Widespread Panic: We love to jam
Widespread Panic has almost three decades' worth of Georgia jamming experience, so they're a natural fit for what Sam Shear has in mind for the inaugural Phases of the Moon Festival — Sept. 11-14 at Kennekuk County Park.
The band members have taken a lot of breaks, too — usually to collaborate with other musicians on projects they found interesting.
Founding member Dave Schools plays "lead bass" in the band, with the lowest of the six strings on his bass rattling the chests of the crowd members in front of the band.
He says the Modulus Quantum 6 bass is what he tends to use with Widespread Panic, but he's willing to experiment with practically any ax on any project.
Like Al Kooper playing organ for the first time on "Like A Rolling Stone," playing a new instrument takes him out of his routine, he says.
Schools likes to garden at his California home. However, it seems pretty easy to lure him away.
He has worked with Stockholm Syndrome, the Mickey Hart Band (another Grateful Dead connection for the festival), Brute, J Mascis' side project the Fog, and Gov't Mule, another performer at Phases of the Moon.
"It's really easy to get pulled into that Grateful Dead thing because they did some great jamming, and we love to do that," he says of Widespread Panic, whose cover versions often surpass the originals in length and overall quality.
Schools loves Americana, and he loves producing.
Recently, he's been a member of supergroup Hard Working Americans, which also includes Neal Casal from the Chris Robinson Band.
"The first album was Americana and the next one's going to be a little psychedelic," he says.
He says he likes moving around in different roles. Studios can be "stultifying" but offer innovation, while jamming produces a connection with his band and his audience.
He's true-blue to Widespread Panic.
"The rhythm section gets to be like a big locomotive," he says.
Spending 170 days a year on the road is not a hardship for Schools, or a relationship-killer.
"I am engaged; touring is not really her bag. She stays home and looks after the dog and the garden and things like that," he says.