The Allman Brothers Band

A Tradition for 20 Years: Allman Band at the Beacon

By: Alan Light
For: The New York Times

Michael Springer’s vacation starts on Monday. As usual, though, he won’t be traveling far from his home in Valley Stream, Long Island. For most of the next three weeks, he and his wife will be spending their evenings in Manhattan, taking part in one of the city’s most curious rites of spring: the Allman Brothers Band’s annual run of shows at the Beacon Theater.

Since 1989 the Allman band has played at the Beacon 175 times — and Mr. Springer, 51, has been at every concert. This month he’ll return (to the same seat, next to the lighting board) for 15 more shows as the band settles into the newly refurbished Beacon through March 28.

“My boss thinks I’m out of my mind,” said Mr. Springer, who works at an audio and video company and proposed to his wife during one of the 2005 shows. “I end up taking my vacation a few blocks from where I work. But year after year they continue to amaze me.”

Last year’s shows were canceled while the singer and keyboard player Gregg Allman was undergoing treatment for hepatitis C, so this year’s residency promises extra excitement for fans. It also marks the Allman Brothers’ 40th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of the band’s first appearance at the Beacon. And this run is dedicated to Duane Allman, the band’s founding guitarist, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1971.

“Duane started it all,” the drummer Butch Trucks said by phone from his home in Palm Beach, Fla., “but we’ve done precious little to pay tribute to his memory.”

This run will be different, Gregg Allman said in a phone interview from his Savannah, Ga., home. “Somebody said, ‘Let’s do it in honor of big brother,’ and we all agreed.” The next suggestion, he said, was to invite everyone who played with Duane Allman to make appearances at the shows.

A revered session player, Duane performed with many people during his 24 years — and so, while the Beacon shows have always been known for the guests who appear with the band (whose lineup now consists of the original members Mr. Allman, Mr. Trucks and the drummer Jaimoe, joined by the guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, the bass player Oteil Burbridge and the percussionist Marc Quiñones), this year looks to be especially star studded. There are pervasive rumors that Eric Clapton, members of the Grateful Dead and B. B. King will turn up onstage over the run.

Mr. Allman refused to address any of the rumors but said, “It’s going to be a real wang-dang-do.”

Josh Baron, the editor of Relix magazine, which chronicles the jam-band scene and features the Allman band on the cover of its April-May issue, said, “There’s clearly a buzz around these shows that’s unlike previous Beacon runs,” adding, “Fans know that the Brothers are talking about pulling out all the stops.”

Though several artists have longstanding relationships with particular stages — the Grateful Dead at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall in London — no established band has been so closely associated with one location. “It’s hard to think of the Allman Brothers today and not think of the Beacon Theater,” Mr. Baron said.

Formed in Jacksonville, Fla., the Allman Brothers helped lay the foundation for what came to be known as Southern rock with their expansive blend of rock, jazz and blues. Yet the band always maintained a close connection to New York, dating back to the days of the legendary Fillmore East, where it recorded a classic live album in 1971.

The bond between these rural Southerners and this Northeastern city has “always been kind of puzzling,” Butch Trucks said. Mr. Allman said New Yorkers simply “love good music, and they like it played long and hard.”

After the Fillmore closed in 1971, the band went looking for a home base in Manhattan. “We tried a bunch of them,” Mr. Allman said. “At Radio City the stage was big enough to land a blimp on.” Avery Fisher Hall was “a little too black tie.” The group finally reached the 2,800-seat Beacon in 1989, and, he said, “it just felt good, right away.”

Melissa Ormond, chief operating officer of MSG Entertainment, which operates the theater, said the band is “a mainstay, a staple of the Beacon and everything it stands for.” The group has become such a part of the Beacon’s character that Mr. Allman addressed the theater’s management while it was planning the renovation that preceded its reopening last month.

“I’m hoping they haven’t ruined it,” Mr. Trucks said. “At least now I have my own bathroom backstage.”

For fans who can’t make it to the Upper West Side for the Beacon run, this year’s shows can also be seen live over the Web at, a new site spearheaded by Mr. Trucks. For $125 subscribers can watch real-time, five-camera feeds of all 15 concerts, which will then be available on demand until Sept. 30. He plans for the site to evolve into an online home for jam bands and their followers.

Mr. Trucks urged fans at home to connect their computers to TV screens. “Invite your friends over, spill beer all over each other, and it’ll be just like you’re at the Beacon,” he said.

But for true believers like Mr. Springer simulcasts won’t do. “I’ve seen the Allmans in California, in Canada,” he said, “but they always bring it up a notch when they come into New York.

“They’re the best band I’ve ever heard. I could never fathom going to see another band 175 times.”


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