If you live for live music, the silence of 2020 may have seemed deafening. As the world pressed pause on festivals and concerts planned for the year, eager jam band fans waited with bated breath.
For many music lovers, it’s as much about the lifestyle as it is the music.
No Need to Panic (Pun Intended)… Live Music Is Back!
2021 called and it wants its music back!
As soon as tour dates were cancelled abruptly last year, jam band Widespread Panic made sure the music went on.
Lucky for Panic fans, when the stage went silent in March 2020, the band made the quick pivot to provide the full “couch tour” experience to the delight of jam band fans everywhere by offering free webcasts from their vast archives of concert footage.
The band, often compared to Phish and the Grateful Dead for its improvisational style, has made the dream of live music a reality again this summer. And it couldn’t have come soon enough for the community of devoted fans who can’t get enough of the band’s groovy jams.
Back in 1986, the rock band helped put Athens, GA on the musical map when band members John Bell and Michael Houser connected as University of Georgia students. They first played gigs around campus and in fraternity houses. Nearly four decades later, Widespread Panic is still living the dream with a fanbase that can’t get enough of the camaraderie and unity they bring to every show.
A band well known for never playing the same show twice, Panic delights fans with its positive energy. They started hitting the road late last month for several magical summer shows with plans continuing into the fall months. It comes as no surprise that just about every show is sold out.
Bonding Over the Band
Passionate Panic Fans gather online to chat about their favorite band, making personal connections between diehard veterans of the scene and newbies to the Panic lifestyle a reality.
One such fandom is the WSP Bust it Big Babes, a private Facebook group of nearly 2,000 women from every corner of the United States who have created an online sisterhood to celebrate the music they love.
A member of that group who has taken on the role of building community through generosity is Robin Lilly, a Panic superfan and Elfster extraordinaire. True to her Panic fan status, Robin owns the aptly named Little Lilly’s Island Deli in her hometown of Bokeelia, FL. The name not only refers to her last name, but a popular Panic song “Little Lilly.”
How to Become a Panic Superfan
“I first became a fan of Widespread Panic in the early 90’s when I worked at a bar called The Moontime Bar and Grill. When I asked the owner where he got the name, he said that rather than tell me, he’d show me. He took me to my first Panic show at Red Rocks. I learned then that moontime is a reference to lyrics (“Working in the moon-time bar and grill”) in a popular WSP song! [here’s a clip of the live version] I fell in love instantly and from that day forward, the music and the band has played a leading role in my life.”
“I’ve met a lot of my best friends at shows and through our mutual love of the band,” she adds. “I actually met my husband at a show in Chicago! He was living in Denver, I was living in Florida. We were sitting just a few seats apart, we made eye contact and he bought me a drink! Less than a year later, he moved to my home on Pine Island. Four years later we were married!”
If you love live music and want to connect with other Widespread Panic fans on social media, join their Facebook Community to check out their current projects.
A Community of Jam Band Fans Promoting Positivity
Keeping peace and kindness in mind, the Bust it Big Babes group is a place where “positivity and transparency are required!!”
“This particular Facebook group is composed only of women, all who share a love of the band,” Robin explains. “It was started so that the women have a safe place to meet other like-minded women. A place to ask questions and get advice on anything from clothes and make-up to parenting and dating to health issues, both physical and mental.”
“Occasionally someone will try and arrange a photo op for members of the page who happen to be at a particular show. Girls have also shared transportation and hotel rooms with friends they met on this site. It’s a great place to exchange tickets to the shows,” she says.
How did the long days of social distancing affect the group?
“The impact of the pandemic on our music community was interesting,” says Robin. “For all of us, it was hard to be away from the peace and tranquility that you get when you see your favorite band perform live with 9,000 of your friends. But since no one was going, since there were no shows to go to, you didn’t have the FOMO — that fear of missing out. If anything, it brought us all closer together even though we were all miles apart.”
“We were all jonesing for the same thing, for something that at the moment, was unattainable. So we turned to each other on social media. We shared stories, photos, videos, memories and were there for each other when the isolation of quarantine was wearing us down. And we lifted each other’s spirits and reminded each other of the amazing shows we had seen in the past and talked about the amazing shows we were sure to see in the future,” she says.
And lucky for her, Robin was able to catch Panic’s last shows before the pandemic (Beacon Theater, NY, Feb 2020) and their first shows back (Red Rocks, Colorado, June 2021).
“The beauty of a Panic show is that it is about so much more than the music. It’s about even more than being part of a community. It’s about family. Arriving at the venue and seeing all the colorful smiling people was like finding your family after a year and half apart. We were together again after so much time had passed. By the time the boys came on stage for that first song, we were all already smiling and dancing and hugging and cheering and even crying. We were already home,” she gushes.
Building Community Through Generosity
Generosity is the natural extension of the bonds built within the group and Robin has turned to Elfster to help make those connections easier. The Bust it Big Babes have taken that love one step further by hosting several Secret Santa music-themed gift exchanges throughout the year to connect on a more personal level.
“Getting a gift for someone you never met but that you have a kinship with really makes you smile. It’s almost more fun to be the giver. It’s like buying a gift for yourself, that’s how in tune this group of women are with each other. You want to please. You want to make someone’s day better. People will post their gifts after they receive them and everyone will ohhh and ahh over them. And then sometimes we make plans to meet up with our Elf sisters at the next show!” she says.
“The theme for our current Elfster — ‘Holiday Panic in July’ — is one where we try to buy gifts from the many artists and merchants who are in our group,” she explains. “I put together a list of the ladies in our group who have their own Etsy shop or their own website, Instagram, etc. On this list there’s a lot of homemade items, like jewelry, but also t-shirts and hats and stickers, many of which center around Widespread Panic. It’s a great way for the ladies to not only earn a little money, but also advertise their business.”
Being Part of Something Full of Meaning and Love
“The idea behind Elfster is great,” Robin relates. “It’s such an easy to use platform and it creates something that any group can enjoy, whether they are family or coworkers or strangers staggered across the world. But it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be materialistic. That it’s not just about getting a gift. It’s about letting someone know that you’re thinking of them. That they are not alone. They are part of something, something full of meaning and love. That they are loved. And appreciated.”
“Our group does two 2 Elfsters a year — one over Christmas and one in the summer. We started doing themed exchanges for Elfster in 2020. We realized that there were a few ladies who were unable to participate because of financial hardship due to the pandemic, so we had an Adopt A Sister theme. I had girls nominate other girls (or even themselves) who were having a hard time,” Robin recalls.
“I then asked if any of the ladies already signed up for Elfster might be able to send two gifts — one to their assigned sister and one to a sister who couldn’t afford to participate. We ended up having more volunteers than we needed! It was a surprise to many of the girls when they received a gift. It was touching to see all the love spread amongst us, to be willing to go the extra step to brighten the day of someone you might actually have never met in person.”
Looking for a great way to spread a little generosity in your own community? Organize a free, online Secret Santa-style gift exchange with Elfster. It just takes minutes! Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook, Tweet us @Elfster, or catch us on Instagram @Elfster.