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Widespread Panic has an entourage

Melinda Hunter
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Living out of his van, Ken Werbinski of Virginia Beach, Va., left his business for two months to follow Widespread Panic on its summer tour.
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On its sold-out, seventh stop on the Summer 2005 tour, popular jam-band Widespread Panic came to South Lake Tahoe at Caesars Tahoe to find fans who are more than thrilled they are back on the road.

The show also provides an example of how Tahoe venues are targeting younger customers.

“I think it is the greatest rock ‘n’ roll tour in rock ‘n’ roll history,” said Ryan Treadway, a Widespread Panic fan since 1997 who traveled from Ocean Springs, Miss., to catch the show.

Treadway and a few friends have been to all six shows on the tour so far, even quitting their jobs to stay on the road. Their group sells T-shirts and a peanut butter and Rice Krispies concoction called ‘goo-balls’ while they are traveling to help the bills.

“Their music has kept me alive on more than one occasion and gives me something to look forward to, something to get me through,” Treadway said.

In fact most fans agree that the main reason they follow the band is because of the way the music makes them feel – its originality, spirit, and variety as well as the uniqueness of the other fans.

“People are devoted here. You get to see the country and meet people like yourself and we bond because we are a traveling community,” said Crystal Coffie, a fan since 1999 and resident of Ashville, N.C.

The flavor of the fans is no doubt one of uniqueness and devotion – groups of fans can be found living out of their Volkswagen vans.

Ken Werbinski, who has been living out of his van since the early part of June, decided that this tour was worth taking two months off from work and sleeping in a 2-by-5-foot space. He sells self-designed T-shirts and stickers to help pay his way.

“It’s business and pleasure at the same time,” Werbinski said.

Hard-core fans such as Werbinski will pack up after the concert, making sure to stop at the appropriate health food stores along the way to pick up groceries and supplies, and head off to Berkeley, the next stop on Widespread Panic’s first tour since their brief hiatus last year.

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