Free Music Friday: Panic in Memphis September 30, 2011Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: live, Love Tractor, Widespread Panic
This week’s music selection is in honor of the latest concert I will be attending: Widespread Panic tomorrow night at the Fed Ex Forum. Now, I’ve seen Panic a number of times in the past, but I never hesitate to go, if possible, any time they come around. Check out the song below and I bet you’ll wish you were going too.
Free Music Friday – Widespread Panic July 1, 2011Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: 1999, Mud Island, Superstition, Widespread Panic
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I mentioned on Facebook earlier today that I was “grooving to Widespread Panic in my cube,” and my friend Berry encouraged me to check out their 1999 show in Memphis. So, I did. Here is their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” from that show. Enjoy.
Music and Mud in Memphis May 3, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: bad weather, Beale Street Music Festival, Blues Traveler, drive-by truckers, Jeff Beck, Memphis, North Mississippi All-Stars, tornado warning, Widespread Panic
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What a weekend!
Over the weekend I had the chance to attend the annual outdoor Beale Street Music Festival here in Memphis, an event that I have been a part of for many, many years, but have never had an experience quite like this one.
We all knew that the there was a strong chance that the weather would be less than desirable. I mean, I’d been watching the forecast all week and had seen the 80-90% chance of rain and thunderstorms, so I prepared accordingly. I bought a new poncho and wore tennis shoes instead of my customary flip-flops to ensure that I would remain at least somewhat dry.
Friday evening I met up with some friends in Midtown and we made our way over the festival, arriving just in time to catch a fun and spirited set from 1990’s favorites, Blues Traveler. I had seen the band years ago at Music Fest, back when singer John Popper was still the size of a small bus, so I was taken aback at his thinner appearance. Regardless, they put on a great show, mixing some of their well-known tunes (“Runaround,” “But Anyway,” and “Hook”) with some very cool and unexpected covers (Radiohead’s “Creep,” and Sublime’s “What I Got”).
We made the easy decision to stay at the stage where we started because the next act was one of the most revered guitarists of the past 50 years, Jeff Beck. Beck hit the stage about 30 minutes after the All-Stars finished up, with band in tow, and commenced to play blistering song after song, working the crowd into a veritable frenzy. Even now, at 65 years old, he’s a true master of the instrument. My favorite moment of his set has to be his incredible version of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” It was truly a sight to behold.
While these first two performances were ones that we had greatly anticipated, the final one of Friday night was truly our crown jewel: Widespread Panic. Now, I’ve seen Widespread several times in the past and they always put on a great show. Their bluesy, Southern-rock jam band style is one that translates especially well to the stage. Once Jeff Beck exited the stage, there was a short break before the band came on and soon they were ripping through an excellent selection of down south jams that had everyone moving along to the music. Though their set was a bit abbreviated at only 2 hours due to the impending weather, it was a good one and definitely enjoyable. For those of you who are familiar with Panic’s work, here is their setlist from that night:
From The Cradle, One Arm Steve, Radio Child, Dirty Side Down > Protein Drink / Sewing Machine, Pilgrims, Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi) > Smokestack Lightning, Can’t Get High > Goin’ Out West > Junior > Blackout Blues > Life During Wartime
Like I said, it was a good one, even though they exited the stage without an encore.
Overnight the first wave of bad weather hit and we were roused from sleep more than once by tornado sirens. So, much of the sleepless night was spent huddled in an inner bathroom of our house with the weather on the television (we luckily never lost power), as we awaited our impending doom at the hands of the whirling winds. Eventually, the warnings were lifted and we were able to get back to sleep.
It rained hard through the morning, but by the time we arrived at the park later on that afternoon, the worst had passed, leaving behind it a big, muddy mess.
My friends and I found a nice spot on the dry, plastic groundcover where we had a great, unobstructed view of the stage and plenty of room to move around. The first show of the day came from local favorites, the North Mississippi All-Stars, a great blues-rock band that regularly plays area venues. Their set consisted of a nice selection of cuts from their latest album, Hernando, and others from their past releases and we had a good time grooving along.
