Sunday, October 14, 2007
Sunday morning, 10:45 a.m., Oct. 14, 2007, Boulder, CO
It is drizzling and overcast and we are sitting in the basement watching Pee Wee's Playhouse. I got home last night around 2 a.m. just as the rain started falling. Jackson is proudly pretending with a new toy and Lisa is writing out a shopping list.
Lost in a recipe, searching for an ingredient in the corner of her memory, she's twirling her hair. She glances up, reading the proclamation on the screen, "Fiesta!"
My ears are still ringing from last night's onslaught in Loveland. My neck is sore, my eyes are tired and my dogs are barking. The sore neck is the direct result of dancing like an absolute maniac for the last two nights. It feels good to let my head roll from shoulder to shoulder.
Yesterday morning, at about this time of the day, we were celebrating Jackson's soccer team's first win ever. There is nothing more exciting in the entire world than watching a gang of eight year old boys finally figure out how to pass a ball to one another. Better than being a first-hand witness to the Colorado Rockies winning a 13 inning nail biter in a rare tie breaking wild card game. More satisfying than successfully buying, selling and moving from one house to another. More visually pleasing than picking out paint colors for a new kitchen.
And, yes, more exciting than seeing Widespread Panic realize their potential. You heard that right. Widespread Panic have found their groove again and life is very, very good.
Let's get right to heart of the matter. I feel truly blessed to have so many people in my life who are caring and compassionate and not afraid to have a good time. So many great people around me who will put up with my antics, patiently allowing me enough space to stumble, but not fall.
These same friends were the ones who heard me complain loudly about being extremely disappointed the band was playing a hockey arena in Loveland, CO. Outlet malls, Hooters and Harley Davidson stores betray the truth about the area of Loveland near the venue. Like a viking trying to lure real estate prospectors to "Green"land, the spread of strip development in Loveland is equally deceptive. It is a corruption of both parts of the alliterative compound word.
"I'm not going," I would say. My good people would nod and smile. They knew I was protesting too much. They knew I would be there and that I was just being a whiner.
That doesn't mean I didn't try to get tickets the morning they went on sale. I tried and FAILED. That's right, shut out online. I think I ordered in the afternoon thinking that the venue wouldn't sell out. I told myself, "See that proves it! Besides it'll be such a long drive from the house." What a freaking martyr I was being!
Of course as game time approached my heart pulled my head into line. The switch in my attitude came around the time I had to encourage a very insecure soccer player that his team mates were counting on him.
I have a rule that I follow superstitiously; always buy a ticket and don't take anything for granted. But when tickets sell out quickly I am extremely lucky to have a couple of friends within the Panic organization who will help me out with tickets to a show. I reluctantly call on my write-in candidate for 2008, Garrie Vereen and the minster of the speakers, Chris Rabold who happily oblige.
So after finding some road buddies to share the drive from Boulder I was set. Laura, Sandy, Diane and I met at Sandy's house for a little tapas and then we're driving north out of Boulder toward the venue. Upon entry to the parking lot we were greeted by a flier and a parking attendant. She happily informed us that the parking lot was being 'sponsored by the County Sheriff.' At the box office our tickets were faithfully waiting for us. The weather had changed during the day and as the hour of show time approached the northerly winds started gusting. With Johnny Law and Jack Frost both nipping at us we decided to head in.
The Budweiser Events Center is basically a hockey arena that can be converted into a multipurpose venue by covering the ice with heavy duty foam floor tiles. Before show time you could hear the ice crack beneath your feet. I saw the Woobs up front and decided to cop a spot near them, about six rows from Jimmy. Dan and Candace joined me as well as Dan Bynum. Show time neared, DJ J. Boogie spun some music for the assembling crowd.
The lights go down, while J. Boogie continues spinning tunes. David Schools mimics the bassline of the song and appears from behind his amps. The other members emerge and join the jam. Any reservation I had about having a DJ open for the band is erased in a matter of a few leads from Jimmy. To kick off a show with an improvisational jam takes confidence in your abilities and your audience. Widespread Panic of fall tour 2007 has both in spades.
There is no denying that Widespread Panic is 'feeling it' right now. Their new single 'Up All Night' has been released via the internet for free and Jimmy Herring has settled right in as the new lead guitarist. Strike the word 'new' from that sentence; settled right in as THE lead guitarist. It is difficult, if not impossible, to compare Widespread '01 or Widespread '05 with Widespread '07. The chemistry on stage right now is undoubtedly sincere and the healthy heart beat of honest improvisation is being heard on a nightly basis.
And the crowd responds... after opening with Action Man it seemed as if every one of the 8,500 assembled in the Event Center let out a hoot and a holler. Even a year ago you were guaranteed to hear tempo problems and dropped cues plague a set at least once. Widespread '07 rolls right over mistakes. All good improvisation requires equal doses of technical ability and chance. If you play your cards right, any mistake could potentially become inspired musical space.
Luckily for us, chance reared her head in the first set. After leading the band through the relatively uncommon Nobody's Fault But Mine, JB found himself steering the band through Conrad with a broken stringed guitar. He just slung the guitar on to his back and leaned back, singing with a grin on his face. Jimmy tore through the climatic changes of Conrad while JB stood there smiling in admiration - the back lit traveling troubador, singing about pain, and life, and growth. And Love.
Later, during the second set, JB seemed to forget the words to Time is Free. His lyrical improvisation led us down the hallway of Jim Morrison's 'The End.' Instead of the lizard king's ending, JB's take was a much more humorous, if not truthful, approach;
"And I walked down the hall,
came to mama and daddy's room.
and I said,
'Father, what are you watching on T.V.?'
and he say
'I'm watching the Colbert Show that came on after the Daily Show.'
and I said,
'oooh, father why do you do that?'
'Because I blanket myself with the truth.'
Don't know why we do it!
Never any reason to be not free."
These Doors riffs inspired JoJo to tease the intro to Riders on the Storm. Soon David joined in and we had a mini- Riders jam on our hands. Melding perfectly with Time is Free, the Riders came and went but left the nasty weather behind.
These are the moments I chase. That is why I found myself working for a spot down front again the second night. I had to get close so I could watch the band connect with one another on stage, feel the audience respond to the nuances, and hear the intense results. It is an experience almost as good as seeing a team of 8 year olds leap for joy after making a pass and scoring a goal.
Jackson called me at one point, before the second show. I wandered backstage trying to find a spot where I'd get good reception and enough silence to hear. He was excited about a new toy and wanted to explain every detail. As I reentered the venue through the back door I noticed some tape on the floor. Stage directions for the crew. The note on the arrow pointing south toward the stage read "Everything."
I found myself singing to myself 'Loveland Happiness' later that night in the backseat of Joe and Melissa's VW. Indeed, my 'everything' lay south of Loveland... but hearing this band hit their stride with a group of friends helps me appreciate just how blessed I truly am.
Here's a few All-Stars from this weekend:
Jackson, Lisa, Sandy, Laura, Diane, Curtis, Danny, Candace, AnneMarie, Bennett, Garrie, Ryan, Chris, Adam, Jen, Joe, Melissa, Tricia, Whim, Dan, Cindy, Joe, Rebecca, Dennis, Val
Here's a few of the highlights, divided into TWO Episodes:
October 12, 2007
JAM to open first set >
Nobody's Fault But Mine >
Conrad the Caterpillar
JAM to open the second set >
A of D >
DOWNLOAD the cast here (right click to save to hard drive):
Everyday Companion Podcast #58
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COMING LATER THIS WEEK - Loveland Happiness Episode 2 - PaniCast #59