It was with a large degree of uncertainty that I packed up my camera bag, and headed out into the slow drizzle that would turn into a downpour while I was away. It is a fairly big trip to go from my house all the way out to Austin's The Backyard venue, a little under an hour and a half, and based on my drive to the 311 show on July 4th I wanted to have a little extra time to account for weather or traffic delays.
Halfway through my drive the rain began to taper off and by the time I was near the venue the skies were clear, or at least somewhat less rain laden. A good thing as I was unable to locate my rain poncho and had been dreading having to do the show in a drizzle. Arriving I was surprised to find that the nearby shopping center had relented and was allowing concertgoers to park in it's lots rather than make what was surely an arduous trip through a bog to park in the muddy field below the venue. Enjoying the short dry walk over to the main gate, I hooked up with Emily and Em, her new intern, of Direct Events and they quickly gave me the lowdown. Three songs no flash, but I could remain for the whole concert if I wanted to watch. They would hook up with me about 10 minutes before set time and escort me down. Other than that, as long as the cameras stayed in the bag I was just to "enjoy the show".
Dave Schools of Widepread Panic at The Backyard - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
Picking up my bag I headed off into the crowd, which I must say was a very odd assortment, odder than even a normal Widespread show I am told. I don't know what the deal was with the cheesy fake mustaches and reflective vegas lounge singer shirts, but at least one group of participants had their own themed party occurring inside the concert, and they were definitely operating on a different plane of existence than I.
I stopped by the taper area, Widepread being a taper friendly band, and pigeonholed one of them to ask him some questions. Turns out he had been following Widepread Panic on their whole tour this year, and he had been recording it all to his hard drive recorder. It turns our MOST of the tapers had been following them the whole tour. I asked him if he felt that that was maybe a little obsessive, since the band made all their shows available as downloads on their web site. His answer "Everybody needs a hobby". Indeed. Everybody needs a hobby I thought to myself as I glanced down at my camera kit.
It was amazing to find how far some of their followers had traveled. Many of them had been on the whole tour, others were flying in from as far away as San Francisco, all of them drawn by the traveling culture that follows Widespread Panic all summer long.
Jimmy Herring of Widepread Panic - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
At the appointed time I met my escorts and was taken up to the photo pit for my 3 songs. Meeting up with Moondog, we took a few test shots and bantered with the crowd a bit. The band came on and launched into "And It Stoned Me" and immediately the beach balls appeared in the audience. Better to duck beach balls than crowd surfers I thought as I turned back to the band. Following the first song with "Proving Ground" and "Climb To Safety", it was a long 3 songs, more than enough to take all the photos I needed. After our 3 songs were done, we headed out of the pit, and I walked with Gary towards the gate. He couldn't stay, but I hung around for their first set before I too had to start that long drive home.
I headed back into the venue and got back just as the band launched into "Who Do You Belong To?". I ambled about trying not to entangle myself with the dancing audience members, finally working my way to the back of the line at the bar. After downing a bottle of water to slake my increasing thirst I joined the happy crowd or revelers, dancing until the end of the set. I ended up drenched and exhausted and by the time I made it back to the car I was ready for that long drive back in the rapidly fading daylight. The band played on until 10:30 or so before calling it a night.
Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz of Widepread Panic - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
1. And It Stoned Me
2. Proving Ground
3. Climb To Safety
5. Who Do You Belong To?
7. Papa Johnny Road
8. That Thang
9. Ribs & Whiskey
10. Goin Out West
1. Mr. Soul
2. Bust It Big
3. Travelin' Light
6. Tie Your Shoes
8. I Walk On Guilded Splinters
11. Tall Boy