The next performance came from one of my favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers. DBT are the latest and greatest carriers of the Southern rock torch and I have seen them several times in the past – I think this was my fifth time. Though the set was far shorter (1.5 hours) than the 3.5 hour marathon from a few years ago, it was still loud and full of their infectious energy. They mainly focused on songs from their most recent albums, opening the show with “After the Scene Dies,” followed by “Self Destructive Zones,” and several more newer cuts. Though I was glad to see them sprinkle in a few older songs like “Sinkhole,” “Marry Me,” “Shut Up and Get on the Plane,” and the great live number, “Let There Be Rock,” I would have liked to hear a few more cuts from farther back, maybe “The Company I Keep” or my personal favorite, “Zip City.” Along the way, we learned that new song “Birthday Boy,” took place in Memphis and were admonished by Mike Cooley for watching them instead of Jerry Lee Lewis, who was playing on the next stage. It was an excellent show.
After the Truckers’ completed their show, we stuck around for part of Gov’t Mule, who I’ve also seen at least once or twice in the past, before my friends decided to move on to a different stage than this. Not thinking about it, I followed along with them, straight into the mouth of elevator music-hell, Michael McDonald. Oh, it was bad. Not being a fan of crappy pop music, I decided to explore on my own after about two songs and wandered to the other end of the park, where the largest crowd, most of whom were a good deal younger than me, was crowded around a stage listening to a band playing power chords and yelling. I checked the schedule and remembered that this group was either Puddle of Mudd or Seether – it ended up being the latter, but truthfully, I couldn’t tell the difference. I will give the band props, though, for their cover of “Careless Whisper.” There’s nothing quite like hearing a crappy 80’s song get mutilated.
After a short time, I wandered back to my friends and one of them expressed his displeasure with staying to watch headliners Hall & Oates with the others. Sensing a chance, I suggested that we hike to the stage I had just left to see Alice in Chains and he agreed. We arrived at the stage and soon the start time for Jerry Cantrell & company to start came and passed. After a few minutes, an omnipresent voice came over the loudspeaker, saying, “The show has been cancelled. Please evacuate the park immediately.”
We trooped back through the mud to our friends and checked the weather via phone: tornado warning. So, we, along with thousands of others, hiked back to our parking place with sirens blaring in our ears. Once we reached the downtown parking garage, we waited around a bit for the worst to pass, then headed to our friends’ Midtown home, where we bunkered down with drinks and music and good conversation until after midnight.
I arrived back at home around 1:00 or so, but a short time later we were up and again huddled in the bathroom as the Southaven sirens alerted us to the oncoming apocalypse. After waiting for the warning to pass, we eventually got back to sleep for a few hours before the normal morning madness.
My mom had been in town keeping our kids while Diana worked and I went to the festival, but she had to go home on Sunday, which also happened to be the lone day that Diana wanted and was able to attend the festival. We knew this in advance, so Diana spent part of her weekend calling friends, anybody, to help us out and keep our children, but, despite her efforts, we came up empty handed. So, we decided to stay in and trash the $50 worth of tickets. In all truthfulness, I needed a bit more rest after two days of going at it hard in downtown Memphis and sleeping very little, but it was still disappointing that I had to miss Rock Sugar and Band of Horses.
Even though we didn’t get to see all of the acts we wanted to (the Flaming Lips cancelled in advance, Alice in Chains cancelled for the storms, and Allison Krauss and John Hiatt were not able to get out of flooded Nashville), it was still a very fun weekend. The crowd was sparser than usual, which made for short bathroom lines and an easy path to being close to the stage. It was a nice return for me after a few years of not attending.
Just wait ‘til next year…
Free Music Friday – Music Fest Preview April 30, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: alice in chains, Band of Horses, Beale Street Music Festival, drive-by truckers, Earth Wind and Fire, Jeff Beck, Memphis in May, Rock Sugar, thunderstorms, Widespread Panic
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For those of you who will not be attending this weekend’s rain-drenched Beale Street Music Festival, here is a taste of what you’ll be missing.
