Widespread Panic Fans : An interview with the archivist of a fan based site and project
A Widespread Panic super fan, Heather Nigro, creates a large scale fan based project, plots her 100th show and gives advice to those embarking on the jam-band journey.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I consider myself “business by day, beatnik by night”. By day I am CEO and Founder of Moxxii, a strategic consulting firm with a niche focus on eCommerce and digital innovation. My friends joke that I am the “wise Yoda” of tech. Mind you, my nine to five has nothing on my five to midnight! I have a tremendous love of the arts and especially enjoy photography. As a teenager I received a camera as a gift and would take the train from my hometown in Connecticut to see shows at small venues in New York City like the Wetlands and Nightingales. I would sneak my camera into the venue and shoot film of bands like Blues Traveler, Gov’t Mule and others before they got big. The bands eventually took notice and started giving me photo passes. My work has been published in Relix Magazine as well as used for album art covers for various bands.
When was your first Widespread show?
I started seeing Widespread back on July 8, 1998 in Boston during their summer tour at a venue called Harbor Lights. It was my first show seeing the boys. I've always been a longtime lover of the jam-band scene, seeing Panic for half my life (18 years) as well as other bands such as The Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers.
Jam-band fans, like Widespread Panic fans, often go to many, many shows in a lifetime. It must be hard to pick a favorite show. Do you have a favorite Widespread show ever?
Crazy enough, I actually met a woman when I was in Athens, Georgia for their 30th their anniversary shows who had seen them 386 times. There are people that have seen 400, 500 shows or just stop counting because they've been to so many.
Some people have their top five or ten Panic shows, but I actually do have a favorite…it’s July 9, 1999 Whitefish, Montana. They played Big Mountain Ski Resort at the base of the slope. The show was just incredible; there was a magical feeling in the air where everything clicked. There was a certain vibe within the crowd that just can't be denied during special shows, and this was definitely one of them.
The band played an incredible setlist where each song flowed as if they were composing their own masterpiece. The interaction between the band members on stage was one of true kinship – with Mike Houser at the helm sprinkling his tender, yet raw guitar genius throughout. 1999 and 2000 were heavy years for me seeing Panic. I love watching the documentary “The Earth Will Swallow You” because it’s like a home movie to me since I saw all of the shows featured in the film.
How many shows have you been to total?
93. The yearly average for me is probably about five to seven shows. But, there have been years where I've seen twenty or more. This year, I've committed to seeing my 100th Panic show, so I've been lining up dates for Spring Tour that include the BJCC and Chicago run. I lived in Colorado for a stint back in the late 90’s, so I'm determined to return for a visit and have my 100th show be Sunday at Red Rocks. It’s kind of like a homecoming because I haven’t been back to Red Rocks since Houser passed away in 2002. I look forward to celebrating with thousands of other kindred spirits.
So do you ever take a vacation and not see a show?
Totally. Prior to this year, I had not seen Panic in three years. There have been streams where I've taken a few years off when the band was transitioning after Mike died, or due to of work demands and logistics. This year I've geared up again and it feels good to see new and familiar faces in the scene. The music is like an old friend, you pick up where you left off and never forget the joy you shared together. Basking in the light…
So what inspired you to make the site: widespreadpanicfans.com?
A few years ago, I had an idea of creating a fan based book about the community of Widespread Panic called “Postcards: By the fans. For the fans.” It was essentially focused on the stories of fans, the community and creativity of those who love Widespread Panic.
In gathering submissions over the years, I came to terms with the fact that a printed book would not work for many reasons, but the content was still relevant. I realized that the community and project was a living, breathing thing that could not be confined by a front and back cover. The best way to honor and carry the torch for all generations of Panic fans is to focus on a digital archive with constant updates and accessibility for people all over the world to engage at any hour they choose. Digital has always been a passion of mine. At the end of April, I am launching widespreadpanicfans.com and looking forward to sharing the hundreds of submissions I’ve received over the years. It’s been quite a humbling experience…the site and project is much bigger than me. I am clearly just the messenger for it.
Jam bands in general have such a massive fan-base. What would you say to someone that was a little bit intimidated to start listening to jam-bands?
I would say it's a little bit like an onion in which you have to peel back the layers. If you feel overwhelmed, find a layer that suits you – it could be an element of drums, an amazing guitar solo or the lyrics. The best thing about jam-bands is the improvisational element that can be equated to a mad scientist or the artistry of the jazz greats. You’ll never know what you may hear, and there is something there for everyone to enjoy and takeaway from to find their groove!