Concert Review: Widespread Panic

Being up in the great Northwest of Vermont the people of town thrive to hear rhythm. And apart from major music segues, Burlington just happens to be the intersection of all greater cities-a port for all greater music. A positive vibe pulses the streets and the convergence of musical entities, music junkies, and musical thirst are bred together. We, as fans, need to be fed a note, a measure, a song, a set, a performance, any musical commodity to grow. The pangs of musical hunger are stronger in the mountains than in the city and Widespread Panic recognized that.The recent replacement of John McConnell with Jimmy Herring and his Fender aided our anticipation – which was much obliged after the dazzling dozens of solos Herring laid down. The speed in which Jimmy plucked and pulled and picked those strings reverberated through the feet of the dancers, his sheer dominance over the guitar created difficulties in paying proper respects to Bell and Keane. Bell’s voice captivated the ears with a throaty blues and melancholic jazz styling that kept in time with the circle of rhythmic percussion drumming relating the tapping feet of performers and swaying bodies of the audience. An unexpected rendition of Mercy had us begging for more. As Jimmy took control over the solos, Bell strummed and picked contentedly more rhythm along side Keane, a producer-turned-special-guest playing electric and the occasional (should have been more frequent) pedal steel. John Schools dabbled and dazed us on a six string – performing fantastically for the sole bass line laid underneath drums, percussion, three guitars, and set of keys. A show charged by much more than bass, a line lay steadily underneath and Schools executed the performance pristinely. As Jimmy made a ditty to fill any empty measures, Jojo Hermann relieved Herrings wailing fingers with a funky organ beat. He and Sunny Ortiz jammed on the rhythm, accentuating with added beats, slides, and over all intricacy that gives just a little bit more to the song. As if a full set of percussion weren’t enough Todd Nance brushes out an accommodating drum performance providing a few more vertebrae to this back bone of a band. The players all held together a certain role in their performance here in music crazed Burlington, and all though Herring took control, he lead in the most generous, rocking way. Jams doted on everyone. The intimate venue, Memorial Auditorium, allowed personality to flow through the field. As in any show, the front packed together, grooved, moved, and weaved together while the back was a dispersion of the deep pulse emulating from the stage. The expense at first deterred interest (hefty for Burlington, pale in comparison to the major cities) but disappeared after Jimmy’s first thrashing chord change. By the end of the encore, Travelin’ Light pumping through my neurons, euphoria was actuality. The musical competition here in Burlington is a fierce one. In our endless need to dance but our incessant xpectation for the best music has to offer we enter performances like this with the highest of standards. Widespread Panic has been meeting a criterion for decades and refuses to perform at any lower standard. And Herring, with his fast formidable fingers and a history as provocative as Panic’s, allows us to expect even more. Widespread: A much anticipated event, a greatly appreciated experience, an unfathomable amount of dancing. My feet still hurt.