The holiday party continued Wednesday when Widespread Panic erupted at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena after a fun-filled Fourth of July weekend at South Shore, one of many stops on the band’s 30th anniversary tour.
Enthusiastic music-lovers thronged to the Stateline venue while the sun set over the western mountainscape, casting long shadows across the arena as the Southern rock band served up a full menu of jam-filled tunes. Sounds of drums, heavy blues guitar and wailing organ filled the air, expressive dancers twirled at the edges of the crowd and a casual, mellow vibe appeared to be the order of the day.
This being my first Widespread Panic show, I thoroughly enjoyed the band’s sound and laid-back persona. Guitar-driven rock and blues with nicely varying influences, Panic struck me as a healthy blend of Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead, marked by extended jams and solos.
Lead guitarist Jimmy Herring sounded great on a pair of Paul Reed Smith electric guitars, one with a black and gold sunburst finish, the other pearl-white with a black pickguard. Panic is quite liberal with its guitar solos, and Herring was wailing away early and often.
Frontman John Bell has a great vocal style, ranging from a raspy, soulful growl to high and clear tones occasionally reminiscent of Jerry Garcia. Bell also handles rhythm guitar, crunching away on a lovely red and gold semi-hollow body guitar with striking mother-of-pearl inlays.
Widespread Panic ran a gamut of rock and blues styles, all filled with searing guitar, John Hermann’s rolling organ and dynamic percussion from Domingo Ortiz and Duane Trucks. I liked the inclusion of a percussion player along with the regular drum kit, allowing Widespread Panic to achieve some nicely varied effects, including some samba-like arrangements.
Dave Schools is everything a bass player should be, a big, laid-back dude thumping out everything from funky bass riffs to aggressive lines of attack during the group’s more upbeat songs, of which there were many.
I particularly enjoyed the upbeat psychedelic swirl of “You Should Be Glad,” as well as the soulful, bluesy groove of “Angels Don’t Sing the Blues.” Panic stepped back for plenty of slower jams as well, like “I’m Not Alone,” as previously gyrating fans lapsed into gentle swaying.
It was a surprisingly young audience for a band celebrating 30 years together, with lots of millennials and young families. Security personnel roamed the perimeter, with seemingly little to do among the relaxed crowd of concertgoers. A Fender guitar tent was pitched along one wall of the arena, with a variety of beautiful acoustic models on display.
Widespread Panic played well into the evening, filling Tahoe with the group’s rocking tunes as the stars came out over the basin. Hats off to a great-sounding band celebrating a milestone that few groups achieve in this, its 30th year.
Related story: John Bell on Widespread Panic’s future after 30th anniversary tour. LINK
To see more Lake Tahoe concert images, go to Kurt E. Johnson’s website. LINK