Dave Schools is the bassist for the popular jamband Widespread Panic, the south’s answer to Phish. His band tours incessantly – though they’re taking the year off to relax a little and see their kids grow up – and is currently a member of the Mickey Hart Band, which is on tour right now. On January 6, the group stopped by the Westcott for a night full of Grateful Dead originals and some cosmic new material. I had the chance to hang out with Schools and Hart, two of the most inviting musicians I’ll ever meet.
Schools, who’s from Virginia, took some time out of his busy schedule to grant me an interview last week. Coincidentally, he and I spoke literally moments after it was announced Helm had passed away. Schools remembers, vividly, being 13 when “The Last Waltz” was released in movie theaters. It’s a documentary of The Band’s final show, which included guest appearances by Dylan and Eric Clapton, among an all-star slew of others.
“We got together and rode our bikes to the theater to see it and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect,” he said. “Then I went and saw it at least five more times in the theater. How did I not know of The Band before that? That’s the power of music, and that’s the power Levon had. He wasn’t doing it for commercial reasons; he did it because he truly loved the music. The Band did what they liked to do, and their music has staying power.”
Helm passed away last week of complications from cancer. Since 1998, he’d battled through numerous forms of the killer disease, nearly beating them all before succumbing. He was an innovator on the drums; a cathartic answer to much of the pop music of his era.