Widespread Panic Honors Michael Houser on Night One in Atlanta August 11, 2022 19:01

Words by Monica Dean

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

“It’s our music”  It comes from us, I don’t know anything else to say but that.  We do it because it’s all we can do, pretty much”Michael Houser

Widespread Panic celebrated the life of Michael Houser last night at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia on the 20th anniversary of the founding guitarist's death from pancreatic cancer. Audio from Houser’s interview with Billy Bob Thornton on the film “Live at the Georgia Theatre” played before the band took the stage.  Balloons, traditionally staged overhead for New Years Eve, fell during the chorus of “Porch Song” to open the show.

After making sure everyone knew this celebration was about having a good time, John Bell, guitar/vocals, turned the key to start a  rowdy “Love Tractor”.  The crowd responded with an equally energetic few minutes of cheering and popping balloons.  Paul Hoffman, Lighting Designer, did a beautiful job bringing the lights down low for “Little Lilly”.  Jimmy Herring, guitarist, swam upstream in the dirtiest river for “Proving Ground.”  The first set came to a close with “Papa’s Home”.

“Mercy” opened up the second set for the first time ever.  Dave Schools, bassist, teased “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” at the end of “Mercy” before giving a little cough cough into Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”. The four Disco balls suspended from the Fox Theatre’s ceiling, usually to celebrate New Year’s Eve, were brilliantly lit for “Vacation”.  As Bell sang “As panic grabbed my legs, you know it, pulled me in” the impact of Houser’s music was felt by fans.  “Ain't Life Grand”, a Houser song about finding turning everyday life into something special, closed the second set.

The band returned for a three song encore with “Don't Want to Lose You”  For the first time since 2017, “Galleon” was played before “Fishwater” with mini drums to end a show of all Houser era songs.  As the band walked off stage, the audio track “Waiting for the Wind to Blow Down the Tree in My Back Yard”, a hidden track from the album, “Ain’t Life Grand”, played as a last, but not final, tribute to Houser.

Widespread Panic will finish a four night run at the Fox Theatre before heading out West to Napa, California on August 26.