Dream Weekend: Allman Brothers & Widespread Panic (Part II)
“People can you feel it? Love is everywhere”
A Sunday night in the south, The Allman Brothers headlining with Widespread Panic taking the opening slot. Pews replaced by rows of folding chairs. Holy wine replaced by beer. Stained glass windows replaced by speakers. The altar replaced by a microphone stand and church bells replaced by electric guitars. We are the congregation tonight, our hands will be the ones raised and clasped in celebration. We’ll be singing the gospels of Brother John and Brother Gregg with the heart of church choir, or at least something in the general vicinity, and both bands are the preachers. All this for a 52 dollar Live Nation donation (praise the Lor-DAH!!!).
For the second evening I found the area of the lot affectionately known as “Shakedown Street.” This area is set aside by nearly every venue as a wandering hippie mart. Homemade tie dyes, lot shirts featuring song names in place of well known store brand names, crystals, hemp products, and even a few unmentionables, everything either on display or carefully hidden, all for sale. And yes, the omni-present dollar grilled cheese, veggie burrito, pizza, pasta, or beer (“one for three, two for five”) are available as well from these folks as well. This is the way that a lot of these people fund their touring addiction and is one of the most colorful areas of any parking lot at a major jam band show. This wasn’t the largest Shakedown Street I’ve ever seen, but it was enough to bring me back to the days of seeing these on a much grander scale with the Grateful Dead on tour. While not as expansive, the reactions evoked are still the same.
Sorry buddy, I don’t have an extra ticket.
The guy that’s selling those crystals, he’s got some awesome tunes playing from his microbus.
If you touched that with your bare hands I’m not going to buy it, much less eat it.
The safe bet is that most of the people who were here last night are back tonight as well. With each band playing different setlists from night to night, it’s enough to keep a song chaser or setlist chaser busy. And I’m not complaining. With memories of last night’s show still very fresh in my mind, I couldn’t wait to take my spot, 15th row center, for tonight’s show. Tonight I believe my most commonly spoken phrases were, “that was hot,” “that was amazing,” and “thanks anyway pal, you smoke it.”
“We’re gonna summon the holy ghost to the battlefield”
Taking the opening slot tonight, Widespread Panic came out with The Talking Heads’ poly-rhythmic “Papa Legba.” “Come and open the gate“ . . . it is Sunday after all. “Worried” continued the slightly odd time signature style songs yet the band was still a force of nature behind everything they played. Jimmy Herring was very much on his game from the start, flinging searing leads like an old time gunslinger, a spot he’d stay on for the entire evening. “Pigeons” was bassist Dave Schools’ showcase, melodically and furiously attacking his bass, taking the rest of the band with him. This was the first song of the night that contained that earth crushing Widespread Panic groove. Finally, something that drives into your chest or loosens plaster from a venue’s ceiling. “Angels on High,” similar to last night’s “This Part of Town,” provided the band a chance to slow down a bit and for the rest of us to catch our breath. “Heroes” was perfectly placed as a the more mid tempo rocker segued into the pulsating, swamp groove of “Ribs and Whiskey.” If your front porch had a mean streak, this is what you would hear playing from its radio. A bit later into the set Widespread Panic gave us our dose of religion, summoning the holy ghost to the battlefield and to “show me the way Lord.” By the time the band started playing “Blue Indian” with its backwoodsy swagger, it was clear that they were both in complete control of their craft as well as their audience. The band hit an extremely confident stride knowing it could do know wrong. Nearing the end of the set Warren Haynes, guitarist for The Allman Brothers, made his first appearance of the weekend after missing last night’s show. The last thing I remembered anyone saying to me was, “We’re about to hear a ‘Henry Parsons’ that you’ll never forget” before the chaos hit. The band seemed barely able to contain this version of the ZZ Top-ified “Henry Parsons Died.” That control would nearly be lost again during the final song of their set, a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul”. With Todd Nance’s driving rhythm and Dave Schools’ rolling bass lines to provide a heavy foundation to fall back on, John Bell’s rhythm guitar and JoJo Herman keeping that Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” riff in check, Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz pounding furiously on his percussion instruments, Jimmy Herring and Warren Haynes just let it fly. Bell’s snarling vocals could barely be contained.
