Saturday, March 31, at Playhouse Square Center.

Widespread Panic 

Saturday, March 31, at Playhouse Square Center.

>In several issues of the now-defunct Arthur, ads announcing "The Black Crowes Love You" appeared -- ads that, incidentally, were knockoffs of the first Jefferson Airplane ads from '67. The Crowes weren't pushing anything in particular; they just wanted a piece of the freak-folk pie -- which made total sense. What's the big diff between indie kids turned hippie, hair-metal dudes turned hippie, and hardcore brutes turned hippie? Nothing save baggage, really.

The same can be said of Widespread Panic, a group from Athens, Georgia, that has wasted away in jam-band hell for nearly three decades now. Of course, that's partially the band's fault; along with Phish, Blues Traveler, and the Spin Doctors, they hitched a ride on the H.O.R.D.E. express, a scene that was anything but hippie. The Panic, however, has always been better than that. Starting with Space Wrangler, the group's debut from 1988, Widespread Panic has dedicated itself to fluid and at times heady southern-fried improv -- kinda like a lo-cal Allman Brothers Band or a jazzed-up Suntanama (depending on your baggage).

That's not only a compliment, but something that I wish more of these indie-hippie bands strove for . . . if only they had the chops.

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