Preparing for Panic |

Preparing for Panic

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Waiting more than 25 hours outside in the chilly Colorado autumn to pay $350 for tickets to a concert that’s more than three months away didn’t bother Ben Gregory and Marisa Pasquini in the slightest (at least not at 1:30 p.m., with the sun still warming the air – the hard part was still to come).

“We’ll stand the cold if the boys bring the heat,” Gregory said. “To deal with this – of course it’s worth it.”

The “boys” are the six members who make up the Southern rock band Widespread Panic, and Gregory and Pasquini were the first ones to line up Thursday morning outside Belly Up to buy tickets to the group’s upcoming Aspen shows. Last week, it was announced that Panic would end its Wood Tour with three shows at Belly Up, Feb. 17-19. Gregory, from Basalt, and Pasquini, from Aspen, had arrived at 8:30 a.m., and by early afternoon, the line for tickets – which go on sale at 10 a.m. today – was maybe a dozen people long, with buyers coming from Denver and Summit County. According to a Belly Up employee, the ticket-selling process was essentially the same as for any of the club’s shows, though there is a limit of four tickets per show for each buyer, and the technology for online sales would be beefed up to handle the expected demand.

The shows are momentous for several reasons: The performances are billed as all-acoustic, a rarity for Widespread Panic (though some of the assembled fans wondered just how tightly they would stick to the acoustic line). The band has announced that it will take a hiatus, lasting the rest of 2012, after the Aspen run. Perhaps most significant, Belly Up, with a capacity of 450, is a far more intimate venue than Widespread Panic and their fans are accustomed to; the band – which formed in the mid-’80s at the University of Georgia – customarily sells out its three-night stands at Red Rocks each June.

Belly Up was already making the fans feel welcome. The club had served them coffee and promised to supply heaters later in the day. There was talk about providing music while they waited (Panic’s much-loved series of New Orleans shows from October of 2000 probably would have gone over well with the crowd), but it was uncertain whether Belly Up would be able to deliver.

Some fellow Widespread fans, though, haven’t been as nice: Gregory and Pasquini noted that they have been the target of fans who believe the Belly Up shows, with ticket prices of $350 for general admission and $500 for reserved seats, will exclude many fans, and run against the band’s ethos of putting the followers first.

“We have people being really mean to us on Facebook, telling us we’re hippie trust-funders,” Pasquini said. (“Hippies, yes; trust funds, no,” Gregory interjected.) “But I think it’s worth every penny to pay, to see then in such a small venue. And Panic fan has paid this much, if not more, to see a show for just one night. People pay $350 to see the Eagles, the Stones, in large venues, which aren’t so great.”

Among those in line was a pair of local 13-year-olds who weren’t interested in Widespread Panic but were there for a paycheck. They were being paid to hold a place in line for a local pizza magnate who is known as an avid Panic fan.

Asked whether Widespread Panic was the only band that could prompt him to sit outside for a full day, Gregory said, “None that are alive or still playing.”

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