“Nothing much mattered except music and if I had enough gas to take off on a Friday and go see Panic two or three times.”
Exclusive interview by Ted Rockwell ~ July 19, 2018
Originally published on RockwellBoulder
Part 1 is also available
Mike Houser, September 28, 1995 – Photo by Bob Bayne
Sam Holt, best known in the Panic community as Michael Houser’s guitar tech, was recently tapped to choose the next multi-track archive release from Widespread Panic, “Knoxville 1995.”
Recently, he sat down with Everyday Companion‘s Ted Rockwell for a conversation about the forthcoming Widespread Panic vault release, where he was in fall of 1995 and to briefly marvel at the possibilities of potential future archive releases.
Question, Ted Rockwell: So I hear that you have recommended a show for the next Widespread Panic vault release?
Pretty intimate venue, I think it seats 1,400 people and it is just gorgeous. It’s not like an outdoor amphitheater. It’s covered and it has seats. There’s not a bad seat in the place and you’re right on top of the band.
The Tennesee World’s Fair Amphitheater
Q: That’s amazing. So you attended the show?
I attended the show. It was the Fall of ’95
, which I think was a very great time for the band. A bunch of new songs were starting to come around that were gonna end up on ‘Bombs and Butterflies.’ They’d been on the road for almost 10 years at that point. The whole fall tour was exceedingly hot.
Just going out there, just doing what they do, they were so good at it. They were doing the little things… just insert a little energy or some kind of something into the show and it would just bubble up.
I remember it was a football weekend in Knoxville. It was a Thursday night for a Saturday home game. Just the feeling in the air of a college town in the south on a football weekend. It’s already got an electric feeling. I’m sure they could feel it and used it to built that energy up. It is one of my favorite shows.
The PA was having issues that night. I don’t know exactly what the issues were. If it was hardware or some blown speakers or what, I’m not really sure. It was loud but there was some distortion and it sounded like some speakers were crapping out or something. All the recordings I’ve ever heard reflected that. So I was pretty excited to hear that they had a multitrack recording of that night that was usable. John Keane mixed it from that source.
Q: So did you end up trying to record that show or were you just in attendance?
A: I recorded it but it just didn’t sound very good. I wouldn’t even know where to look for the DAT tape that I made.
Q: Right. So you were still several years away from working for the band. What were you doing at this time? What was your status?
A: I was living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Working. Trying to play a little bit of music. I wasn’t really in a serious band. Just kind of playing around. Like a year after that I ended up going back to school at Middle Tennessee State University. But at that time I was living in Chattanooga.
The fall of ’95 was a very good time. I could drive almost every weekend and go see them. I could just drive maybe four to six hours and go see a couple shows. I don’t really know how many I did that fall. About 10 or 12 shows. That tour ended at Halloween in Athens.
Q: I was also at that run on the 30th and 31st of 1995. It was at the brand-new Classic Center.
A: That was awesome!
Q: Yes! Bloodkin! It was quite an experience. I know you’ve written some things about this Knoxville show. Are those going to be included in the liner notes?
A: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if it will be used for promotional material or if it will actually appear in the CD booklet.
Q: So what highlights from the show would you tell people they should listen for?
A: I would say the whole show. I am serious. I remember they walked out there and JB says… you can sense it in his voice, “Hello Knoxville!” And I thought “Whoa! Here we go!” And then they drop right into ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ and I was like “Holy crap! Right off of the bat? Cool!”
So, a Dear Mr. Fantasy opener which had all the vigor and spirit of a set closer. Right out of the gate. The end jam, Todd is just pushing it and Mike is right there with him. They get to the end of that song and it just drops right into Make Sense. They just make a quick turn and its right there. Todd is so on it.
John Bell and Dave Schools, September 28, 1995 – photo by Bob Bayne
And some other highlights in the first set are a really good ‘Just Kissed My Baby’ with some stuff going on at the end. Vocally, JoJo is getting in there. He and Dave do some call and response. I can’t remember exactly but some really cool vocals that I had never heard them do. And the Night People rap JB goes into that, which is really cool.
There’s a Heroes > Impossible that’s great; sick, heavy. ‘Paranoia-laced’ is the phrase I would use to describe Impossible. There’s a killer Wrangler. I think it’s Wrangler > Walkin’ to end the first set. And that Wrangler is huge.
And then in the second set, the Diner is ridiculous. It’s really hot. It’s starting to… you know how the Diners begin to evolve. Every section started to have its own signature parts. There was a melody that Mike and JoJo were playing or dropping into to give space to JB to express what’s going on in his head. I could keep going on and on and I guess I will since we’re talking about it.
Q: This show features the second ever You Got Yours.
A: That’s right. And Tallboy was also new. My buddy, Bob Bayne, was taking photos that night. It was the first time that he had photographed the band. He’s a professional photographer and some of those photos are being used for the packaging and promotion of the release. Just after the show happened, there was an interview with Dave and JoJo… I’m not sure if Bob was involved with the interview but I think he was. And in this interview for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s newspaper, the Beacon, they asked JoJo what he called the new song, and they were asking about Tallboy. But the band didn’t have a name for it yet. That’s how new a song it was.
In the second set, to get back to the You Got Yours, that was just the second time they played it. It was really interesting, very new. An exciting new tune we hadn’t heard much.
The jam at the end of Holden is exploratory and huge. Dave even starts hinting back at the Diner changes. It’s a theme that ran through it a little bit. It may have been a different key but the chord progression was very similar. It’s really neat. They kind of get together around that theme and I almost thought they might try to go back into Diner at one point but that didn’t happen.
Then they played Stoned Me into a blistering Conrad to close the second set. Finishing everything with a high octane Knocking Around the Zoo encore. You can really feel the energy and how much fun they are having.
Q: You said that there haven’t been very many good recordings of this show. I know that other people have mentioned this particular show to me over the years. It feels like there are certainly shows out there that don’t have good recordings that people will look for… like unicorns. So are there any other shows that you wish you had a good recording of?
A: I’m sure there are… I’m trying to think. Early on like ’90 and 92 there’s some of those but I know they don’t exist just because no one literally has the recordings of it. I think it would be cool if they could put out some of the stuff from Australia or New Zealand.
Q: All right. It sounds like this is a culmination of…. gosh, what is it? 23 years, waiting for a good recording! These days shows happen and within a matter of minutes, people can hear what’s happening in crystal clear digital sound. What does it feel like to finally be able to listen to this again and be able to share it with others?
A: I’m pretty grateful. It is really a blessing. Thank goodness they had the foresight to start multitrack recording their shows. I think in the fall of ’94 is when they started doing that. It feels great. I listened to the show and it took me back to that time in my life. It was such a great time, a simple time. Nothing much mattered except music and if I had enough gas to take off on a Friday and go see Panic two or three times.
Q: Well, Sam, I really appreciate you taking the time here to talk to me today and I hope everyone enjoys September 28, 1995, Knoxville.
A: Yeah, me too. Give it a listen. I’m telling you, the anticipatory energy or whatever… you can feel it. It is crackling through these recordings. I can’t say enough about it.
It is lucky that it resurfaced.
A commemorative poster has been commissioned and can be purchased through the band’s website