Grateful to Be Alive 

Widespread Panic celebrates 20 years of jamming.

When jam-band fave Widespread Panic went to the Bahamas last year to record its new CD, Earth to America, the trip had absolutely nothing to do with the climate, says singer-guitarist John Bell. The real draw was in Nassau: the Compass Point Studios of producer Terry Manning, who's worked with Led Zeppelin, Al Green, and others over his 40-year career. "Our first thoughts were to record in Europe, in an old castle or something like that, just for the adventure," says Bell. "But after daydreaming about it, reality set in, and we went with the producer who could really capture us."

With so many bands competing for the jam-band throne left vacant by the Grateful Dead and Phish, it seems that Widespread Panic just might be the group to keep the noodling kingdom dancing long into the 21st century. The band — formed in Athens, Georgia, by Cleveland native Bell and Michael Houser, who passed away four years ago today from cancer — celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. "We've never had a whole lot of rules," says Bell. "We just flow with what's happening. That hasn't changed a bit."
Thu., Aug. 10, 7 p.m.

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