Widespread Panic’s Far-Flung Friends

Photo by Andy Tennille

Photo by Andy Tennille

When the venerable jam band Widespread Panic comes to The Joint at the Hard Rock (8 p.m. July 3-4, $55 and up), we’ll have one redheaded comic to thank. “It’s all because of Carrot Top; it’s his fault why we’re coming to Vegas again,” jokes percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz. “Carrot Top and Panic go hand in hand, being from the South, so to speak.”

They also go way back.

“Back in the lean glory days—late ’80s and early ’90s—Carrot Top and us would play in the same club in South Carolina. We’d almost always share dressing rooms. We noticed that somebody had been drinking our beer and eating our food, and we couldn’t figure out who was doing it. So we set a trap [with beer] and caught Carrot Top coming into our dressing room munching on our grub. That’s how we met. To this day, it’s always fun to go to Vegas, check him out and have him come to our shows.”

But Carrot Top isn’t Widespread Panic’s only connection to Vegas. “We’ve enjoyed coming to Vegas for 25 years,” Ortiz says. “Our first gig in Vegas was [in a venue] owned by Paul Anka [Shark Club]. We thought we were the cat’s meow playing in Vegas.”
This time around, Ortiz is especially looking forward to the July 3 show, where his band will share the stage with guest Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (Dirty Dozen Brass Band is the guest on July 4). According to Ortiz, performing with guests is like, “Putting vegetables in your vegetable soup and letting it simmer in there in that big old pot we call The Joint.”

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