Oak Mountain Amphitheatre
July 29, 2001
From 1990 – 2002, Widespread Panic and their fans held an annual gathering south of Birmingham, AL off of an exit along I-65 in a town called Pelham. Setting the WP record for consecutive years played at the same venue at 13, Oak Mountain conjures up all kinds of musical memories that represent a true cross section of the Widespread Panic timeline. From the early days in 1990, playing only one set…to the HORDE collaborations….to the multi night runs…and eventually returning in 2011 and 2013. This record was achieved by a band always rolling with the changes while always remaining true to their craft.
Shining through all the Oak Mountain performances is a list of supporting bands (including the H.O.R.D.E. brothers) that stretch through the years and also stretch the capacity of the old memory banks: Slick Lilly, Follow For Now, Kill Darling, The Connells, The Grapes, The Freddy Jones Band, The Spin Doctors, The Samples, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Cowboy Mouth, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Rana, Galactic, Particle, Joan Osborne, Guster, Everything, G. Love and Special Sauce, Blues Traveler and Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. And the onstage guests: Jimmy Herring, David Blackmon, Jerry Joseph, Brad Rosen, Dr. Arvin Scott, John Popper, Colin Butler, Robert Barnett, Fred LeBlanc, Jeff Mosier, Col. Bruce Hampton, John Keane, Cecil Daniels and Robert Randolph. Whew!
Oak Mountain has always had its share of musical surprises. But there have been other sorts of surprises as well, some not always good ones unfortunately. Even with all the setbacks, (For example: The weather. Who remembers standing on that shaky bridge in 2002? Tickets. And, um, the police) we all kept coming back year after year to shake off the weight of the world. There were, of course, plenty of good, crazy times on stage too, like Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth tackling JB during the 97 show. But, no on-stage memories compare to the ones indelibly imprinted in the minds and souls of those that spent a few days at Oak Mountain in the spring of 2002. We started a musical celebration of the life of Michael Houser that weekend and it continues to this day.
For this latest Widespread Panic Archives release, the 2001 summer tour ends with a three-night run in late July catching Widespread Panic and their fans enjoying the fruits of their labors. Feeling just like home, the band cuts loose right from the start with an abundance of energy, focus and chance taking that carries on across each of the three nights. They take their time jamming from anywhere to who knows where. The strange. The familiar. The dirty. The clean. All of that and more came together that weekend. That’s Widespread Panic.
After a couple of raging shows to start the Oak Mountain 2001 run, here we are at number three. Could the boys deliver a third home run in a row? You Bet! Just like the previous two nights, Widespread Panic starts off by getting right on into it….tonight with “Bowlegged Woman.” Settling in with “Space Wrangler” and “Walkin’,” the evening groove was beginning to form. A nice jam out of “Walkin’” eventually led nicely into “Little Lilly.” Finding nice connectivity once again, the band slides right into “I’m Not Alone.” The energy gets fired up during “Sleeping Man” and continues through solid renditions of “Don’t Tell The Band” and “Visiting Day.” With “Henry Parsons Died” to close out the set, WP had done it again…what coulda been ordinary found the magic from within to make it special and anything but ordinary.
And that way of going about their business carried over into the second set…in extraordinary ways! The boys get back to work with “Travelin’ Light” and “Thought Sausage.” Never disappointing, “Sharon” plays well to this rowdy crowd that shows up every night….before we all go “North.” Well into the set, it’s time to get Alabama bound with “Stop Breaking Down Blues” before heading out on that highway with “Pilgrims” to hang at the “Diner” for an incredible jam sandwich! Follow that up with a Third Stone jam that gets really dark after the “Drums, and who knows what is possible considering this run to this point? And we get our answer out of a nice little jam with Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” played by the band for the first time in about 15 years and some 2,000 shows. Nothing left to do but “Give” to reach the end of this stellar set. But, of course, we’ve got an encore to go….and from there, we get an extra surprise with Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” before ending the show…and this epic Oak Mountain run… with “Climb to Safety” and “Porch Song.”
And so ends Oak Mountain 2001. Three great shows and six great sets. Each able to stand on its own and also fit nicely into the unified body of the weekend’s creations….and that’s part of what makes these performances so special. Those were great days and times to be part of the Widespread Panic experience…even if you had to negotiate Pelham to let it happen!
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Oak Mountain 2001 Night 3 is available in CD, MP3, and FLAC audio formats. Get your copy at any of the following: