Words by: Erika Rasmussen
In addition to Charleston's many churches, the city is also known for its historic cemeteries and graveyards and has earned the nickname "Holy City." Despite this devout moniker, Panic fans poured in from all over on May 5 & 6 to raise a little hell at Credit One Stadium as a part of their pilgrimage. Luckily, Charleston is used to storms of all sorts and the city and venue welcomed us with open arms. The themes of the "Holy City" could be found in 6 songs, a mention of weather could be heard in 4, and horses were mentioned in 2 songs over this Kentucky Derby weekend. Of course, these are ongoing themes in the band's repertoire, so make of that what you will. The newly renovated tennis stadium is gorgeous and clean, and their friendly staff makes it easy to get a drink quickly. We even used their free shuttle-to-parking service Saturday night, and it was incredible. Before heading down to the venue, my friend Chloe and I checked in to the funky and newly restored Starlight Motor Inn, which made an awesome home away from home for my 47th birthday weekend. As luck would have it, my birthday is on Cinco de Mayo, so my standards for fun are sky-high. Fortunately, Panic once again raised the bar for what it means to be havin' a good time.
Friday night kicked off with a greeting by JB and then launched into "Pigeons" > "Henry Parsons Died". "Parsons" is a quintessential Southern spiritual song by our other favorite Athens band, Bloodkin, that has lines like "He was baptized in every creek in Georgia. Devil still called his name." We then heard "The Last Straw" > "C Brown" which mentions the religious tenet of the golden rule: "draw unto others as they have been drawn to you". "Shut Up and Drive" preceded "Space Wrangler" > "Big Wooly Mammoth" > "Love Tractor" to wrap up Set One. Set Two began with a slow "Porch Song" >, of which there have only been 37 performances out of 1,154 total performances of the song. The first horse reference came in JoJo's killer performance of "Blackout Blues" with "I think we're riding on our last legs, Like the dark horse down the stretch". We then went back to religious references with "Sundown Betty" > and "We bend but we never ever almost never break, Breathe before we're Baptized deep into the Lake. Pray but never never almost never beg, We church all through the night." I love this song and think it has almost a Steely Dan feel, in the best possible way. "Barstools and Dreamers" took us into "Second Skin" >, co-written by Panic and Jerry Joseph. Next was "Jam" > "Tie Your Shoes" > "Second Skin" and then Vic Chesnutt's "Protein Drink/Sewing Machine" >, during which JB changed one of the lines a little to "The mushroom tasted so very something in my mouth". This brought some laughs to the audience. The second set ended with "Climb to Safety" by Jerry Joseph, a suitable nod to the frequent Charleston floods. After some JB banter, the encore consisted of Doom Flamingo's Kanika Moore sitting in on two numbers with Panic: Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" (only played 32x total in their almost 40 years together but it was the first song they ever played publicly) and "Red Hot Mama" by George Clinton. The two tunes together made a fan-damn-tastic ending to the evening.
Saturday night started with "Bust It Big", which would've been a great pick for Cinco the previous night ("She's my little salt lickin', agave guzzlin', worm Eatin', lime suckin' girl, I love her so"). "Wonderin'" cruised into "Little Lilly" > and sermonized, "Even schoolgirls like her way. Oh, marry the preacher, you'd make a little angel someday." A pounding "Rock" went into the new "Tacklebox Hero" >, which has a coastal theme and has only been played twice before. "I'm Not Alone" led to "Halloween Face", a guitar jam that appeals to the death metal fan in my cold Norwegian heart. This new-ish song has only been played 14 times before. "One-Arm Steve" went into "Action Man", as one would expect on a Kentucky Derby weekend. I wonder if the band was bringing attention to the seven horse deaths in the week leading up to the Derby. Graveyard of favorites, indeed... Set two opened with "Holden Oversoul" > "Goodpeople" >, and raged "Like footprints to the sea, They dance upon the rising storm". Another JoJo track that I love is "Dark Bar" which includes the line, "Came down from West Baton Rouge with a cross around her neck, Hailing Marys at the station threw a cigarette". We sandwiched back into "Goodpeople" and then Murray McLaughlin's "Honky Red. Murray has said that he and Warren Zevon "swapped" songs of their own for the other to record. Murray 'traded' Honky Red to Warren for 'Carmelita' and recorded it on his self-titled album. On a radio show in the early 90s, Murray reminded Warren that they were supposed to record the other's song and received a profuse apology from Warren. I bet that Zevon's rendition of "Honky Red" would've been amazing. "Ain't Life Grand" took us into "Party At Your Mama's House" > "Jam" > "Ribs and Whiskey". That "Ribs" was truly kickass, and I am so very glad that I got a chance to witness it. Our spiritual journey continued with "Pilgrims" ("We left superstition on the roadside a few cities ago. They spent our souls, maybe, but they didn't take our smiles.") > the always stormy "Greta" ("The trees bowing to the grass, In a silent hurricane. When the landlord calls, Mother Nature's come to arms, She's in a fighting mood"). I made a sticker for "Greta" and the very next song, "Fishwater". I am so glad I made the "Fishwater" sticker, especially, because it may be my favorite version I've ever witnessed live. An amazing "Drums" was featured in the middle of the song and just added to its magic. Saturday encore featured Daniel Donato and was comprised of one of the best "Surprise Valley" performances I've been at into "Life During Wartime" by the Talking Heads. Despite the party tune that this has become for all of us, David Byrne's lyrics describe a dystopian landscape. He has said, "I wrote this in my loft on Seventh and Avenue A. I was thinking about Baader-Meinhof. Patty Hearst. Tompkins Square. This a song about living in Alphabet City." The crowd lit up like Patty Hearst's M1 carbine when the distinctive first notes of the song reached us. Truly divine.
Taking in this past weekend's shows was like experiencing a storm during a tent revival. You come out feverish and drenched but with a renewed faith in life and ready to evangelize the experience. I know that I may be another year older, but I am ready for the next rockin' Panic rapture