Snowmass havin’ a good time
September 1, 2005
Early in the afternoon of the first day of the 2005 Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival, it looked at times as though there were more security guards than audience members.But by the time the nationally adored jam band Widespread Panic came on, the grounds were comfortably packed. Pre-concert reports predicted a crowd of about 7,000, and it looked as though at least that many had shown up.But anyone expecting a bizarre-looking crowd of “Spreadheads,” as the devotees of Widespread Panic are known, would have been disappointed. Predominantly young, with an eclectic enough blend of clothing and hairstyles to make any concert promoter proud, the audience was nonetheless rather, well, normal-looking.”I don’t think the real Spreadheads are coming to this one,” said Mike Gonzalez of Taos, N.M., who said he is not a Spreadhead himself. “They’re not coming because there’s not a tour right now.”
Gonzalez and a pal, Brian Johnson, also of Taos, drove up to Aspen for the weekend and were among a reported few who managed to secure a campsite for the weekend. There were some in attendance who confirmed that they follow the band around, although some did not like the name given to them.Tricia DiMario, 18, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., said she considered herself a Spreadhead. “Definitely. I wouldn’t say that word, but definitely.”She said she has been following the band avidly since she was 14, when she saw her first concert and that this was going to be her 39th.”I saw my first show, and I was hooked. It was like a drug,” she said. She and her friend Justin Wesley, also 18 and from Tuscaloosa, traveled from Boulder, where DiMario now lives and goes to school.
One longtime valley resident and fan of the now defunct group Phish, another fabled jam band, said of Widespread, “They don’t turn me on the way Phish used to.”Asking to remain anonymous because he has a business in the valley, he said, “Phish was more classical, but Widespread is more Southern rock. You can’t compare them. People who compare them are crazy.” But he still went to the concert.Not all of the audience members, it should be noted, were young.Lee LaRocco, 54, and her husband, Dennis, 48, of Chicago, were there with their son, Ehren Crumpler, 30, and daughter, Kirsten Bolton, of Fort Collins. Lee LaRocco gleefully called herself a Spreadhead, adding that when she was younger “I saw all the great bands – The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Cream.” She said her son “turned me on to [Widespread] a couple of years ago.”She also said her son, a musician himself, is one of a group of fans who regularly record Widespread concerts for distribution through an informal network of fans, a network that is credited with spreading the band’s name in the 1980s when radio DJs were refusing to give Widespread real air time.
“Panic is just amazing,” Lee LaRocco said. “They just come together, and they bring everyone else together, as a family.”And some of those attending the show were there to see other bands as much as Widespread.Don Harvey, 67, of South Africa was there with his daughter, son-in-law and a couple of others, and they were waving their national flag in celebration of Johnny Clegg, who also is from South Africa, and his band. Harvey said he had known Clegg years ago, when he was the only white musician to dare play with an all-black group of musicians.”He was frowned on because he was with Africans,” Harvey said. “I loved him.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org