Widespread Panic is a band that needs no introduction to local jam band fans. The Athens, Georgia, outfit has been entertaining “spreadheads” for 30 years, and will headline this year’s Ride Festival Friday and Saturday night.
Ride founder Todd Creel added a Friday night set for the first time in festival history, which gives the lineup a little more kick.
“I think it’s good for the town and also the traveler to have three nights of headliners that they can come enjoy, then that allows us to put Panic out there for two nights and have a different type of headliner the third night (Sunday’s headliner is Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit),” he said.
While there is no future plans to create a full Friday lineup, Creel explained Town Park is always set up and ready to go the night prior to the weekend festival, so adding an additional headlining show this year made sense.
“The thing I’ve learned is the amount of energy and resources that it takes to convert the park into a world class venue, you just can’t justify it with two days. We have everything set up by Friday anyway,” he said.
Plus, Widespread fans travel well, and Creel anticipates a healthy crowd each night, similar to the first time the band played Ride in 2015.
“Last time Panic came, I think we had around 8,000 people in the park and I would expect it will be similar this time,” Creel said. “I like that crowd size in the park. I think it’ll be comfortable and a good rocking show for everybody.”
This will be the band’s fourth time in Telluride since 1991, he added, and they’re excited to play on the recently renovated Town Park stage for the first time.
“I think they’ve built a musical family over the years just like the Dead or Phish or bands like that that have their following,” Creel said. “They’re all obviously gifted musicians individually and they have a massive following in Colorado. … They love Telluride.”
The band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to commemorate Widespread Panic’s 25th anniversary.
“We acknowledge this is a milestone few groups get to achieve,” lead singer John Bell said of the band’s longevity, according to the band’s official website. “It’s like Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea.’ Every time we go out there, we learn more tricks, bring that knowledge with us and then apply it. We’re way more experienced, focused and to the point, but still willing to stretch out without wandering too much.”
Band members were unavailable for an interview for this article, as they’re currently in the midst of lengthy national tour, including three nights a Red Rocks June 28-30 — a venue they’ve sold out 57 times before.
Though Widespread typically sells out venues across the country, Creel said there are still weekend and single-day tickets available, and a “handful” of VIP tickets. Citing the diverse Ride lineup this year, he added that there’s “something for everybody,” including late night shows at various venues around town.
“There are jam fans out there and there are rock ’n’ roll fans out there,” he said. “ … It is a rock ’n’ roll festival at heart.”
For the full lineup and to purchase tickets, visit ridefestival.com.