Alice in Chains
Earth, Wind & Fire
Band of Horses
…and a whole lot more. It’s gonna be a good weekend, ya’ll, and I’ll be right in the middle of it, despite the forecasted thunderstorms. If any of you are going to be around let me know and maybe we can hang out at the festival…
Planning Ahead April 22, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: Beale Street Music Festival, drive-by truckers, Flaming Lips, Memphis in May, schedule, Widespread Panic
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It’s never too early to plan.
Once upon a time I was a fixture at the annual Beale Street Music Festival here in Memphis. From the spring of my Freshman year at Harding, in 1997, to just after we moved to the area in 2004, I made a point to attend every year, sometimes despite our financial situation (I once sold my car which would no longer run for $50 so I could go).
For the past few years, though, I have not made my way down to the river for the yearly music blast. Now, there are a multitude of reasons for this – from having kids to lackluster lineups to getting over 30 and not relishing the idea of wading through mud and drunken 20 year olds – but after seeing this year’s lineup, my return to the banks of the Mississippi on the first weekend of May was assured.
Last night I was talking to some friends about the lineup and trying to piece together an itinerary of sorts in my head – with a number of stages and dozens of acts, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. I found it interesting that many of the artists I want to see are playing the same stages, so it seems likely that I may find an area and stay there most of the day instead of traipsing all about the grounds. This is what I’m looking at so far:
On the first day of the festival, the one band that is a must-see for me is, of course, Widespread Panic. I’ve seen them several times in the past and try to never miss an opportunity to catch them when I can. Others playing earlier in the evening on the same stage as Widespread include Blues Traveler (who I’ve seen before, but wouldn’t mind doing so again) and guitar legend Jeff Beck. That might be a day I camp out in one place because I certainly have no desire to see other well-known bands playing that evening like the Goo Goo Dolls or Limp Bizkit.
Saturday is the longest day of the festival, when one can, and I most likely will, spend all day and most of the night taking in hours of live music. This is yet another day when I could easily camp out in one area, in this case the Budweiser Stage, and bear witness to the likes of the North Mississippi All-Stars, the Drive-By Truckers (Yes!), Gov’t Mule, and a band that I’ve wanted to see for many years, the Flaming Lips. It’s a killer lineup. The revamped Alice in Chains play around the same time as the Lips, but, depending on when the Lips finish, I may be able to catch some of their set, which is scheduled to go well past midnight. Who knows, though?
The final day seems a bit lackluster to me, especially considering how great the first two are, but there are still some artists that interest me. Starting things off in the early afternoon is Rock Sugar, a really cool band that combines well-known pop songs with hard rock songs into a very different whole. You should check out some of their tunes like “Don’t Stop the Sandman.” Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil has taken the spot that was for the ailing Bret Michaels, and though that interests me, I may have to miss it for the great John Hiatt, who plays at the same time. Later on that evening, I’d like to catch Band of Horses, but for the final act of the night, I’m still undecided between Alison Krauss and Leon Russell. We’ll see.
For me, the artists that I just have to see this year are Widespread Panic, the Drive-By Truckers, and the Flaming Lips.
What do you think? Are you planning on going to the Festival this year?
Widespread Panic and the Transcendental Power of Music September 23, 2007Posted by Matt in concert, music.
Tags: concert, music, transcendentalism, Widespread Panic
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Originally Posted 9/23/07
The moments of our lives pass by in a blur, leaving us many times in a bleary state of confusion as we stumble from one day to the next in this destitute plane of existence where the masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation in a furious attempt to manifest themselves as one of the fittest who survive to the next round of play. But sometimes, yes sometimes, there are events that allow us to leave behind the unsatisfying nature of our world, grasp the edge of the precipice above us and ascend to a new level of consciousness where, at least for a short minutes, we experience a heavenly sort of euphoria in which, for once, it all makes sense. It’s the kairos between those times of drudgery and annoyance and the insatiable desire for more. Time seemingly stands still and all is right with the world.
