June 21, 2011 - I received confirmation of successfully obtaining a room/entry for me, my sister, and my brother-in-law that we would be attending the first ever Panic en la Playa. This confirmation came just a few days before I departed for a 3 night Panic run at Red Rocks, and I was so excited about it. It seemed so far away, but I had plenty of Panic activities planned for 2011 to keep my mind off of how far away February was. I knew that I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime for a legendary experience.
Fast forward to January 2012. The time had finally come. I thought that if it was possible to die from excitement, that I was on my death bed. :) I've been to Cancun/Playa area on several occasions and even been to all inclusive resorts, so I knew what a grand experience that is. However, my mind simply could not 'compute' the thought of a 4-night Panic run combined with an all-inclusive resort vacation in Cancun!
Between the time I booked Panic en la Playa, the band announced that they would be doing a 4-venue acoustic Wood Tour that would sandwich the Mexico run. Having started my Panic career in 1997, I was always intrigued by the Sit & Ski tour, an acoustic tour that the band did in 1996. I'd heard the shows on tape (yes, on tape - back then, anyway) but aside from seeing the boys do a semi-acoustic first set on New Year's shows, I'd never experienced a fully acoustic Panic show. I had to go - or at least try.
As with most things Panic these days, there were a LOT of people who wanted to go to the Wood shows. I decided to try for tickets to the Atlanta shows and if fate would have it that I would get tickets, then I would be there. It just so happened that the Atlanta shows were the weekend before the Monday that I already had my flight booked to head to Mexico a day before the shows. Fate is a fabulous lady. I got 2 tickets for Friday and Saturday (via the phone, no less). I was more-than-pleasantly surprised when my best friend, Jennibette, said that she would like to go with me, as lately many of my closest Panic travel buddies have been busy with families, etc - which has resulted in me "flying solo" to see the boys. While I have no problems with doing solo Panic shows, it's always better to have your loved ones by your side. I was absolutely thrilled that JB was going to the ATL with me! There will be a separate blog about the Atlanta Wood shows, but I couldn't write about the Playa trip without mentioning the "appetizer" of Atlanta Wood leading to the "entree" of Panic en la Playa. Wanna see pictures of my ATL experience, go here.
After 2 nights of awesome, better-than-I-expected acoustic Panic in Atlanta, we flew back to Little Rock and I had a night at home to switch gears, luggage, and haul ass to Mexico. I am so glad that I went to Atlanta - it was the perfect precursor to Playa Panic. And while I loved the acoustic shows, I was ready for some plugged-in-Panic. Some loud as hell electric ringing in my ears Panic.
Since I went a day early (ahead of my sister and her husband), I was able to meet several new friends and have a nice evening with a great dinner and tropical drinks on the beach. I was nice and rested the next day, which was when the majority of the crowd arrived.........and show #1.
The mass of fans brought with them a surge of excitement and the reality (for me) that this was really happening. As I waited on Brooke and Jay to arrive, I sat for about 30 minutes on the beach just staring at the stage that was set up. It was so surreal, and just too good to be true. In fact, there were so many things on this trip that seemed too good to be true that it still feels like a dream.
I won't do a daily blow-by-blow writeup of everything we did, but I will say that there is not a single thing/detail that I would change about this trip to make it better - because it could not have possibly been any better. Here are a few reasons why this dream trip was absolutely the most fun, awesome, ridiculous, epic week of my life.
- Upgrade to first class going to and from Cancun (a little unexpected bonus that makes flying so much more tolerable)
- Oceanfront room that was a 1 minute walk from the stage, including a jacuzzi tub on the balcony overlooking the ocean
- Having an awesome room to myself for the entire week, as my 'guest' stayed in the room with his wife and her friend
- A resort which had several restaurant options with great food - all at no cost
- Free drinks all.week.long................have I mentioned that I LOVE all inclusive resorts?
- A resort that was full to capacity - with like-minded people who were all there because we love Widespread Panic ('love' is an understatement)
- Meeting people from all over the world (yes, world - Go Team JAPANic!), many who I know will be friends for years to come
In addition to the overall experience, there are some highlights of the FOUR SHOWS that I have to acknowledge, in no particular order:
- Every single night, the band was having fun. Not that they don't always have fun on stage, but you could tell how much they were all enjoying themselves. I would get cracked up watching Dave and Jimmy jesting with each other.
- Though it wasn't my first, I've been chasing Vampire Blues for almost 2 years. It's one of my favorites and it's been on my wish list for a while. It was so good.
- The return of old Visiting Day - electric: I got to hear the "old school" Visiting Day in Atlanta acoustic-style, but I thought it was just because they were playing it acoustic. The crowd went wild when they played VD the original way, and though I like the new way too, I immensely enjoyed the throwback. I think Jojo did too because he was preachin' it. Maybe they'll keep it up!?
- Many Rivers to Cross: they played this Jimmy Cliff song in Atlanta - another one that I thought would be a one-timer. This was the first song of the encore on the last night, and I cried like a baby. JB's voice is perfect for this song.
- Night 2 in general
- I'm not usually one to fight the crowd and make the commitment necessary to be a rail rocker. However, we got down to the stage early enough that there was rail space directly in front of Jimmy and planned on hanging there for a few songs then moving back. We stayed there all night, and I loved it. Dave was really showing out that night and I had a front row viewing of it.
- Sharon, Tortured Artist > Spoonful > Sleepy Monkey > Kinky Reggae > Sleepy Monkey > Stop-Go > Disco
- Did I mention Kinky Reggae? JB has rapped it before during Sleepy Monkey, but never played the full song. It was stellar!
- Protein Drink > Sewing Machine - they always rock this song out, but on this night, it was especially intense. Jimmy nailed it and I headbanged for 10 minutes. :)
- Ballad of John and Oko; this was played first time ever at one of the DC Wood shows, but I figured it was a one time thing. They opened with it on night 3. Awesome.
- Bust it Big.......twice (night 1 and night 4). I've always loved this song, but it's become even more special to me since finding out that I was going to Mexico. Many people complain that they play it too much. I can't get enough of it.
- Lawyers, Guns, and Money to end the last set of the final night. They turned that place out during the song and the shit hit the fan!
- The final song of the entire run - Postcard. One of my all time favorites, and perfectly appropriate.
Cloud 9 Adventures definitely knows how to throw a "party." Mad props to them for pulling off an event that will go down in history. I know that coordinating such an event with so many people is not an easy task. They nailed it, and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Here's hoping that Panic en la Playa will be an annual event. It was absolutely a priceless event.
The best part of it all? "Doing" Panic en la Playa with my sister/best friend.
Here are a few pics from the trip. To view the entire album, go here.
I love to wear fake tats to shows, so it was mandatory that I created my own for this event. I made enough to share with about 150 people, and it was awesome seeing people wearing them around the resort.
The lights were amazing all week!
The view from my room - chillin' in my new ENO hammock
Me, all smiles on the beach
The very talented Valentine Cranford exhibits her creativity on the beach.
Team FORREST CITY!!!
My family - Night 4
Me and my sister/best friend