30 December 2006

Nedstalgia: 10 Years Ago

[thanks to good man Ted at the Everyday Companion, you can listen to these shows (here, too) while your read]

Greetings from Atlanta! Feeling young again for a change and have a chance to reflect on our first foray into Panic New Years in Hot 'Lanta, exactly 10 years ago this week. After three years of Phish New Years celebrations, we decided in 95 to give Panic a try and set out for parts unknown with names like Spartanburg and Macon (a bit hard to believe I once spent New Year's Eve in Macon, GA, but there you have it). We liked what we tasted and when WSP announced they'd be be playing a super-duper special run of shows at the Fabulous Fox Theater the following year, we were on board from the get-go. Of course, this was augmented by the availability of super-duper special mail order which gave us the same seats every night, just a few rows back in the orchestra pit. It was on!!

Things never being quite simple, a couple weeks before we lubed up the Schwagon and hit the road for yet another my-parents-think-we're-nuts road trip, BT gives a call: official transmission received, need to reschedule ETD by one day for additional super-duper specialness -- Bombs & Butterflies release party; small intimate show in Athens. Can you say it: SICK! This was everything we had imagined, a nice warm-up close-in family-style affair where much of the crowd was actually sitting for most of the night... due both probably to the chill vibe in the air and the knowledge that our energy reserves would be tested the next three evenings once we got to Atlanta. The setlist for the Morton Theater show was nothing special, but the evening certainly was.

Of course, the real treats were in store at the Fox. Musically, for me at least, perhaps nothing came close to the magic of the opening night when David Blackmon and John Keane (then a semi-rare presence on the Panic stage) peppered themselves all over the setlist the highlight being a time-stopping Mercy which I still remember as my favorite version (you know how you have your favorite songs with your favorite versions by which you always compare all others, this is that for this song). Blackmon, Keane, Houser, Bell and Schools took a simple theme and through an intricate multileveled call-and-response wove sweet music midway through the jam. I remember it like it was yesterday.

But for all-and-0ut memories of a particular run of shows, it was the next night, the 30th, that was above all. Perhaps nothing will define the sort of upper-bounds on the craziness that could possibly ensue at a Widespread show the way this night did. Just look at that setlist, the level of asteriskness is beyond obscene. Guests flowing onto and off of the stage like ants swarming around a spilled dollop of ice cream or something. Attacking at the music and the audience: not a second to come up for breath, just completely suffocating... finally climaxing during the encore. "Obscene" doesn't quite capture what transpired during what was later dubbed the "Fab Fox 'Fess Jam" (after much lively discussion, deconstruction and decompression on the Spreadnet). The thing started innocently around a Professor Longhair groove, Jojo taking it from the start, but it quickly avalanched into a wild no-holds-barred jam that actually continued to make sense along the way. Of course, it was nearly impossible, in the moment, to absorb the music, to relish any portion of the jam -- we, the audience, who had at that point spent 4 straight soul-sering sets in the same seats, could only look, drunken lips agape at what we were watching. The closest I've come to this was a couple years later, some of the more out-there "power jams" at the old Wetlands, when a dozen or so musicians would flex for hours on end. But this was another planet, another galaxy from what you might get at a Panic show. Unfortunately, such a huge monument of music overshadows some other beautiful sections of that night, the near-perfect B of D > Sleepy Monkey > Holden > Genesis that made up much of the first set and the super jamming into, between and out of Driving Song. The memories make me long to get my old DAT decks working again and listen to these nights over and over.

As is often the case, the actual New Year's show is somewhat tamer, but only in relative terms. We were pretty sure we'd get a three-setter and something special on top of that. By now, we were all friends in that row in the pit and settling into our seats we were of like mind and body. The show was special. Vic Chestnutt joined the boys for a sit-down stretch of brute and Panic tunes. A nice little treat that we welcomed warmly. The rest of the show was essentially everything left over, which was still quite a bit. The much-loved-by-me Barstools to get things in a nasty mood for set two and the two-headed monsters of Papa's Home and Chilly Water, both with all the trimmings for the third. Double encores are a nice treat and, truthfully, anything more than an acoustic set with Chestnutt, the gorgeous environs of the Fox, the friends old and new, might have been too much.

It was certainly around the time of this New Years run that I truly felt like a part of the Panic family, that celebrating with the band and their fans was where I was meant to be during the last week of December. Very, very happy to be back in Atlanta for another go-around. The postscript from this run was the Where's Waldo photo of us in the inside jacket of the Light Fuse Get Away live release the next year, check it out... 10 years is a long time!

Full reports from the road to follow...

1 comment:

Matt said...

Thanks for the nostalgia. The 12/30/95 Spartanburg show you mentioned was my first WSP show, so I get to celebrate my Panic Anniversary every year the night before NYE.