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Thursday, September 22

Widespread Panic at the Hippodrome in Baltimore, MD- 9-13-16 A review by: Randy Harris

Widespread Panic at the Hippodrome in Baltimore,MD 9-13-16
 Different things come to mind for different people when they hear the name Widespread Panic. For some, it’s a specific night, a show and a date that are engrained into their minds forever. For others, it’s a song or a lyric that has guided their lives. For still others, it’s a sight, a sound or a feeling.
Whatever comes to your mind when you think of Widespread Panic, one thing is for sure. This band has provided hundreds of thousands of fans with over 30 years of memories, most of them good ones. When I think of Widespread Panic, I think of the passion that flows between the band and their fans. I also think of an air of acceptance. When I go to a Widespread Panic concert, I know that no matter who is sitting next to me, I’ll be treated like a lifelong friend. Good People they call themselves.
On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, the Good People converged on the Hippodrome Theatre in Downtown Baltimore. An abnormally warm September made for a lively scene outside the venue, which is a beautiful, historic theatre. Inside, the theatre has a unique majesty to it that is not normal for a rock show. As I was led to my seat by an usher, I began to get that familiar feeling of acceptance, and when I got there, the people around me all said hi and shook my hand. We all took in the beauty of the theatre as showtime crept closer and the venue quickly filled up. The band took the stage to their usual roar from the crowd. Not a soul was sitting down. Everyone in the building shook with anticipation, guessing what the first song might be. 

From the first chord of “A of D,” the audience responded energetically and raged the night away with the band. Widespread Panic led us down a creative setlist, which made up the sixth consecutive show with no repeats. This is a refreshing statistic, since the last year or so had been riddled with complaints of too many repeats due to the addition of their new drummer, Duane Trucks. The fact that they could pull off six shows in a row proves that Trucks has found his stride and is in for the long haul. Fans old and young cheered and danced as the band dug deep into their catalog. 
Unfortunately, however, the theatre was very close quartered for Widespread Panic’s sound, and I could not help but notice that Jimmy Herring’s lead guitar kept getting lost in the mix. I moved around to all corners of the venue to try and hear him, but I just couldn’t find the sweet spot. This aspect of the venue led to some repetitive sections that needed a bit of spice.
There were definitely moments of magic mixed in as well, even without as much of Jimmy in the mix. Each set consisted of a couple very nice jam sessions, including raucous takes on “Second Skin” and “Chainsaw City,” just to name a couple. Aside from the sound issues, the band put on a stellar performance and rewarded those of us who were willing to come out on a Tuesday. Dave Schools’ bass has always somehow sounded deeper to me than other bass guitars, and tonight was no different. JoJo rocked the keys, Duane and Ortiz held down the rhythm in style (including a nice “Drums” section) and of course, JB’s voice is just as alluringly raspy as ever. Renowned lighting designer Paul Hoffman also added to the experience with an absolutely mind-blowing light show. The Widespread Panic machine is as potent as ever during what could very well be their final official tour as a band.

Words & Photos: Randy Harris

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