We're a minority here in Cleveland, Widespread Panic fans. Lead singer, guitarist for the band, John Bell, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying that the Cleveland area had the lowest fanbase for the Athens, Georgia based jam band than anywhere else in the country. And the fact that Bell grew up in Chagrin Falls and attended University School makes it even more puzzling.
I've been a fan since the late 80s when I came across a used copy their second album. It took me a year or so to finally get to see them live. That galvanized my love for Widespread Panic. The guitarist, Michael Houser, was memorable both audibly and visually. His leads ebbed and flowed throughout the songs, never really seeming to end but to simply fade into the background. All the while seated in a chair, a large fan on him, blowing his mess of tangled locks to and fro.
It was ten years ago that the band was booked at the defunct Time Warner amphitheater or whatever it was called at the time. The Panic fans knew Houser was battling cancer, and it was astonishing that he was on the summer tour. A few days before the Cleveland show Michael (Mikey) Houser passed away. The tour went on but the show was filled with a sense of loss and sadness.
Friday, ten years to the day of Houser's death, August 10, members of Widespread Panic along with other musicians will pay tribute to their friend at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. The show will stream live and it's free. They are asking for donations to the Michael Houser Music Fund. Here's the details, Couch Tour.