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Widespread Panic

From Academic Kids

Widespread Panic is a hard living southern rock band from Athens, Georgia. Widespread is commonly referred to a jam band, though their music is simpler and less steeped in jazz than other more popular jambands such as The Grateful Dead and Phish. What began as a weekly jam session at the Uptown Lounge in 1985 (see 1985 in music) grew into a six-man musical force that draws large crowds mainly in the southeastern US, but also in other parts of the country such as Colorado.

Their debut LP, Space Wrangler, established a small fanbase and inagurated several years of constant touring before the band signed to Capricorn Records and released their major label debut, Widespread Panic in 1991 (see 1991 in music). After appearing with the H.O.R.D.E. tours for a few years, the band became one of the most popular new jam bands that arose in the mid-1990s.

Playing as many as 250 shows a year, Panic built a large fanbase without MTV or Top 40 Radio. To celebrate the release of their first live album, Light Fuse, Get Away, Widespread Panic offered a free "CD release party" concert in the streets of hometown Athens. An estimated 100,000 fans descended on the town, transforming it into the largest CD release party in history.

Critics often cite the band's minimal technical skills as a weakness of the band. Some say the band's jams sound monotonous and stale compared to more musically skilled jambands such as Phish. Because of this criticism, the band is often referred to as a southern rock group which occasionally improvises. Fans of Widespread Panic, most of whom are from the south, have also been criticized for only listening to Widespread Panic, and for talking loudly during concerts. This stereotype combined with the band's minimal instrumental skills have led, perhaps unfairly, to Widespread being ostracized from other groups in the jam band genre.

In August 2002, founding guitarist Michael Houser lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. George McConnell, a long time friend of the band and Beanland alumnus, joined in Houser's wake. At the end of the summer tour, Panic went back to the studio to record Ball, a testament that, as Houser wished, they would continue as a band.

After 18 years of non-stop touring, only pausing for studio recording and Christmas vacation, the band announced in late 2003 that they would be taking a hiatus in 2004 to spend time with their friends and families.

Discography

  • Space Wrangler Landslide Records, 1988
  • Widespread Panic Capricorn Records, 1991
  • Space Wrangler Capricorn (re-release), 1992
  • Everyday Capricorn, 1993
  • Ain't Life Grand Capricorn, 1994
  • Nine High A Pallet Capricorn (recorded with Vic Chesnutt under the collective name Brute), 1996
  • Bombs & Butterflies Capricorn, 1997
  • Light Fuse, Get Away Capricorn, 1998
  • 'Til The Medicine Takes Capricorn, 1999
  • Another Joyous Occasion Widespread Records, 2000
  • Don't Tell the Band Widespread Records/Sanctuary Records, 2001
  • Co-balt Widespread Records (recorded with Vic Chesnutt under the collective name Brute), 2002
  • Live in the Classic City Widespread Records/Sanctuary Records, 2002
  • Ball Widespread Records/Sanctuary Records, 2003
  • Night of Joy Widespread Records/Sanctuary Records, 2004
  • Über Cobra Widespread Records/Sanctuary Records, 2004
  • Jackassolantern Widespread Records/Sanctuary Records, 2004

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