The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival has named its third headliner in less than a week for its May 2 show, announcing that Georgia jam band Widespread Panic would be filing in the slot vacated by The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac.
Last week, a Lindsey Buckingham-less Fleetwood Mac had been announced as the replacement for the Stones, who had to postpone their North American No Filter tour so that lead singer Mick Jagger could undergo a heart valve replacement. Then, just five days later, on Monday (April 8) Fleetwood Mac announced it also had to cancel its gig at Jazz Fest after lead singer Stevie Nicks came down with the flu.
“While she is feeling better already, management has consulted with her doctors and have decided to reschedule” four shows and drop off Jazz Fest to “allow for her full recovery,” a statement from the band’s publicist explained.
Widespread Panic now has 24 days to get ready to headline the 50th anniversary of the eight-day festival, which last year drew 450,000 fans, averaging 60,000 a day. Besides replacing the Stones and Fleetwood Mac, the festival is also replacing the ticket prices it had set when the two blockbuster bands were on the bill. Single day tickets had been priced at $185 for the Stones headliner day on May 2 that featured more than 60 artists on 12 stages including Tom Jones, Ziggy Marley and Rita Coolidge.
The ticket price for May 2 has subsequently been lowered to $75, the same price set for single day tickets for the other seven days of Jazz Fest. While Widespread Panic won’t bring as big of a ticket gross as the Stones, they also won’t charge promoters as much to play the festival — the Stones can command $5 million to $7 million per show, while Widespread Panic is in the $300,000 to $500,000 range.
And while they might not sell as many high priced tickets as the Stones, fans of the Athen-based jam band are known for spending big at the bar. Widespread Panic’s three-day run March 22-24 at the Capitol Theatre blew out the record for beers sales at the Chester, New York, venue, with alcohol spending hitting the $37 per head mark, nearly double what most bands do.
“Widespread Panic sells more beer than any other band on the planet, by far,” says Peter Shapiro with Dayglo Ventures, who owns the Capitol and booked the show. “They’re a full notch ahead of big drinking bands like Slayer, Blues Traveler and Government Mule,” he added, noting Widespread broke the previous record by 20 percent.
Now, with the price change, Jazz Fest fans now have an extra $110 bucks to spend on beer, Jazz Fest T-shirts and cajun dishes like alligator pies and Cochon de Lait po-boys from New Orleans BBQ-master Wanda Walker, who is bringing her famous pork sandwiches to this year’s festival.