Widespread Panic is expecting a busy year of touring for the band. One reason is there is a current album, “Street Dogs,” to promote, but another factor is that the group is making its 2016 tour its last.
The Athens-based band still plans to play some festivals and perhaps string together a few shows at select venues beyond this year. But the plan at this point is to no longer book full-on tours.
Catch them Friday with Umphrey’s McGee at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta.
Bassist Dave Schools said there are simple reasons why Widespread Panic is ready to scale back on touring.
“We’ve been pretty much steadily touring for 30 years. That seems like a pretty long time,” he said in a recent phone interview. “We’ve been foresighted enough to take time off when we were able to and it was recuperative. But people who have kids, those kids are becoming adults. We’re becoming adults. You start a rock band and wind up becoming adults. But we all have plenty of life that we want to lead outside of the road, and that’s really the main impetus for the decision.
“It’s more like the three, four, five weeks on the road part that really gets to be a grind,” he said.
The decision to cut down on touring is no reflection on how the band members feel about one another or the quality of their shows.
“I think the band is sounding great,” Schools said. “There’s a lot of renewed energy and vigor on stage these days and some genuine excitement. We just want to preserve that in every way, and one of the best ways is not to grind it down.”
One thing that is bringing new life to the shows is the addition of some new songs, thanks to the arrival last September of Widespread Panic’s latest album, “Street Dogs.”
Of course, fans will hear much more than new songs at Widespread Panic’s concerts this year. This band, after all, changes up its set list from show to show and is known to play lengthy shows.
“We’ll bring back some old tunes we haven’t played in a long time, but that’s kind of par for the course,” singer/guitarist John Bell said in a separate interview. “We’ve got, I don’t know, maybe 300 tunes that we work with. So you’ve got to kind of put them in the blender and keep a good rotation so some float to the top and some stick to the sides.”
Widespread Panic went six years between the previous album, “Dirty Side Down,” and “Street Dogs” — the result of a busy touring schedule, a few outside projects and making time to be at home with families.
But by 2014, the group was starting to think about a return to the studio, and the band members — Bell, Schools, guitarist Jimmy Herring, keyboardist John Hermann, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz and drummer Duane Trucks (who has replaced longtime member Todd Nance) — convened for a pre-production session to demo out song ideas. The group, though, waited another year before heading into Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, N.C., to record “Street Dogs.”
Schools said while Widespread Panic won’t be as big a presence on the road, he expects the group to continue making albums.
“None of us want to become a nostalgia act, and everybody’s always writing music,” he said. “For us, albums are kind of like snowballs. They start with a flake of snow and then a blanket and then someone makes a little marble out of snow and then we start rolling it and it gets bigger and bigger. Sooner or later, we realize it’s time to make a record.”
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