From Woody Allen to Todd Solandz, anxiety, self-loathing and depression have often been the catalyst for great artistic endeavors. Twenty seven years ago, guitarist Michael Houser, who was nicknamed Panic after the anxiety attacks he sometimes had, got together with three other musicians and formed the band Widespread Panic. The blues band went on to make nine album together. Although they started in small venues, they eventually headlined at many music festivals around the country. Unfortunately, Mr. Houser passed away in 2006 from cancer, but the remaining musicians stayed together and are currently on a West Coast Tour.
On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, Widespread Panic will grace the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Fans who want tickets should buy them soon, as the popular band has sold out shows at many major venues in its long history.
The ensemble is currently comprised of guitarist and lead singer, John Bell or JB, bassist and vocalist Dave Schools, keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz and Jimmy Herring who took over as lead guitarist for Widespread Panic when Mr. Houser passed away. Mr. Bell is known for his rough growling vocals. As a group, the band is known for its inventive improvisational style.
Widespread Panic has been gaining popularity ever since their first album Space Wrangler was released in 1987. The band has a unique sound that combines country rock with rhythm and blues and psychedelic music. Much of their work is influenced by well know bands from the sixties and seventies, such as the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. The band is as famous for its covers of classic rock, such as the Talking Heads Life During Wartime and the blues classic, I put a Spell on You, as it is for its original creations such as The Porch Song and Driving Song.
The bands winning blend of sounds has earned the attention of their peers. They have toured with the rock legends, The Allman Brothers and in 1991 Filmmaker and musician Billy Bob Thornton directed the documentary, Widespread Panic: Live from the Georgia Theatre.
They have participated in many benefits including contributing a cover of Van Morrison’s And It Stoned Me to the album Hempilation for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in 1997. In 2005 they contributed covers of The Doors‘ medley Peace Frog and Blue Sunday to the album Too Many Years which benefited landmine survivors. They also did a cover of John Lennon‘s Crippled Inside as a bonus track for the compilation album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur in 2007.
Widespread Panic’s most recent album was Oak Mountain which was released in two parts in 2013 and is a recording of a 2001 concert performance in Alabama. The album was part of a series of albums that were recordings of vintage concert performances.
Sometimes Panic fans can be a bit over exuberant. In September of 2014, a crazed fan rushed the stage at The Phases of the Moon Music and Art Festival in Illinois. The fan attacked several members of the band and hit Mr. Nance in the face with one of his own drum sticks. Stagehands were able to apprehend the man and the musicians continued to play; a motivation for the attacks was not reported.
Their spring tour began in Boise, ID on March13, 2015 and continues on to Spokane and Seattle, WA. After the Portland concert, the tour will end in Oakland, CA on March 20, 2015.
The show starts at 8:00 p.m. and tickets prices range from $52.50 to $70.00.
Eliza Gale – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
Eliza Gale began her blogging career interviewing aspiring actors and industry professionals on a Los Angeles based website called Curvewire. She started www.elizagalesintervviews in 2012 and has interviewed over three hundred people about their jobs and businesses since then. She has contributed many interviews to 360drinks.com, which is a Portland based happy-hour website. She also writes for Examiner.com and AXS.com.