Interview with Domingo Ortiz from Widespread Panic

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domingo ortiz
Domingo Ortiz

Interview by Scott Preston
Photos by Ian Rawn, Atlantaphotog.com and Playindead.org

Widespread Panic’s pring tour kicks off with two sold out shows at the intimate Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY, where the band has not performed since 2007. Panic will also be returning to Asheville, NC for the first time in over two years to play at the Civic Center with special guests JJ Grey & Mofro. Finally, the biggest news for longtime Panic fans is the announcement of the tour-closing two nights at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater outside of Birmingham, AL where the band has not performed since 2002. The Charlie Daniels Band and Big Gigantic will open this shows on April 15th & 16th, respectively. Also announced today (3/28) is a 23 show summer tour.

Cincy Groove: How do you think the band has been able to keep the momentum going for so long?

Domingo Ortiz: We try to keep everything fresh and we try to inspire each other. Usually we try to inspire each other while we are on the road, because once we get off the road we scatter in 6 different directions. We rarely touch base with each other unless we have to do a conference call. Thank god for emails, because that is our main mode of contacting each other. We have a great time when we are together, we all just have our own things and families going on now. We are all really open to each others idea’s and I think that’s a great way to keep things fresh. We also have great communication on stage and that makes it that much more fun.

Cincy Groove: Does the band write out a set list ahead of time anymore?

Domingo Ortiz: Oh definitely, we almost have to, because its become quite intricate now. There was about a 3 year period where it really was a shot in the dark. We would play what the moment would tell us to play. With so many songs in our catalog now it helps to write out set lists just so we don’t play the same songs night in and night out. Sometimes we like to do themes with our shows, one night we might play an entire album. We won’t tell the crowd ahead of time and its not usually until after the show that they realize what we did. We like to do stuff like that to see if anyone is paying attention. We still have a lot of life left in us even after 25 years. We have to give credit where credit is do, we have a great staff, great management team, crew, merch people. It takes quite a few people to put the six of us out there on the road.

Cincy Groove: Does the band have anything special planned for the 25th anniversary?

Domingo Ortiz: This is how I presented the subject to the boys, we kicked off the tour with a couple shows here in Athens, GA, then a show on Valentines Day in Atlanta. Even though we are celebrating 25 years as a band, we should celebrate the 25 years in each city we play in not just the exact city we started. There are still people that live in Louisville, Cincinnati, Denver, Birmingham, Asheville, that came to hear us play 25 years ago, so its kind of a celebration for them since they have been with us since the beginning.

Cincy Groove: I see as part of your 25 years together, the band was honored by the Georgia State Senate. What was that like?

Domingo Ortiz: Some of the representatives also attend many of the colleges we played at 25 years ago. They came up to us after wards and would tell us how they remember us playing at a certain frat party and how much fun it was. What we are trying to do now, is reach that whole new generation of college students, who might not of heard our music before. There are a lot more bands out there now competing for the same group of college kids. As we pretty much always have, we rely a lot on word-of-mouth promoting, with our long time fans bringing new ones into the fold.

Cincy Groove: Since you have been playing for 25 years, and were in the music world before the internet, how do you think it has changed how the music business is run?

Domingo Ortiz: Well, a new band now, doesn’t really need a big record company to get their music out to the people. With things like Facebook and Twitter you can reach thousands of people in a matter of moments. With the help of all the music software that is out there now, you can record and mix your own music. Then just upload it iTunes and there you go. A new band can also check out different venues that are interested in playing in online, instead of having to actually goto a place to see what it is like. I think a band, until they reach a certain point can handle everything themselves. Don’t get me wrong it’s awesome to have a publicist and manager behind you, directing everything behind the scenes. It lets us focus more on the music.

Cincy Groove: Do you have any side projects outside of Widespread Panic?

