Widespread Panic three-night residency set to christen Riverfront Park this July

Widespread Panic will play three shows in July at the new Riverfront Park, a 7,000-seat amphitheater and park opening on the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — It’s official: Spreadheads will reunite this summer in Wilmington, NC. According to Widespread Panic’s website, come July 16, 17 and 18, the Athens, Georgia, rockers will play the new 6.6 acre, 7,000-seat Riverfront Park (formerly known as North Waterfront Park until council unanimously voted to rename it last month).

As of now, the three-night residency looks like WSP’s first return to the stage since the pandemic shuttered tours and venues nationwide — unless they announce more shows between now and July. It also will be one of Riverfront Park’s first shows since the city broke ground on the $31 million park in 2019 after delays. Live Nation is managing the venue.

Tickets will go on sale via Ticketmaster on Friday, May 7, at 10 a.m.


Known to sell out concerts nationwide, from Red Rocks to Jazz Fest, and headline festivals from Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza, WSP has more than 20 shows booked through the end of the year. Guitarist/singer John Bell, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Duane Trucks, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz, keyboardist John “JoJo” Hermann, and guitarist Jimmy Herring will travel from Texas to California to New York to Georgia, making up for canceled concerts because of Covid-19 and adding new ones to the lineup.

Widespread Panic’s first jaunt in the Port City came in August 1991 at The Mad Monk, where the band continued to visit multiple times, as well as to Trask Coliseum, throughout the decade. More than 15 years went by before WSP returned in 2014 as part of the North Carolina Azalea Festival.

Iconic on the jam-band circuit, WSP culls fans far and wide much like their predecessors, Grateful Dead. Also like the Dead, WSP never play the same set twice, and blend sounds and genres that cross hard rock with Southern roots, funk and blues.

Founding members Bell and Schools, as well as Michael Houser — who passed away from pancreatic cancer in the early aughts — started the band in the late ’80s while attending the University of Georgia. WSP grew by adding Hermann and Ortiz to its lineup, as well as Todd Nance on drums. Nance went on hiatus from the band in 2014, and reunited in 2016 before leaving the lineup permanently shortly after. The founding drummer passed away in August 2020 from complications of a chronic illness.

The band often touts its fans “family” for their devoted loyalty and following. Thus, as shows were announced over the last few months, the band released a statement on its website prompting concertgoers to stay vigilant, mindful and safe by following all Covid-19 protocols as mandated by each venue and state on the tour, which could change according to shifts in the virus.

“The Widespread Panic audience has always been admired for its caring attention toward one another. Let’s continue that tradition of looking out for ‘Family,'” the band noted on its website. “Now more than ever, we are in an ‘All for One, One for All’ situation, and we thank you for playing a vital role in making these events successful at every level.”

WSP has put out 12 studio albums, 11 live albums and one compilation album. In October 2020, it released a two-song EP, “Sundown Betty,” featuring the title track and “I Swear it Wasn’t Me.” In May 2020, WSP released “Sunday Show” — a 25-song set, recorded March 24, 2019 at the Capitol Theater in New York.


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