Article on Widespread Panic.
Posted by: Big Dogster ()
Date: July 13, 2000 05:28AM

I am not familiar with the Georgia based band, but thought others here may be interest in this article. Any thoughts or comments about the band or the article?

Widespread Panic Doesn't Need MTV or Radio
July 12, 2000 11:58 am EST

By Brian Kelleher

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Georgia-based Widespread Panic's pedigree is notably lacking the cornerstones of a
successful rock 'n' roll career: music videos heavily rotated on MTV, radio play bordering on the obnoxious and a stack
of gold albums.

But the sextet does have a fan base of thousands who regularly set attendance records when the band travels on its
exhausting tour schedule. So what gives?

"We as a band are always pushing ourselves, changing our gig as much as we can," John Bell, the group's guitarist and
lead singer, told Reuters in an interview. "The kids dig that."

Indeed, they do. The group attracted 100,000 people to a 1998 outdoor concert in its home base of Athens, Georgia,
to celebrate the release of its sixth album.

And last year it set a record at the lively New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when 63,000 fans caught their act.

The band has cultivated a following, typically college-age with a strong presence in the South, by performing marathon
concerts accentuated by the weathered voice of Bell and the hypnotically catchy riffs of guitarist Michael Houser.

Widespread Panic is not likely to change its formula just to get their scraggly images on MTV or their loose,
improvisational style on the radio, Bell says.

"We don't focus on that thing per se, but you do look at it (like) it would be a nice byproduct," he said, adding that the
band does not view mainstream notoriety as an accomplishment.


The group, which started as a trio of friends at the University of Georgia, has sold 1.5 million copies of its first seven
albums, official Web site says. That figure pales in comparison to the 1.3 million units moved
in one week by teen pop queen Britney Spears when her second album was released in March.

The band kicked off a summer tour in Red Rocks, Colorado, on June 23 and will visit 30 cities including Las Vegas and
New York before finishing up in Keystone, Colorado. A highlight is a stop in Milwaukee where they will open for rock
legend Bob Dylan and Phil Lesh, formerly the bassist for the Grateful Dead.

"The best thing about that is we're done early, we get to watch," said Bell. "We usually don't get to see things. What we
usually get to see is television."

Extended tours like this summer's and long musical jams that can stretch songs to more than 10 minutes have drawn
comparisons to bands like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band.

"The one thing you can say that's a valid comparison is that we're a bunch of guys that stayed together and we're
communicating musically and developing musically," Bell said, adding that all three groups cultivated a similar concert
style, if not a similar sound.

The group's followers on the road are known as "Spreadheads" -- a nod to the Grateful Dead's legendary
"Deadheads" -- and many traverse the country to catch chunks of a seasonal tour.

"They're doing the same thing at a concert that they are at home, with their friends," Bell said, describing the fans and
talking about how they react to the band's extended jams. "I think they like putting their trust in us to do whatever
we're going to do. They don't have to see you hit the bullseye."


In the spring, Widespread Panic took recording matters into its own hands and cut ties with Capricorn Records to
release its first album on Widespread Records, its eighth offering overall.

"It's no secret," Bell said of the new label. "It's just set up in a legal sense to take care of our needs.

The first record from the group's new production unit is titled "Another Joyous Occasion," a live album from its 1999
summer tour with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

"It's what you've always dreamed of, a record company that only has to worry about one band," Bell said, adding the
band would use the label to work on its own sound rather than to develop new acts. "We're developing our own
talent," he said.

The band -- Bell, Houser on guitar and vocals, John Hermann on keyboards and vocals, Todd Nance on drums,
Domingo Ortiz on percussion and Dave Schools on bass -- is not leaving Capricorn with any complaints, Bell said, but
it wanted more control.

"Record labels were born with a good idea in mind, but I think any idea, if it hangs around for a long time, it tends to
stagnate," he said. "I think record companies are going to be around. They just have to put a little spring in their step
and figure out how they apply in today's world."

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Article on Widespread Panic.302 Big Dogster 07/13/2000 05:28AM

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