Aspen, prepare for Widespread Panic
ASPEN – In December 2003, rumor ran wild that Widespread Panic, the Southern rock band with a following big enough to fill Red Rocks, was going to play at Ship of Fools, a small, little-known bar on Carbondale’s Main Street. It was pure fantasy; the band had no intention of playing Ship of Fools, but the rumor had gained enough traction that Widespread Panic posted a message on its website telling fans there would be no performance.Once again, the word is out that Widespread Panic will be playing an uncommonly small venue in the Roaring Fork Valley. But this time the information seems far more reputable and believable. Monday afternoon, Belly Up Aspen – which has hosted B.B. King, Jane’s Addiction and Blues Traveler, sent out an email alerting fans that Panic would be playing a three-night stand, Feb. 17-19. There’s an on-sale date for tickets – Nov. 4, at 10 a.m. – and a ticket price – $350 for general admission – that might be eye-popping, but makes sense given the 450-person capacity of Belly Up and the rare experience of seeing Widespread Panic in a small-club setting. The shows have been posted on the band’s website.Michael Goldberg, owner of Belly Up, points out that there have been a handful of huge acts that have played the club, and all of those – Jimmy Buffett, Gov’t Mule, Stone Temple Pilots – have caused some degree of commotion, and a great deal of pleasure. But none have caused a panic like the latest big-name announcement is likely to create. Not only is Widespread Panic popular enough to regularly sell out its annual three-night stands at Red Rocks, but the dates coincide with Presidents Day weekend, already one of the busiest times in town; the band will be on its first-ever fully acoustic tour; and they will go on hiatus for the rest of 2012 immediately following the Belly Up shows.Asked whether this was the biggest act in the six-year existence of Belly Up, Goldberg said, “It’s always hard to answer, because it depends what you mean by biggest: How meaningful is it for someone? How much does the band gross? The number of seats a band generally sells? It’s always hard for me to rank.”But Goldberg had no trouble saying that Widespread Panic, which formed at the University of Georgia in the mid-’80s, will generate some of the greatest interest the club has seen. And that the band’s fans, known to travel from show to show, will be of a different sort than those who favor Buffett, or B.B. King.”Widespread Panic fans, from what I’ve heard and from the underground buzz – there are very few shows that have even come close to this,” Goldberg said. “There’s no question it’s one of the biggest and one of the most exciting acts we’ve had.”While the concerts will mark Widespread Panic’s Belly Up debut, the band has a history in the Aspen area. The band brought its mostly acoustic Sit & Ski Tour, in 1996, to the Wheeler Opera House, and played the Aspen Harmony Festival in 1999. The band has had an even bigger impact in Snowmass Village. Panic played Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Festival, in Snowmass, twice, and both times the festival was extended by a day to accommodate two-night stands by the band. In 2008, the last time Panic played the Labor Day Festival, Jazz Aspen saw a record crowd of nearly 37,000 people over five days. Last year, after the discovery of mammoth remains near Snowmass Village, the Snowmass Town Council adopted the band’s “Big Woolly Mammoth” as the official town song.Goldberg said that getting acts that graduated from club settings long ago to play Belly Up always involves some back story. In the case of Widespread Panic, the band’s bassist, Dave Schools, has made several appearances at Belly Up with a side project, Stockholm Syndrome. And when Panic appeared at the Labor Day Festival, their agent came to town, was befriended by Goldberg, and visited Belly Up. The band knew, then, that Belly Up was not an average small club.”It’s Aspen, the nature of a 450-person club with the production capability of a 4,000-seat venue,” Goldberg said. “And I think they want to do something special.”Widespread Panic’s acoustic Wood Tour also features shows in Silver Spring, Md. (Jan. 24-25), Atlanta (Jan. 27-29), and at Denver’s Fillmore (Feb. 10-12). There are also four electric shows, billed as Panic En La Playa, in Puerto Morales, Mexico, Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. But it’s a good bet that none of those shows will create a buzz like those in Aspen, where Panic fans, accustomed to arenas and amphitheaters, will get a close-up look at the band.”Yeah, it’ll be a scene. It’ll be a heck of a scene,” Goldberg said. “I can’t wait till tonight to read Facebook and whatever crazy comments are out there.”email@example.com
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