When I emerged from the rabbit hole of the A train on Friday night, I found myself in an unwonted Wonderland. On the sidewalks of Washington Heights, the locals were all but invisible. They had been seemingly bodysnatched and replaced by swarms of good-humored white kids, none of whom I had met before, but all looking eerily familiar. Spreadnecks, I call them, lovingly—the confederacy of devotees of the Georgian rock band, Widespread Panic.
Although I had attended more than a few Widespread Panic concerts during my extended twenties (it took me at least five extra years to get through them), it had been nearly five years since my “retirement” show in Colorado. Despite the time and distance that had accumulated, as I stood on the corner of 175th and Broadway—which is uncharted territory to me—I felt surprisingly at home. I’m not sure if it was the stealthy commerce of homemade t-shirts and handshake drugs, or the whiskey-and-nitrous-fueled atmosphere of high-fives and bear hugs, but I couldn’t help but think, “These are my people.”
I crossed the street and made my way past shockingly non-frisking security guards into the historic United Palace Theatre. There the throng of Spreadnecks choked the lobby, gawking skyward at the baroque décor, where the ceiling and balustrades dripped with golden molding reminiscent of the Fabulous Fox, the ornamental Atlanta theater that formerly hosted Widespread Panic’s infamous annual New Year’s Eve parties.
When I found my seat, I again felt as if I were at a family reunion...
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