Memphis is a city that just oozes soul. It drips from the pores of its residents and seeps out of the cracks in the sidewalks. There are few cities across the country with as rich a musical history as Memphis and the surrounding Mid-South area. From Elvis to BB King, the Bluff City’s global influence on musicians everywhere is undeniable.
Mempho Music Festival returned to the post-COVID festival world with a bang in 2021, moving from Shelby Farms to the more intimate setting of the Memphis Botanic Garden. 2022 builds on that momentum from September 30 through October 2, featuring The Black Keys, Wilco, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and two nights of Widespread Panic.
As Covid-19 ravaged the globe, the concert industry was hit harder than most. Touring musicians, their crews, music venues…few were spared the hardship of a world that just shut down. As vaccines became readily available, though, there was a glimmer of hope; the industry adapted, and music fans once again were able to watch the bands they love. 2021 Mempho Music Fest, headlined by Widespread Panic and the Avett Brothers, returned the first weekend of October and provided a cathartic release for bands and fans alike.
Widespread Panic has made Memphis a regular tour stop since the band got together. According to the Panic resource “Everyday Companion Online,” their first official show in the Bluff City was in April, 1989. Since then, they’ve seen local crowds swell from a couple of hundred to thousands. After 30-plus years of touring, WSP recently made a conscious decision to cut back their schedule, to “pass the baton” to a younger collection of musicians looking to expand their careers.
WSP returns to Memphis to headline Mempho Music Fest on October 1 and 2, and will hit the road for several multi-night residencies after that. Slideandbanjo.com’s Marty Halpern caught up with Panic percussionist Domingo “Sunny“ Ortiz to discuss the band’s past, present, and future.
Jimmy Herring and The 5 of 7 The Aggie Theater Fort Collins, CO September 13, 2019 Words/photos by: Jake Cudek
For many, the name Jimmy Herring conjures up a multitude of moments that reflect the best in music proficiency. From his position in Col. Bruce Hampton’s sonic army, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, to his touring days with Widespread Panic, anyone who recognizes this man’s talent knows that if he is coming to your neck of the woods, set the date and plan on attending.
A tribute to Neal Casal has been announced for Wednesday, September 25 at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. Casal’s former bandmates and associates will get together to pay tribute; Casal tragically took his own life on August 26. The late guitarist last played with Circles Around the Sun but had played with Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the Hard Working Americans, and was a widely-respected session/studio guitarist.
Widespread Panic’s guitarist, Michael Houser, was a musical luminary that was taken from the world too soon. Each year, on August 10, Mikey’s former guitar tech, Sam Holt (Sam Holt Band, Outformation), pays celebrates his late mentor with Remembering Mikey, a tribute concert. This year’s show was at Atlanta’s Terminal West, and photographer Michael Saba was there to capture the magic.