A Chronicle of My Adventures In and Around the Beacon Theater During the
Allman Brothers Band’s 2001 Beacon Odyssey
by Marley Seaman
It was only going to get better.
Not much need be said about my status as an Allman Brothers fanatic. Four
years of trips to the Jones Beach Amphitheater and New York City’s Beacon
Theatre, a dozen shows, a hundred-odd hours of concerts on tape and CD,
perhaps half a dozen shirts, one e-mail each from Butch Trucks and Oteil
Burbridge, and the countless stories I’ve shared with friends who (to say the
least) may not share my enthusiasm for the Best Damn Band in the Land stand
as testimonial enough. And then there are the truly uncountable hours I had
spent in the past ten months chatting it up with the fellow posters to the band’s
It rang in my ears, “It’s only going to get better.”
As the days until March 15th and the start of the group’s annual sold-out run at
the Beacon dwindled like the grains of sand in an hour glass, the Guest Book’s
collective enthusiasm grew from its normal heat to a true fever pitch.
Speculation flew about special guests, song choices, the band’s past, present
and future, and a million other things. The only word that could sum up the
excitement was (to quote an oft-repeated post)
It was nearly unbearable for all of us. And crowning it all was the preparation for
a Guest Book meeting. A chance to see those strangers we felt we knew. Or
perhaps we knew them, and only felt they were strangers because we hadn’t
seen them. With all the anxiety, it was hard to be sure. But we knew the
place, and we knew the time: Friday, March 16th, at the Beacon Hotel.
‘We,’ of course, is my father Gary and myself. He’s been a fan of the band
since the very beginning; his first live show was the day before the legendary At
Fillmore East album was recorded. I’d grown up around his music, of course,
he’d always had his Music Room full of tapes of bands that my mom and I were
forced to listen to in the car. They took up whole walls, I couldn’t imagine
anybody else had nearly that many tapes (and this was before he got into
trading Allmans tapes online). He also had four or five different guitars at any
one time. I got a Gibson of my own after grade school, but The Fever didn’t
really hit me until the following year, the first time I heard Duane Allman: An
Since then, it’s been a steady climb uphill. My first bootleg show, my first listen
to an Allmans CD, then owning one, then going to a show. Building up like a
Dickey Betts solo, exuding the power of Duane Allman… it was a very steady
progression to the heights of Allmania.
Once again following in my father’s footsteps, I made my way to Hittin’ the Web
in early 2000. Loudmouth that I am, I was soon posting frequently on the
Forum. A while after that, I made my way to the Guest Book. Despite being a
new guy, I was unable to keep quiet there either, and soon became a regular
The Guest Book is much more personal than the Forum. It’s inhabited by a
number of regulars who post just about daily, and (in most cases) probably read
it much more often than that. Exchange a few posts with someone on the GB,
maybe a few e-mails and a sudden tape trade, and you feel like you know
them. We’re a Brotherhood, with our common bond being the love of the
music. And any fan of the Allman Brothers knows what the power of love can
My dad was lucky (due to a Ticketmaster screw-up) and wound up with a ticket
to the show on March 15th, the opening night of the run. All I got out of him by
way of a review was that it was awesome, but by that point, I was almost
delusional. I couldn’t sleep the entire night. Instead, I lay on the couch outside
my room, listening to show after show on headphones, glancing through the
shades every so often to see the moon making its way west, and around 6:00,
the gradual progression of the sun, telling me that the night I had waited months
for was nearly at hand.
Early that afternoon, I caught a west-bound L.I.R.R. train, and met my father at
our usual meeting place, the McDonald’s in Penn Station, a little less than an
hour later. We hustled through the crowds to the subway, and in only a few
minutes more, we found ourselves at the 72nd Street subway stop. The Beacon
Theatre, the place where it all begins, was now a mere two blocks away.
As we turned the corner onto Broadway, the monolithic Beacon Marquee came
into view. I snapped a picture as we crossed 73rd Street.
For once, we were early, and bypassed the Theatre for the hotel that bears the
same name. We found that we’d actually come before most of the expected
party, so we waited around in the lobby and outside the hotel for a while. After a few minutes, we met a few ice-laden women coming in the door. They
had to be preparing for the party, we decided. We went up and introduced
ourselves to Sherry (bluesky819), who guided us up to her room, inhabited by
Jeanne, Peg, Deb and company- The Hospitality Sweeties. Jello-shots were
prepared, and as the sounds of November’s Peakin’ at the Beacon filled the
suite, the guests began to arrive.
