Mixing and Mastering EngineerJohn Keane
Liner notesSam Holt
Package DesignerChris Bilheimer
Transferred byBrown Media Archive, University of Georgia Libraries.
Label: Widespread Records
Venue: Tennessee Amphitheater
City: Knoxville, TN
Original Release: 7.20.2018
John Bell – vocals, guitars
John Hermann – vocals, keyboards
Michael Houser – guitar, vocals
Todd Nance – drums, vocals
Domingo S. Ortiz – percussion
Dave Schools – bass, vocals
Tracklist & Notes
- Dear Mr. Fantasy
- Makes Sense To Me
- Tall Boy
- Just Kissed My Baby
- Space Wrangler
- Walkin’ (For Your Love)
- Let’s Get Down To Business
- You Got Yours
- Papa Legba
- Holden Oversoul
- And It Stoned Me
- Conrad The Caterpillar
- Knockin’ Round The Zoo
All songs written by Widespread Panic, published by Widespread Music (BMI) except: “Dear Mr. Fantasy” written by J. Capaldi, S. Winwood and C. Wood, published by Universal Songs and Warner-Tamerlane (BMI). “Makes Sense To Me” written by Widespread Panic & Daniel Hutchens, published by Widespread Music & Other Duck Music (BMI). “Just Kissed My Baby” written by G. Porter, L. Nocentelli, A. Neville & J. Modeliste, published by BMG Chrysalis (BMI). “Let’s Get Down To Business” written by Vic Chesnutt, published by Ghetto Bells Music (BMI). “Papa Legba” written by David Byrne, published by Index Music (ASCAP). “And It Stoned Me” written by Van Morrison, published by Caledonia Productions & WB Music (BMI). “Knockin’ Round The Zoo” written by James Taylor, published by Country Road Music (ASCAP).
9.28.95 – Sam Holt
My name is Sam Holt and I was graciously entrusted by the band to pick a show from the vault for release. The first time I saw them I really didn’t get it and wondered why the few people in attendance kept yelling, “Barstools”? The second time I saw them was 12/1/89 at The Center Stage in Atlanta and from that point on, Widespread Panic became a part of my everyday life. (Figuratively and later on, literally.) I was hooked and I began recording them any chance I got. I had never heard anything like them, and had never heard anyone approach the guitar like Michael Houser. I was a guitar enthusiast and had become interested in this genre of music in my late teens. By 1989 I had been to several Grateful Dead shows, but the smaller bands (at the time) were filtering into my world as well. Bands like Phish, Indecision, Allgood, and even a little band called Beanland would come around. I’d travel within a reasonable distance to see and tape any of them. But the one that I really connected with was Widespread Panic. I’d travel just about anywhere to see those guys.
In a twist of fate, I was later hired by the band and became Mike and JB’s guitar tech. What an unbelievable experience that was. After Mike passed away I played guitar with them at many shows, but that’s another story entirely.
I taped this show and can tell you the PA was having some issues this night, but the performance and energy were unreal. This show had always been stuck in my mind as one of the best I ever saw but the available recordings did not even come close to capturing the band as they should. So when the opportunity arose to choose a show for release I kept my fingers crossed that the band’s own multitrack tapes were in good condition. I was happy to find out that they were and that the band’s longtime producer, John Keane, would be mixing the show from this source.
I was inspired to write the following description after hearing the final mix of this show. It brought back many memories of this show and time period.
It was a crisp, early Autumn Thursday in Knoxville and it was a home football game week. You might think, “what does that have to do with this show?” If you’ve ever been in a major college football town during a home game week, especially in the South, you’re familiar with how much anticipatory energy and enthusiasm is in the air.
Leaves were changing, the low that night was 55 degrees, and Widespread Panic was coming to play The Tennessee Amphitheater. The 1400 seat venue is one of only four structures that remain from the 1982 World’s Fair. The others are the Sunsphere, The Foundry, and the Strohaus at the Fair. Panic played the Strohaus on 9/26/90 when it was called Ella Gurus.
All these elements came together to create what I consider a magical moment that time stamps September 28th, 1995…
From the first notes of Dear Mr. Fantasy it’s clear how much excitement is in the air, it’s crackling throughout the intimate open air venue.
With the fervor and intensity at the end of Fantasy, it seems like it could be the set closer. I remember thinking, “wait, they are OPENING with Dear Mr. Fantasy!?”
The band is already pushing each other to give it that little extra fire at the end of Fantasy. But without stopping they change gears and keys swerving precisely into Makes Sense To Me. Again the energy is off the charts and it’s only the second song of the night.
JoJo then takes the reigns by slowly playing the chords to Tall Boy letting everyone know where they are about to go. A new song for the band, Mike has already nailed the signature lick that sounds like Tony Iommi playing a pop music line. When asked about the new song in an interview that day with the University of Tennessee paper “The Beacon,” JoJo said, “… I don’t know what we’re going to call it yet. The lyrics just kind of came out. We didn’t really think a whole lot about it. They seem to make more sense as we go along.”
The rest of the first set flows easily, from the intense, paranoia laced Impossible to the ethereal and floating Gimme. Crowd favorite, Space Wrangler is massive and explodes with Dave, Mikey, and Todd all pushing the end jam closer and closer to the edge until it gives way into Walkin to close the first set.
Vic Chestnutt’s, Let’s Get Down To Business opens set two and announces these guys are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The Diner that follows is a 14 and half minute excursion through the scenes revealing themselves in JB’s brain. These visuals are supported by an immense rhythmic wave laid down by Todd, Sunny and Dave with Mike carving in and out and getting up to the tiptop crest a few times. JoJo’s flourishes on the Hammond B-3 provide melodies that everyone can grab onto almost as a reminder of where we are in the song.
Another highlight is the second performance of the Houser classic You Got Yours. Mike’s fragile vocals are front and center in this mix which reveal some pretty dark imagery along with the heavy guitar riffage.
Holden Oversoul later in the set also showcases the dynamics found in Diner. Holden goes pretty far out. There are some melodic chord changes Dave is playing in the jam of Holden that he keeps repeating. They hint back to the Diner theme, but I doubt this was intentional. This bassline is so melodic, hypnotic and spacious that it just keeps inviting Mike and JoJo back in. They explore it long enough that I thought they might even do some sort of Diner reprise.
Conrad is a rollercoaster ride through carefully crafted sections with sharp turns and steep climbs. Then it drops into a hair-raising dive of musical crescendos to bring the second set to a close.
An encore of James Taylor’s Knockin’ Round The Zoo whips up the already-frenzied Thursday night crowd once again before sending them out to the streets of Knoxville.
As a footnote, the band started using setlists in 1995 and their ability to improvise between songs is evident during this show. Even though they knew where they were going, navigating these transitions illustrates their surrender to the music.
In one of the best-selling books of all time, Think & Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill says, “When two or more people coordinate in a spirit of harmony, and work toward a definite objective, they place themselves in position, through that alliance, to absorb power directly from the great universal storehouse of Infinite Intelligence. This is the greatest of all sources of power…”
That quote is a little grandiose but I think it kind of explains Widespread Panic’s purity of intention when it came to their music and their realization that they must be on to something.
I’m so grateful I got to revisit this show in such pristine audio quality as it finds Widespread Panic in their enduring ascent of musical adventure. The jubilation is infectious. Turn it up and enjoy.