Bring it home boys!!!! Take no prisoners and turn ’em ALL into believers!!!
This was the band’s final statement for the weekend here in Charlotte, determined to end their sets on a ferocious rock and roll note. Okay, so they didn’t really make the earth move beneath us but they did far better than that. They made us move. Which was okay because we needed the ground below intact. We had one more set to go.
“And the road goes on forever”
The Allman Brothers brand name turned 40 this year. Twelve lineups of varying degrees, most of the later years only slight, the core of Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks being the only combination still together from the very beginning. Jaimoe would miss only two years. Gregg Allman would credit Warren Haynes as being the man who saved the Allman Brothers. Six wives couldn’t keep Gregg Allman home, a bout with Hepatitis C couldn’t keep him off the road. The Allman name is associated with some of the greatest music in the classic rock genre, so much of it on display in Charlotte over these two nights. Warren Haynes back in the lineup meant another vocalist to take the pressure off of Gregg Allman. Saturday night’s show was an 8 song, two hour extravaganza that wasn’t for those with short attention spans due to Haynes’ absence. With Haynes back in the lineup the song count nearly doubled, reaching 14. Anyone who went to two nights witnessed two somewhat different Allman Brothers shows, both of them beyond stellar. When all was said and done by 11 pm on Sunday evening, were there any words left?
We could talk about the show opening “Don’t Want You No More” with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks’ twin guitar leads, the signature Allman runs consisting of the second guitar playing the same runs in bluesy harmony with the first. There would be plenty to talk about with the soul/blues of “It’s Not My Cross to Bear.”
Lord knows there would be more than enough to talk about with the show stopping gospel of “Revival,” one of those songs made for a Sunday and made for the masses to raise their hands high and rejoice. I sure did and I know full well I wasn’t the only one.
We could certainly go over the Bo Diddly infused “No One To Run With” which included an extended outro that Santana would’ve been proud of, one of my personal highlights of the weekend.
“Midnight Rider?” The anthem adopted by nearly every overnight traveler, it was one of the songs on my wish list for the weekend, played to near perfection.
Then there’s “Little By Little” with Derek Trucks’ wife Susan Tedeschi guesting on guitar, standing toe-to-toe in what’s clearly a man’s world. Bonnie Raitt with sharper teeth, trading guitar licks with two other guitar heavyweights without a hint of intimidation. This chick can play!
Fast forward to the encore and we could spend some serious time on the shuffle/blues of “You Don’t Love Me,” a hot way to end the weekend. We could talk about every set from the weekend, look for every superlative in the dictionary and find it a hard task. I think it could be summed up with one moment:
Under a cool Carolina sky and nearing the end of their set, Gregg Allman took to his acoustic guitar for “Melissa.” The band in back of him, a 7 armed beast of sorts, playing tenderly across the air, Gregg Allman’s soulful voice is at home here. No real strain necessary, just letting the song’s meaning take his voice where it needs to go.
“Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Will you hide the dead mans ghost,
Or will he lie, beneath the clay,
Or will his spirit roll away?”
Take a picture of this while you can, but don’t lose this moment. It’s the perfect sense of setting, place and time, the culmination of the sounds and experiences from this entire weekend. This is why you wanted to be here. What you’re feeling now, your eyes closed and those few tears rolling down each cheek, that sense of weightlessness, is what you’re chasing after each time you come. Take your pictures but cherish this wonderful feeling of communal liberation provided by this wonderful music.
Holy ghost summoned, love everywhere, as Warren Haynes would sing during Sunday’s “Soulshine:” Gotta let your soul shine, shine till the break of day, which it would long after Monday morning. Four amazing sets by two incredible bands, a venue in the southeast creating an aura perfect for this type of music. By the time you read this just know one thing . . .
I’m still clicking my heels.
– Brian Hedden, Entertainment Editor