Founded in Athens, Georgia, in 1983, Widespread Panic had, like many of its jam-band brethren, built a significant fan base without the benefit of a hit record or much radio exposure. When Widespread Panic co-founder and lead guitarist Michael Houser died of pancreatic cancer in August 2002 at age 40, the band pressed on, tapping George McConnell to fill the guitar chair for the remainder of its touring obligations that year and on through 2003. Then came a fifteen-month hiatus, the first time in nearly twenty years that the band had been off the road.
Now, rested and ready, Widespread Panic is back, touring its usual haunts this spring and summer and even winning a spot alongside the "alternative" acts on this year's truncated version of Lollapalooza. Sure, some of Widespread's hardcore fans may still fit the common stereotype of jam-band followers, dressing with a crunchy granola fashion sense and obsessing endlessly over set lists. But with Southern roots and the accompanying influences of soul, blues and funk, Widespread's music is a good deal grittier than many other bands in the genre, as likely to appeal to fans of the Allman Brothers or the Meters as to Deadheads and Phish-philes.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50; call Metrotix at 314-534-1111.