Last night was one of those moments…
Yesterday evening I had the incredible opportunity to experience one of those occasions again, this time in the form of a group of middle aged musicians from the Deep South – Widespread Panic.
My friend Josh and I arrived on the scene well before the show began, giving ourselves plenty of time to grab a couple of beers on nearby Beale Street and enjoy the ambiance that only a band like Widespread can bestow upon their eager followers. We walked through the corridor of hippie merchants, selling everything from t-shirts to rocks to ummm…tobacco (yeah, that’s it) pipes, drinking in the overwhelming feelings of love and peace and music saturating the air around the arena.
We entered the FedEx Forum s few minutes before 7:00pm and found a spot on the floor, relatively close to the stage, that offered us an excellent view of the musical proceeding that awaited us. The opening act was the amazing Mavis Staples, a 60-something year old African American R&B artist and longtime civil rights actvist, who just brought the house down with her powerful, emotionally charged set that left the audience in a frenzy for more.
After her 45 minute performance, there was about a 30 minute break in which they put the finishing touches on the stage for the upcoming jam band extravaganza that awaited us. I enjoyed watching and chatting with fellow concertgoers, who seemed to range from teenagers to old-school deadheads, listening to their tales of Widespread shows past, bad trips, and the amazing, ethereal power of music.
Widespread hit the stage around 8:30 and the multitude of thousands, many of whom were there for the second consecutive night went wild in an ecstatic cheer as they ripped through song after song, John Bell’s raspy I’ve-seen-and-done-it-all voice tearing through the air about us as new lead guitarist Jimmy Herring blew the roof off the arena with his wicked southern fried picking. The masses of dirty hippies danced and shouted with a groovy jubilation as they moved through favorites like Fishwater and Tall Boy before stopping momentarily near the end of the insanely good first set to again bring out opening act Mavis Staples for two numbers – the classic soul song, “The Dark End of the Street” and the old Pops Staples song that Widespread covered on their Bombs & Butterflies album, “Hope in a Hopeless World” – that she sang with such an honest passion that you could not help but be moved.
After a short break, the band reemerged for a rollicking seemingly nonstop second set that kept the tired, sweaty masses grooving continually, perfecting the art of stoner white-boy dancing. Song after song led into one another with little time to rest between the extensive jam sessions and ending with an unbelievably cohesive selection of songs that stretched on and on for eons, lifting the crowd higher and higher into a new stratosphere of cognition far above those dwelt in by ordinary men. It was an undeniable spiritual experience, carrying all of those present and conscious into a sort of musical nirvana where we were no longer individuals doing our own thing and dancing to our own beat, but we were one – moving together as a single organism in a spasmodic rhapsody of inspiration, beyond the normal exihilaration of live music and into a whole new reality. That ending selection of back-to-back tunes with long periods of zen-like jamming in between, stretching from Stop Breakin’ Down Blues to Driving Song to Greta to Conrad, left the tired, heaving masses yearning for more….and soon we were obliged to receive it.
When JB and the boys returned for their regular encore, the standing room only crowd again let out whoops of joy, the knowledge that this special night was not yet ending settled deep within their mesencephalon causing that well-known rapturous pleasure. The combination of This Part of Town and Flat Foot Flewzy brought the entire sweating, stinking congregation to their feet with a transcendental power flowing through their veins, the spirit of oneness taking hold as the wholeness of the crowd came together for one last dance of unassailed elation.
Just past midnight, when it was over, we all went our separate ways, piling into our hulking metal automobiles in standstill traffic on the crowded downtown Memphis streets, with the feeling somewhere in the back of our minds that perhaps our otherworldly awareness was only an illusion and once again we would be doomed to a life of cubicles and nondescript subdivisions and the quiet desperation infecting the teeming masses, but, then again, maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe there is a zen-like light at the end of the tunnel that we, together as a community can someday reach where there is no rich or poor or black or white or gay or straight. Maybe, just maybe as we flail about in the darkness of our world we can together find the answer.
But, until then, we’ll still have Widespread Panic…