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Widespread Panic Brings Distinct Sound, Style To Las Vegas

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Widspread Panic
Kirvin Doak Communications

Widespread Panic will be on the stage at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

You could say Widespread Panic is a unique band.

Its fans trade bootlegs of concerts with each other -- with the band's blessing.

Widespread Panic livestreams its concerts online for those unable to attend, and you can purchase recordings of the shows after they've concluded.

While other bands might recoil at the idea of giving something away for free, Widespread Panic has been doing it this way for nearly 30 years. According to percussionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz, it's part of what brought them success.

"It was a big facet for us to let the fans tape the songs, back then in [the 1980s], but you know, in practicality, that was our form of distribution," he told KNPR's State of Nevada. "It was through our fans that made us get out of Georgia and the five surrounding states to get out toward the west."

Widespread Panic was founded in 1986 in Athens, Ga., the home of other bands like R.E.M., the B-52s and Neutral Milk Hotel. Ortiz said because Athens is a college town -- it's the home of the University of Georgia -- students would take Widespread Panic's music back home with them throughout the country, helping the band make a name for itself.

"They took tapes, and they let some of these club owners listen to some of their bootleg tapes, and you know, it was just a whole word of mouth that got us going," he said.

Support comes from

The band is no stranger to Las Vegas, having performed here last summer. But what might not be expected is that Strip comedian Carrot Top is a close friend of Widespread Panic's, dating back to when both were just starting out.

"We were performing in Columbia, S.C., at this venue called Green Streets," Ortiz said. "It was a bar, and on the other side of the wall was a comedy shop. That's how we all met. We would do this venue, Friday, Saturday nights, and he would be doing his stand-up show at the same time. So, he would check us out during his break and we would check him out during our break. That was probably, like, back in '87, '88. So we've known other dearly for almost 30 years, and he's one in a million."

Ortiz also said the band is wrapping work on a new album, which is currently in post-production. While he didn't know exactly when the record would be released, he laughingly expressed hope it would come out before Thanksgiving.

Guests

Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz, percussionist, Widespread Panic

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