Relix 44: PanicStream
Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on Relix.com throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here.
The Unsung Hero of Widespread Panic’s Internet Archive: PanicStream
When he’s not at his day job as an athletic trainer, Curtis George moonlights as one of Widespread Panic’s most recognizable fans. He is the sole founder, owner and operator of PanicStream.com, the premier archival destination for all things WSP. “If I’m home, I am working on PanicStream in some form,” he laughs. And while the numbers flex depending on the band’s touring cycle, PanicStream can garner over 800,000 unique visitors and 17 million page views annually. If you’re a Spreadhead and you’re looking for last night’s setlist, a stream of your favorite show or just a conversation with fellow fans, PanicStream.com is your one-stop shop.
“It’s about the community. I love this band. I love the music,” George explains. “And I decided to stay true to that aspect. I feel like I’m contributing something for the benefit of others.” He also adds that despite some tempting offers, he has never allowed third-party advertising on PanicStream. Instead, George pays for the site’s upkeep through merch sales, donations and, many times, his own savings.
In late 2017, with the site in the red and Panic opting for fewer tour dates, he was nervous that PanicStream would fold. However, the fans he served so honorably had other plans. During a setbreak at Widespread Panic’s recent New Year’s Eve show in Atlanta, as George stared at his phone—updating setlists and monitoring the website—the venue shined a spotlight on him and he was presented with a check for $20,000, raised exclusively by thousands of PanicStream users who believe in what he was doing. “It absolutely blew me away,” George recalls, getting choked up. “I was speechless. I’m a fan, and I’m used to being behind the scenes. In my career as an athletic trainer, I’m used to being on the sidelines. Then on that night, I was really in the spotlight.”
For the foreseeable future, it seems that PanicStream is alive and well. George continues to spend every Widespread Panic show tuned into the virtual world he has built. (By now his friends and family know to check WSP’s touring schedule before inviting him anywhere.) And he’s still shocked when he sees people like percussionist Sunny Ortiz wearing PanicStream merch, or when he catches a glimpse of someone in the crowd checking out the site on their phone. After all, he still remembers the days when PanicStream had three users. Now it’s entering its 13th year as the web’s number one Spreadhead archive. There’s even a smartphone app on the way.
“I’m insanely proud of what the site has become,” he gushes. “There was never a plan, it just kept expanding and rolling. You can see the impact on the fanbase, and it’s just incredible. It blows me away. I don’t have any kids, but I think this is how a proud parent feels when their child does something good.”
This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.