Billy Strings Joins Widespread Panic At Mempho Music Festival

Widespread Panic delivered the first of two performances at the Mempho Music Festival on Friday. WSP would welcome guitarist and Mempho performer Billy Strings during their festival set.

Panic kicked things off with a seamless section of classics in “Tall Boy” > “Disco” > “Henry Parsons Died.” “Junior” — a WSP interpretation of North Mississippi hill country blues great Junior Kimbrough — would follow ahead of the Vic Chesnutt-penned “Aunt Avis” and Panic’s “Rebirtha.”

WSP then dropped into the swing of John Dawson’s New Riders Of The Purple Sage tune, “Dirty Business.” Billy emerged as keyboardist JoJo Hermann delivered some honky-tonk piano. Strings reeled off a few licks before frontman John Bell led the band through the first couple verses and choruses. Billy then took the first solo, starting out slow but then kicked out some quick licks ahead of twangier stuff and finally ramping things up before JB took over again ahead of an organ solo from JoJo. Guitarist Jimmy Herring then worked the bends well with Billy adding some complimentary touches.

JB sang the final lyrics before Panic jumped into a more upbeat jam driven by the rhythm section of Duane Trucks and Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz with a rolling bassline from Dave Schools. Billy really got cooking on the jam before WSP headed into “All Time Low,” a Panic song Strings has covered regularly since 2019. Billy joined JB on the vocals before the guitarist absolutely destroyed a solo on the jam that didn’t sound unlike the guy standing to his right in terms of speed and technique. The groove then descended into some spacey stuff ahead of “Airplane,” which Billy also stuck around for along with Funkadelic’s “Red Hot Mama.”

Panic then went it alone on a massive seamless section bookend by “Driving Song” and containing “Surprise Valley,” which in turn bookend “Drums” and Bobby Rush’s “Bowlegged Woman.” “You Got Yours,” which contained a “Cars” tease as per Panic Stream, counted as the penultimate song of the set ahead of “Pigeons” to close things out.

Watch audience shot video of “Dirty Business” and “All Time Low” below:

Setlist (via Panic Stream)

Set: Tall Boy > Disco > Henry Parsons Died, Junior, Aunt Avis, Rebirtha, Dirty Business* > Jam* > All Time Low*, Airplane* > Red Hot Mama*, Driving Song > Surprise Valley > Drums > Bowlegged Woman > Surprise Valley > Driving Song, You Got Yours, Pigeons

Notes:

* w/ Billy Strings on electric guitar

– ‘Cars’ tease during ‘You Got Your