There are few experiences in life that act as true rites of passage: Learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car, or that first kiss with that special post-pubescent someone. Then there's virginity, both the kind that gets lost in between the sheets and the kind that takes place between one newcomer, several thousand fans and one or two bands. In this reporter's case, the deflowering took place Saturday at the Woodlands Pavilion with Widespread Panic and the Allman Brothers. Could there be a better first-time experience with these musical lovers than the gentle yet ballsy bass work of Dave Schools? Don't bother responding, the answer is simply "no." Opening up their first Houston show in almost a year with "Let's Get Down To Business," a blend of Southern rock with just the necessary amount of progressive edge, this is indeed what Widespread Panic intended to do. Along with "Party At Your Mama's House" and "Tall Boy, " it was easy to hear the fusing of jazz and blues in their musical vernacular, with a consistently powerful usage of melody and tone. The surrounding crowd responded as expected, raising half-empty beer cups and lighting up for the night's first toke of many. Apparently, something about jam-band music simply makes some women go nuts. And when the chords of the Grateful Dead's "Ribs and Whiskey" where struck, the sexy moves of one drunken, cowboy-boot-clad woman seemed to express the sentiment of the entire crowd. The guitar capabilities of Panic's John Bell began to seem endless at this point. One of jam's best elements is that no show will be played like the previous one, or any other; what the audience is hearing is straight improv making them the first, and only to hear what that musicians are doing on that night. This grew even clearer when the Allmans' Warren Haynes joined Panic for Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" and Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money." After Panic closed with "Henry Parsons Died," it seemed Saturday could not be topped off any more. First-time exposure to a band at the height of its two-decades-strong powers, and overhearing a disgusted security officer retell the story of busting a man pissing on his girlfriend? How could it get any better? But what would this review be if it ended there? No, just when our mind and knees thought they could take the stereotypical cigarette break, the Allman Brothers Band took the stage. Though their line up has seen so many changes over the years - only Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson remain - their sound remains the same. Fitting opener "Revival" set the mood for the Allmans' two-hour set. Lead guitarist Derek Trucks played dynamically throughout this song and the entire show, showing what music can do when exposed to a child at an early age. Not to say that every child will grow up to play guitar like Butch's nephew, but the dream can still be there. The best moments, however, came in the calmer times. On "You Don't Love Me" and "Black Hearted Woman," the guitars would go to this rhythmic place located right next to the heart of the blues that made hips begin to sway all by themselves. Feet would start tapping to the accompanying drums, and just before the senses could get use to this, Trucks would take a solo and bring the rhythm back to good, clean rock music. During the Allman Brothers' set, members of Widespread didn't hesitate to take the stage. Both John Bell and Sunny Ortiz came onstage for covers of Dr.John's "Walk On Gilded Splinters" and more Dead, this time "Franklin's Tower," which paved the way for Schools to come out and add a nice touch to "Dreams." The night ended in a manner tantamount to the musical equivalent of cuddling, with all members of both bands onstage for an encore of "Southbound." At this point, it was easy to tell neither group's music would amount to anything without the members' musicianship and inventiveness that holds it together. Jam music transcends all genres - listeners' ears can hear rock one moment, gospel the next and have it all end up with a drum beat now commonly heard in hip-hop. Improvising in all these styles, and doing it night after night after night, deserves more accolade than this one article can give. In the end, the only thing that comes to mind is "Was it a good night for you too, baby?" For our part, Aftermath will never forget our first time with either one.
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