aid For Africa benefit. Just two years later, the band would release its first album, Space Wrangler, which also featured the addition of Domingo "Sonny" Ortiz (percussion). Keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann would be added to the full-time roster in 1992. Panic suffered the devastating loss in the death of Michael Houser in August of 2002, who was initially replaced by George McConnell, before Jimmy Herring took on the long-term duties as lead guitarist in the fall of 2006.
Since their inception in Athens, Georgia, in 1986, Widespread Panic has risen to elite status among American jam bands. Following in the steps of other Southern rock jam bands such as The Allman Brothers Band, they draw influences from the Southern rock, blues-rock, progressive rock, funk and hard rock genres. They are frequently compared to other jam band "road warriors" such as the Grateful Dead and Phish. Widely renowned for their live performances, as of 2016, they hold the record for number of sold-out performances at Red Rocks Amphitheatre at 54 and Philips Arena at 20.
Watch Widespread Panic's complete show from 03.12.88 in Atlanta here:
Watch post-show footage from Widespread Panic in 1988 here:
Fourteen Years Later: Remembering Michael Houser of Widespread Panic August 10, 2016 14:05
Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of legendary guitarist Michael Houser, who lost his life after an aggressive battle with pancreatic cancer on this day in 2002. Houser became a founding member of Widespread Panic in 1986 while attending the University of Georgia with John Bell. His adolescent nickname was "Panic" due to his then frequent panic attacks, and this moniker later became the inspiration for the band's name. Houser wrote many of band's most popular songs, including "Porch Song," "Airplane," "Ain't Life Grand," "Blue Indian" and "Vacation." He appeared on 7 studio albums during his 16-year tenure with the band from 1986 until 2002.
As co-founder and lead guitarist of Widespread Panic, Houser established an incredibly unique and atmospheric lead guitar style which truly defined the band's sound and resonated across the entire music scene. Due to hip problems in the 1990s, he played and performed while seated, adeptly using two foot pedals. At age 40, Houser was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2002, and he ultimately passed away on August 10, 2002. In celebration of the life of Michael Houser, we have compiled video footage from five our favorite Houser era jams for your viewing pleasure below.
We miss you everyday Mikey, and we are forever grateful for the gift you shared with the world.
Watch Widespread Panic perform "Pleas" > "Love Tractor" in Paris, France on June 17th, 1998 here:
Watch Widespread Panic perform "Holden Oversoul" > "Weak Brain, Narrow Mind" at Red Rocks on June 24th, 2000 here:
Watch Widespread Panic perform "Airplane" in Asheville, NC on November 22nd, 2000:
Watch Widespread Panic perform "Driving Song" > "Breathing Slow" at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre on April 28th, 2002 here:
Watch Widespread Panic perform "The Waker" at Red Rocks on June 28th, 2002:
A Collection of Michael Houser Interviews and Jams January 06, 2016 14:04
Widespread Panic's large rhythm section, and John Bell's virtuosity as a rhythm guitarist, allowed Michael to pursue an atmospheric lead guitar style that often lingered behind the primary melodies. His predominant use of the Ernie Ball volume pedal caused him to spend most of his performance time balanced on one leg, this would eventually lead to circulation problems causing his left leg to become numb. In 1996, during an acoustic tour known as the "Sit and Ski" tour, he was reminded of how much more comfortable and accurate his playing was while he was seated. Subsequently, Houser returned to playing all shows seated in 1997. His playing style used a volume pedal for sonic effect, rather than just for volume control.
Widespread Panic always shared writing credits for all of their songs during the Houser era, but he wrote many of the band's standards, including Porch Song, Airplane, Ain't Life Grand, The Waker, Impossible, B of D, and Vacation.
Houser was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2002. He died just a few months later on August 10th, 2002. We've compiled a combination of interviews and live jams in hopes that those reading can become more familiar with not only the amazing guitarist, but the genuine, one-of-a-kind life that Michael Houser lived.
Throwback: John Bell & Michael Houser Play "Driving Song" Acoustic December 17, 2015 11:28
In January of 2001, John Bell and Mikey Houser of Widespread Panic performed "Driving Song" during an acoustic session on the porch of John Keane's house in Athens, GA. Parts of this sequence were used in the movie The Earth Will Swallow You. The entire song was published on YouTube in 2014 by Geoff Hanson.
The Earth Will Swallow You is a film by brothers Geoff and Christopher Hanson detailing the Widespread Panic's 2000 Summer Tour, though a substantial portion of the film is behind-the-scenes footage of studio sessions, traveling, and interviews. It includes footage from their performances at larger venues such as the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and San Francisco's Warfield Theater. There are also several clips from smaller venues and impromptu settings (New York City's Central Park).
Much of the concert footage highlights their appearances with other artists, including Taj Mahal, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jorma Kaukonen, Merle Saunders, and Cecil "P-Nut" Daniels. Most of these artists are given a brief interview segment as well. Perhaps the real highlights of the film are the rare glimpses into the band's life off the road. Much attention is given to their recording in various studios (John Keane's studio, where many of their albums were recorded, bassist Dave School's house), time spent with artists close to the band (Vic Chesnutt, Col. Bruce Hampton), and, more importantly, one-on-one interviews with each member of the group.
Video by Geoff Hanson