11 November 2007

Nedstalgia: 15 Years Ago

[Previously in Nedstalgia: Phish shows 1 & 2, #3 #5 #77 & 78, #79); Mule; Widespread Panic (& 'ween 97); The Duo; Robert Randolph HORDE 92 (i.e. Phish #4, WSP #1)]

A little bonus recollecting, albeit a day late. Meant to put together something short yesterday about my 1st "real" Panic show: 11/10/92 at the Paradise in Boston. The real unfortunate thing is that I haven no recording of this night -- I'm pretty sure none exists -- and thus am left with my memories and my memories alone. If anyone reading this had a way of getting even the crappiest of analog tapes with this one on there, I'd be eternally grateful.

So what of those memories. There are a few... first, being up in Boston post-HORDE experience there wasn't really measurable quantities of Panic love in the area the time. I only had a brief taste myself and what I had was more curiosity, not love. Two low-level crosses with fate changed what might have been a fleeting acquaintance with what became and persists to be a lifelong romantic affair with Widespread Panic.

The first was running into a dude wearing a Widespread Panic t-shirt at the dining hall one day early in my freshman year, the sight of which triggered an immediate reaction -- that was the band that rocked my face off a few months early. I had no choice to say "hey" and after a brief chat with the dude was instructed to seek "Disc Diggers" in Davis Square -- a treasure chest of used CD's in Somerville. There I found both WSP discs on sale for 99 cents each (not to mention the ARU disc at a mark up for $1.99). As far as under-a-buck purchases have gone in my days, those two were probably as momentous as any. Thankfully my roommate at the time was a Grade A Deadhead and was more than receptive to listening to those two CD's over and over... and over again. All told, I've probably abused those two pieces of plastic more than any others and they're still producing smiles. That was both the pine needle kindling necessary to get the flames going as well as the heavy duty lumber that made a small little campfire into a big ole bonfire. Not like it was planets aligning or anything, but still, I remember running into that guy very distinctly. As weird twist-o-fate would have it, that guy would become a member of the on-campus band Gus which later became Guster who I saw open for Panic many years later.

Shortly after that, or maybe it was before that, on one sunny fall weekend day I found myself in the Tower Records in Harvard Square... which is one of the interesting things uncreative guys like me did with their Sunday afternoons. I ran into another Deadhead acquaintance there who gave me the "You like Widespread Panic , right?" -- this was Panic fan #3 of 5 at school. "Well, I just got tickets, they're playing in Boston next month." (the Ticketmaster outlet was right in the store; convenience in the pre-convenience-charge days). Now that was a little bit of luck. There's no doubt that I would have totally missed that show, not even known about it. Heck, I don't even know how I knew what was going on back then. How did we find out about shows in the pre-internet days? I honestly can't remember. Of course, I promptly bought one [note: looking now at the pristince ticket stub, I paid five dollars and fifty fucking cents for this gig!]. I was going to see Panic! It was all coming together.

I convinced a couple guys to go to the show, present-day frient of OTW, Oopy drove, the place was, if I'm being generous, half full. That was my first time at the Paradise and they renovated it rather dramatically shortly after that... I can barely remember what it looked like back then. Somehow when the band took the stage they seemed nothing like the dudes I had seen over the summer. The dark mystery of the room enhanced the experience, undoubtedly. I settled in right up front and soaked it all in from the first note.

I remember... I remember the Driving Song and the way they opened the show with it and then twisted through some dark jamming tunnels back into the second half later on and my utter unfamiliarity with that whole sandwich concept made me feel, later on in retrospect, like the entire show was just one long variation on that theme. I remember the highlight being that Mercy -- the jam that ensued was next level in the way that I did not appreciate that such a level existed in music. It crushed my soul in the best way possible. In many ways my continual return to Widespread Panic has been some sort of innate desire to find the music made during that Mercy jam. I would give anything to hear it again, to discover some long lost copy of that show just to confirm that I am/am not utterly insane. I remember the feeling that the band played like it did not care if there was no one in the crowd, 100, 1000 or a million... they were playing the music because they had to and if someone came along to listen, then so be it. The weight of tunes like Fishwater and Chilly was the same no matter the audience, would have measured even in the weightlessness of outer space. That was a concept we became quite used to scraping together a show or two every year in the unappreciated and unappreciative northeast. I remember the encore -- Jojo came out and started Longhair-ing it on the piano for a minute or two before the rest of the band came out and somehow his freestyle dropped perfectly into the opening slow burn riff of Low Spark and me squirting my pants a little when I realized what it was... they play this!?

They nailed it. They nailed me. Done and done... back to the room to listen to more.

More to come...

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