Widespread Panic
North Charleston Coliseum
Oct. 2

With the venue shifting twice, finally settling back on the Coliseum, one had to suspect that the planners of Saturday’s Panic extravaganza were taking a big risk. Widespread always plays the Coliseum — would putting five other bands on the bill, including the (not cheap) Yonder Mountain String Band, pay off and draw in a bigger crowd? It seemed to work.

Local rock trio Leslie and reggae/funk band The Movement performed warm-up sets as part of an outdoor concert in Lot A (adjacent to the Coliseum).

Folks arriving after about 6:30 p.m. were ushered through the parking lot to satellite lots across Montague, an apparent indication of the larger than usual turnout. Arriving just in time for Yonder, circumstances didn’t allow me to catch Dead Confederate, the opening act on the main stage inside stage.

Yonder certainly helped grow the audience — many remarked they were just as excited for Panic’s immediate opener. It’s a bit odd seeing a bluegrass band in a coliseum, with its cavernous echoes and sheer volume to fill, but the Colorado four-piece managed it well, getting exploratory for an appreciative audience.

Kudos to the Coliseum as well for figuring out a new system to handle the floor. Instead of the usual first-come/first-serve wristbands — always a hassle — a partition midway across the floor perhaps allowed them to stay within fire code regulations while allowing people to move freely between the floor and seats. Hopefully that’ll be the case when Phish comes to town in two weeks as well.

Panic took the stage just after 9 p.m. with an excellent choice of openers: J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High.” Segueing into a heavy-fisted “Proving Ground,” “Action Man,” and “Proving Ground” segment, the band seemed to be setting a hard rock tone early on. With Coliseum shows usually ending around 11 p.m., it seemed like they might be coming out of the gates with full energy to play one long set. “Conrad” kept the intensity high, before the band finally settled down with “Blue Indian” and a quick but funky “Ophelia.” “Chainsaw City” and “Makes Sense to Me” closed out what felt like a fairly quick first set.

The second half began with another choice cover in the Talking Head’s “City of Dreams,” always a heartfelt sing-along in Charleston. “Wondering” got blissfully weird, with musical meandering well into space before segueing into the classic “Space Wrangler,” followed by “Drums.” Percussionist Sonny Ortiz stole the show from drummer Todd Nance during their collaborative solo, showing no signs of slowing down.

With drums so early in the second set, I again wondered if it would be a short show. Not the case. A raunchy “Bowlegged Woman” preceded John “JB” Bell’s high crooning on “Her Dance Needs No Body.” The requisite “Ain’t Life Grand” came out, presumably the set closer, but the night’s best moments were yet to come. “True to My Nature” gave way to “Chilly Water” (how did so many people still have so much water on hand to splash on the crowd, so late in the show?), with a wildly fun “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” sandwiched inside it.

Well after midnight, Panic retook the stage for an encore of the new “Saint Ex” from their new disc, Dirty Side Down, followed by “Imitation Leather Shoes.”

Folks who made the trip to the Music Farm for the Boombox after show would have caught half-an-hour at most, Panic having played until nearly 12:45 a.m. With ears ringing loudly, we headed on home, sufficiently rocked.