Monday, April 07, 2008

Widespread Panic in NYC Review

I was surprised that Widespread Panic had booked the United Palace. I never heard of the venue located on 175th Street in the ghetto inhabited by a lot of Dominicans.

Spreadheads in ghetto Are you shitting me? Talk about a clash of cultures.

The United Palace was built in 1930 for vaudeville acts and to show movies. A church bought it in 1969 and renovated it. They have been showing plays and concerts there since then.

I hung out with my brother and Bruce for a pre-party before we went to the concert. My brother didn't go but I was taking Bruce to his fifth Panic show. All of the ones he has seen have been with me either at MSG, the Beacon, or at Radio City.

We took the A train from Columbus Circle up to Harlem. The train had an interesting mix of commuters, Yankee fans going to the game, and a sprinkle of Spreadheads. We got out at 168th Street and walked uptown a few blocks. I had not been in that part of town in a very long time. I used to be a process server many moons ago and had to served eviction notices to delinquent tenants. Luckily, I was never shot.

Anyway, we made our way up Broadway and there were a lot of locals who had slightly confused and amused faces on as they soaked up the scene with wookies and Spreadheads mingling invading a few block radius in front of the theatre.

A guy in a beard and Hawaiin shirt wandered over and said, "Rolls. Molly. Yo."

Bruce was hungry and he kept saying things like, "We're in Dominicanville and I smell rice."

We separated. He went in search of a beef patty. I wanted to go inside and check out the venue. There was no pat down, much like the Beacon, and I walked right in. I grabbed a $7 beer for what seemed like six ounces of some sort of micro brew. I wandered up the intricate staircase and was impressed with the original artwork. There might have been new paint on stuff, but for the most part, the theatre looked just like it did when it opened in 1930.

It almost felt like I was in a church. Afterall, they do preform bilingual religious ceremonies in there, so it wasn't too far fetched that the theatre also doubled as a place of worship.

I had very low expectations of the show mainly because I had such a horrible week that I was happy to see any concert. The fact that it was Panic on the first of a two night run in New York City was just a bonus.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter what the setlist was on paper or whether or not the band sounded great. And it just comes down to the enjoyment factor of the show. Some of the best shows in my life have sounded and seemed unappealing to others, but for me they were awesome because I really needed to be at that place at the right exact time. This past week was tough for me. I had a lot of stressful situations with family and work and getting sick earlier in the week. In short, I was having a shitty week and the concert was exactly what I needed.

When the Joker asked me my thoughts on the show, I had to qualify my answer. He understood.Sometimes it's not about who is playing or what or how they played... the simple fact that they played was good enough.

I'll have to listen to the show again to get into more depth about how they played, especially the new stuff. I didn't take notes. I didn't even write down a setlist or bring my camera. I was there just to party it up and dance and have a great time and leave my bad week behind me.

With that said, I had a awesome time. We were in the upper loge area in the center. I was seat 1 and smack in the middle. Old school theatres have odd and even seating, so the aisles was the demarcation line. The sound was crisp, although the vocals could have been mixed a tad better.

Everyone in my section was chill and having a good time. As Bruce said, "Everyone is so fuckin' polite at Panic shows."

"That's because everyone is from the South. They have manners down there," I joked.

I love the crowd at Panic shows. They like to have fun. They get rowdy and drink and get shitty and I like hear the occasional Carolina twang.

The boys got off to a great start with Holden Oversoul > Better Off before the threw the crowd a huge bone with Climb to Safety. My personal highlight for the first set was Papa Johnny Road. Jimmy Herring opened up a jam and went off the deep end. The boys had the double "sleep" theme in back to back songs from Sleeping Man and Sleepy Monkey. I really dug the Sleepy Monkey because thats when the drugs kicked in!

Lucky we only got two new songs. Free Somehow was one of them, but at least they had it in between a Monkey and Pleas sandwich. Panic closed the set with a booty-shaking disco-funk high-energy version of Love Tractor, which included heavy doses of bong-rattling bass from Dave Schools.

My biggest fear was an overzealous security force and a shitty first set with lots of low energy new songs. That didn't happen and I had a great first set.

Second set kicked off with another crowd pleaser Space Wrangler. I dug Jack and especially the layered jams in Wondering. Bruce said he liked Second Skin but I was sort of bored with it.

After drums, Warren Haynes came out and played the rest of the set. Warren is the king of the cameo and showed up at Ratdog the night before. Surprise Valley was the highlight of the second set. I'm not usually crazy about Protein Drink > Sewing Machine, but they played it loud and heavy and rocked it out. Solid versions.

The boys cheesed out on the encore. Two songs that I really didn't want to hear. Phish would do that to me. A lot.

The show was perfect for me since I had an awful week, so it rated high on my scale. I have seen much better Panic shows and I have seen a lot of worse shows. I have to wait until Saturday's show to get some more perspective.

The best part of the show for me was getting off on the subway at 79th Street to grab a slice of pizza. I noticed all these wookies and older hippies hanging out in front of Yogi's as I walked and ate my slice. That's when I realized that Ratdog had played that night at The Beacon. When I walked past the Beacon, I noticed all of these empty black balloons on the ground as a gaggle of patchy kids stood on the corner. I walked a half of a block and deflated black balloons cluttered Broadway. Someone must have had a tank! Looks like they were partying it up for Ratdog.

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Bruce and I had balcony seats on the second night. I found a beer vendor at the top of the venue that didn't have a huge line. I figured out the best way to drink there was to double fist it and get two at a time.

I decided to piss before the show and got caught up in the tiny bathroom (there was only one with four urinals in the entire venue) when Big Wooly Mammoth started. I only missed about ninety seconds. I was hoping to hear North on Friday, but got it Saturday. I smoked through a lukewarm Angels on High and then Bruce got busted by one of security guards for smoking. She took his blunt. The crowd was into Rock but it was just OK for me. They started to pick up the slack with a segue into Hatfield. I thought the highlight of the first set was Conrad.

The first set was above average, but it didn't hold up to Friday's first set. Perhaps I had higher expectations. I tried to lower them for the second set (so low that I tried not to have any). I got shitty at the break and was ready for a second set.

Bruce described the second set jams as spacey. That was a good description. The crowd was digging From the Cradle but I wasn't feeling it. Bowlegged was OK, but I was super excited to hear Papa's Home. It's Senor's favorite Panic song and they didn't disappoint me there.

Three Candles was the Pauly's Gonna Take a Piss Song, except the line was too long so I grabbed a beer to drink while I waited in line. I finished it before I pissed.

I got back in time for Airplane and some delicious solos from Jimmy. Sweet Henry Parsons to close the set. I liked the selection of encore songs on the second night. Let's Get The Show On The Road > Blackout Blues was much better than Friday night's cheese.

I really cannot explain why I felt Saturday was just... ordinary. At most, it was a better than average Panic show. I've seen them well over 70+ times and at this point I can tell the difference between a high intensity show and an OK show. Saturday night was... OK. Maybe I'm spoiled or have high expectations. I guess it's been a while since Panic just blew me away and left me totally stunned.

I'm still excited to see them whenever they come through town. I'm pumped to see them at Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco with Radiohead at the end of the summer. Schedule permitting, I'd like to catch a couple of shows on Panic's summer tour if/when they release the dates. As of right now, they have only four dates schedule for this summer, all festivals - Rothbury, All Good, Outside Lands, and Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

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You can listen to the recent Widespread Panic shows in NYC by heading over to


Roger said...

I didn't give permission to use that photo

Pauly said...

I'll remove it.