Jam is Widespread Panic's bread and butter in music biz

June 20, 1996|By Brian Byrnes | Brian Byrnes,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After being signed to a major label, many of today's young rock bands realize the possibility of having a No. 1 hit and the dream of seeing their faces all over MTV. Thanks in part to MTV's Buzz Bin and alternative college radio, this hope of instant gratification has become a reality for many bands.

But this road to fame has never appealed to Widespread Panic. After four albums, four videos and nonstop touring, the band is still content to play the jam-based rock it has been developing over the past 10 years.

An alumnus of the 1992 and 1993 H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) tours and among the first to be part of the resurgence of improv-oriented rock, Widespread Panic started in the bars of Athens, Ga., also known as the home of R.E.M. and the B-52's. The sextet worked its way up through the ranks, garnering fans through their marathon live shows.

"I think we know what side our bread is buttered on. It's the kids that keep coming back and seeing our music change every day," said drummer Todd Nance, over the phone from a tour stop in Austin, Texas.

Although they have won the respect of their cohorts and fans, the members of Widespread Panic have yet to enjoy the commercial success found by some of their peers, such as Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band. And that suits them just fine.

"It's not too much of a goal to be on MTV, to be honest," Nance says. "It's kind of like an infomercial for the band. It's just not something we enjoy that much."

But don't let that laid-back attitude fool you. Even the most unaffected musicians want their hard work recognized.

"We've made four videos, and I doubt anybody has seen them more than we have, and we've only seen them a couple of times ourselves," he says with a laugh. "But if we go to the trouble to make a video, we would like to have the opportunity for the damn thing to be shown."

And what if Widespread Panic became MTV darlings? Would that change the spirit of the live shows their longtime fans have come to cherish?

"It would be interesting to see what happened if all of a sudden we sold 2 million albums, knowing for a fact that a large majority of our crowd is there because of one song," Nance says. "I guess we'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. I can pretty much promise that every night will still be a different adventure."

Widespread Panic

Where: Pier Six Concert Pavilion, President Street and Eastern Avenue at the Inner Harbor

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $12

Call: (410) 481-SEAT

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Widespread Panic's latest release, "Ain't Life Grand," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6113. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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