Though it is a little fuzzy, I can still remember my first show (7/18/97). It was the summer after my senior year in high school and several people I knew were going to see this band I'd never heard of at Mud Island in Memphis, so we tagged along. My friend and I got a little too intoxicated, so I spent most of the show helping her and not really absorbing the music and the crowd. After starting college at Hendrix, I was lucky enough to see Panic again that fall of 97 at Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock. By this time, I'd familiarized myself with their music, so it wasn't so foreign to me. However, I was not prepared for the vibe in the show. I was completely sober and was able to make my way to the front row in front of the bass player, Dave Schools. I was so amazed in watching the crowd and how into the music they were. This was something I needed to be a part of.
After seeing 2 shows in 1997, I saw 10 shows in 1998, 10 in 1999, and even more in the next few years. The Panic took me to states that I may have never gone to otherwise. And best of all, I've met people from across the country that I've made friends with.
As my group of friends has grown older, gotten married, and had children, their ability to see as many shows as I can has been restricted. Though I love going to shows with my "crew," I decided that I would not let my friends' ability to go (or not) keep me from going. So, I've been to several shows solo - which is a lot of fun - in a different way, but fun.
My Dad always asked me when I am going to grow out of this "Widespread Panic phase," but I think he has finally started to realize that this is not a phase. It is really a big part of who I am. I mean, I've almost been seeing them every year (on average 8 times per year) since I was 18. That's almost half of my life! It is in my blood now, and I have no intention of quitting them anytime soon.
People often ask me why I would go and see the same concert over and over. Please let me clarify that no 2 shows are the same. Every show is different, and they never play the same song within 3 shows. There are no costume changes, no fancy acrobatics or pyrotechnics. But the music makes up for all that "fluff" that is not there. The music, to me, is spiritual. I leave most shows feeling like I've just encountered the divine.
Panic has been touring for 25 years this year, so there are rumors that they are taking 2012 off to take a break. With that in mind, I am trying to see as much of them as I can this year. After 9 years, the band is returing to Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, AL in April. I booked my hotel room today, so the excitement is starting to set in.
So why did I write about this today? I wanted to express my "Panic experience" because a lot of people have either never heard of the band (they're not really played on a typical radio station) or they have misconceptions about the band. While there are a few "bad eggs" who attend shows, most of the fans are people just like me. We have good jobs, homes, we're responsible adults who enjoy the good music and the friends that come with the experience. We pay taxes, we take showers, and we need a break from the same old same old. You may go to every Razorback game (or otherwise) - I just prefer to go to Panic shows.
If you are interested in their music, I would highly suggest you check out http://www.panicstream.com/ to enjoy many of their live shows that are available for streaming. They have many studio albums available, but the essence of Panic is in the live music.
So here's to 25 years, and hopefully many more!
Peace, love, and Panic.