There are some things that just don’t make no sense. The platypus, for one. American politics. Legislators telling educators how to run schools. There’s a Widespread Panic tribute band right here in the Tampa Bay area, and I’d never seen ‘em before.
High Cotton is a seven-man band (WSP is lovingly referred to as the six-headed monster). Capt. Calvin is the main vocalist in the JB role, and he does a nice, enthusiastic job. In fact, that is true of the entire band. I’ve seen three dozen Panic shows, salivating for two more next week at Wanee. Do these boys sound just like WSP? They do not. What’s important is: the musicianship is good, and the feeling is spot-on. High Cotton delivers.
I’ve missed them more times than I can count, and this one wasn’t on my radar screen, either, but luckily Donna clued me in, said she was going. Finally! A show I could make, and a friend to share it with.
For the set list this night, at least, they played nothing more recent than “Climb to Safety” (1999). They were certainly celebrating the Mike Houser era. Panic fans can argue long and loud about who their favorite guitarist is (what a phenomenal waste of time: it’s GMac), but there is no mistaking the “lingering lead” that Houser played (I was fortunate enough to see him 18 times). Mike Vandervoort does a great job channeling Mikey, even playing sitting down, which seems to suit him as well as it did Mikey. He also sang Mikey’s songs.
The rhythm guitar chores were handled by Rob Lasko, who also sang. In fact, all seven members sang at one point or another. Jim Wirt’s percussion meshed well with Morgan Cook on drums.
Chris Brown did an excellent job on bass in the SchoolsZone and had some killer exchanges with Vandervoort. The unsung hero – and the man I didn’t hear enough, for my taste – was Sugar Jones on keyboards. Clavinet, organ, electric piano, piano: he had it all going on. Turn him UP!
I arrived late (shocking) to Skipper’s just as the band hit the opening organ choruses of “Climb to Safety,” followed by a bouncing “Who Do You Belong To?” After a brief setbreak, they returned to the stage with violin player Bud Green in tow.
The set took off immediately with “Ain’t Life Grand.” It was easy to identify the Spreadheads in the crowd, bobbing, dancing, singing. Then we got a very nice “Driving Song” into a jam that worked its way into “Porch Song (fast).” Green did a nice job fitting into the band. The “Hatfield” was particularly great, and Brown and Vandervoort romped on “Space Wrangler” to close the second set.
There were quick “Wind Cries Mary” and “Maggot Brain” teases before “Radio Child” spilled out, a great rendition. “Travelin’ Light” has always been one of my favorites, and that was followed a great, long jam on “Stop-Go.” Then a sick “Ride Me High” emerged, with Vandervoort and then Brown and Jones jamming it out. That segued into “Low Spark,” and here again guitar and bass had a field day. Instantly, that blasted into a wicked “Chilly Water,” followed by powerful “Love Tractor (F.T.).”
Happy Easter indeed! And the High Cotton boys will remind you they play Sunday at OBJ.
NEVER MISS A SUNDAY SHOW!
[SET 1: ?, Climb to Safety, WDYBT?; SET 2: Ain’t Life Grand, Driving Song > jam > Porch Song (fast), Pilgrims > Wondering, Hatfield, Space Wrangler; SET 3: Radio Child, Travelin’ Light, Stop-Go, Ride Me High > Low Spark of High-Heeled boys > Chilly Water, Love Tractor]