Well, at least we got one set of Widespread Panic. Rain and winds cancelled the second set of the famed Georgia’ jam band’s show at ArtPark in Lewiston on Tuesday, June 17, but for what we got in the first set, it was worth the ticket price, as well as my five-hour drive from Albany.
Opening with the instrumental illness of “A of D”, the seated crowd of a few thousand watched with curiosity and interest as the Athens-born worked through compositions, leaving room for improvisation in the right spots. The driven rock of “Surprise Valley” wowed the crowd via Jimmy Herring’s guitar work, while “Hatfield”, a song about the weather, was played to a backdrop of a divided sky which had formed on the horizon behind the stage, a storm drawing not far from the venue, but skirting by. These back to back extended songs, most notably “Hatfield” with John Bell’s trademark rambling lyrics, led to a short “Dyin’ Man”.
“Henry Parson’s Died”, a cover that I am not typically partial to was surprisingly strong, with Herring particularly shred-happy and consistent throughout; tonight the crowd got a real treat in southern-bred guitar playing. “Little Kin > Radio Child” featured a tight segue between the two songs about the kids. “Casa del Grillo”, a Los Lobos-style Chicano rocker was a rare treat, only played once or twice a year over the past 5 years. “Casa’s” lyrics were mixed between Spanish, English and John Bell-ese, and featured the organ accents from JoJo Hermann that perfectly framed the body of the number.
“Greta” and “Cream Puff War” were a pairing full of dirty funk and a seamless segue into “Cream Puff War’. The early Grateful Dead song filtered out of a higher intensity “Greta” jam, with Dave Schools’ bass taking charge to push Todd Nance to drive the rhythm into the faster-faced “Cream Puff War”. Listen to the two tracks below.
Then the winds came, followed by a downpour. We were asked to leave the park, and the helpful staff directed us to shelters and the parking lot. The heavy stuff did not come down for quite some time, taking pause and leading us to think we had a good shot at a second set, since this rainstorm started moments after Widespread Panic took setbreak. But the calm of the storm brought an onslaught of rain and high winds, forcing cancellation of the rest of the show. Not the optimal ending for the rare Widespread Panic show in Upstate New York, but we got one helluva set!
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