Domingo Ortiz: First and foremost when I am at home, I am a full time dad. Dr Arvin Scott has a Drumming For Success youth program where we try to raise money to get drums to under privileged kids. Dr Scott will teach these kids how to play drums, but they have to have a goal and they have to reach that goal. When they reach that goal, Dr Scott will give them their own drum. I sometimes get together with a group of local musicians here in Athens, GA in a Santana tribute band. I enjoy staying at home when we aren’t touring and rarely travel outside the state of GA unless its with the family. I really like that now I can be around more for birthdays, anniversaries.

Cincy Groove: Are there any upcoming gigs on this tour you are excited about?

Domingo Ortiz: Well, I really like Louisville, since I’m a baseball fan, they have a great minor league baseball team, the Louisville Slugger museum is there, and I also like going to the Brown Hotel because that’s where the open-faced sandwich was born. I love going to Washington DC because if you get there at the right time you get to see the cherry blossoms in bloom along the National Mall. I will probably end up going to the Smithsonian museum while I’m there as well. We are looking forward to playing at Bonnaroo and Red Rocks this summer as well.

Apr. 01, 2011 Louisville, KY Palace Theatre SOLD OUT Tickets-for-Charity® Sold Out
Apr. 02, 2011 Louisville, KY Palace Theatre SOLD OUT Tickets-for-Charity® Sold Out
Apr. 03, 2011 Indiana, PA Kovalchick Complex Tickets-for-Charity® Available
Apr. 05, 2011 Washington, DC Warner Theatre Tickets-for-Charity® Sold Out
Apr. 06, 2011 Washington, DC Warner Theatre Tickets-for-Charity® Sold Out
Apr. 08, 2011 Asheville, NC Civic Center Tickets-for-Charity® Available w/ Special Guest: JJ Grey & Mofro
Apr. 09, 2011 Asheville, NC Civic Center Tickets-for-Charity® Available w/ Special Guest: JJ Grey & Mofro
Apr. 12, 2011 Columbia, SC Township Auditorium Tickets-for-Charity® Available
Apr. 14, 2011 Live Oak, FL Wanee Festival
Apr. 15, 2011 Pelham, AL Oak Mountain (Verizon Wireless Music Center) Tickets-for-Charity® Sold Out
Apr. 16, 2011 Pelham, AL Oak Mountain (Verizon Wireless Music Center) Tickets-for-Charity® Sold Out
May. 20, 2011 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Festival
May. 27, 2011 Little Rock, AR Riverfest
May. 28, 2011 Kansas City, MO Midland Theatre
May. 29, 2011 Chillicothe, IL Summer Camp Festival
Jun. 09, 2011 to Jun. 12, 2011 Manchester, TN Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
Jun. 14, 2011 Austin, TX Austin City Limits at Moody Theater
Jun. 15, 2011 Austin, TX Austin City Limits at Moody Theater
Jun. 17, 2011 Dallas, TX Gexa Energy Pavilion
Jun. 18, 2011 The Woodlands, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Jun. 19, 2011 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
Jun. 22, 2011 Taos, NM Kit Carson Park
Jun. 24, 2011 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Jun. 25, 2011 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Jun. 26, 2011 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Jun. 29, 2011 Eagle, ID Woodriver Cellars
Jul. 01, 2011 Alta, WY Grand Targhee Resort
Jul. 02, 2011 Alta, WY Grand Targhee Resort
Jul. 03, 2011 Alta, WY Grand Targhee Resort
Jul. 05, 2011 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre
Jul. 06, 2011 Eugene, OR Cuthbert Amptheater
Jul. 08, 2011 Oakland, CA Fox Theater
Jul. 09, 2011 Oakland, CA Fox Theater
Jul. 11, 2011 Reno, NV Grand Sierra Theatre
Jul. 13, 2011 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
Jul. 14, 2011 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
Jul. 15, 2011 Las Vegas, NV The Joint at Hard Rock
Jul. 16, 2011 Las Vegas, NV The Joint at Hard Rock

http://www.widespreadpanic.com