It was a true who’s-who of the Guest Book. We already knew who was who, of
course, but we still wanted to put new faces with the familiar names. The roster
is too long for me to properly remember in full, but it included Scotty
(SkyDog007), who’d come all the way from California, the famous Pony Girl (no
doubt overjoyed at Warren’s return), Big Mike Smith (and he was), John D.
(Peachmaniac), Mike Morgan (ABBro, the man in the know), Nic(odemus), and
Holt Pearce. After considerable delay and anticipation, the one-and-only Sheriff
of the Guest Book, Jim Frawley- better known as Frim Jolly- made his entrance
amid wild speculation that he’d smuggled his German Shepard/Siberian Husky
mix, Duane Allman Frawley, into the hotel. He quickly quashed the rumors, but
it was a hell of an introduction.
The anticipation began to run high again at around 6:15, when we were
expecting a visit from the woman who was responsible for this grand gathering:
the Queen of Peachdom herself, Lana Michelizzi.
Perhaps an hour and a half before showtime, she floated into the midst of the
crowd to great delight and a very warm welcome. There had never been a lack
of energy in the room, but it was easy to see that it picked up a notch when she
arrived, her daughter Sheyenne quietly in tow.
One of Lana’s many remarkable abilities is the way she makes you feel as if
you’ve known her for years just minutes after you meet her. My dad and I had
both traded e-mails with her, and we’d been trying to meet her for years. But
she has a magic about her that really defies description. The guys in the band
call her “the Cosmic Sauce,” and it’s not hard to understand why they’ve gotten
so attached to her: she is one of the most wonderfully genuine people I have
ever met. I can think of perhaps two people in my life who are somehow
effortlessly and wholeheartedly nice to everyone they meet; Lana is one.
Most of the gang filtered out to go to a pre-show dinner at a bar in the city, and
my dad and I found ourselves in very select company: it was just the two of us,
a Canadian Peachhead named John Bowes, and Lana and Sheyenne.
It was a very intimate session, and the conversation hardly ever strayed from the
Allmans. The good vibe was a constant. The chat was a great demonstration of
what the band and their music can do: the union of the five people in that room
crossed a generation, a continent, and all kinds of experience. But the love of
the music easily held it all together.
Two stories in particular stand out in my memory from that night; one about the
band, and one from my dad.
Everyone is jealous of Lana’s intimate knowledge of the band, and so most of
the conversation stemmed from that. The Brother who drew the most questions
was Dickey Betts, and Lana’s descriptions of Dickey will forever be my personal
definition of him.
She told us how he had designed his own house, and what a multi-talented
individual he was. She and Shey had been to his house, they’d met him, which
of course was far beyond the wildest dreams of the rest of us. They’d been out
with him on his boat, really talked to him, seen him out the public eye…they
really knew him.
One day, the two of them were out on the boat with Dickey and his dog,
Muggs. Dickey asked them if they wanted to see a ‘critter.’ He put took the
boat away from the shore, and when he felt they were far enough out, he cut the
motor and looked around. Without warning, he reached down and whacked the
side of the boat with his hands, and whistled as loud and sharp as he could. A
moment later, a dolphin appeared, sticking his shining face out of the water at
the side of the boat.
It seemed to perfectly encapsulate Dickey: so perfectly in touch with nature.
And not only did he do it when they were going out, he repeated the trick when
they were coming back in. Dickey has always inspired nicknames, not just the
variations of his given name, but more homegrown ones: ‘the little guy who plays
guitar like a 300-pound man,’ ‘the man in the hat,’ things of that nature. My
dad’s epithet for Dickey has since become ‘the man who talks to dolphins.’ And
I still can’t quite explain the appeal of the story, but aside from tales of Duane
Allman — all of which are of mythic proportions — I don’t think I’ve ever heard a
more remarkable story about anyone.
I’ve said Lana is giving, and aside from the love, the stories and the company,
my dad and I looked at each other and realized she’d given us something else:
we really felt like we were “in the loop” for that hour we spent in the hotel room
with her, sharing her first-hand knowledge of the band. Lana also gave me
another present: she took a moment to grab a piece of hotel stationery and
scribble out an “I love you” to me. From someone else, it would have been
either an autograph or a cheap indulgence of sentimentality. Coming from Lana
Michelizzi as it did then, it couldn’t have been more true. And that’s Lana. The
fact that she really is who she appears to be is simply astounding, but it’s true.
When the hour was right (eight), the five of us hopped into the elevator and
walked to the neighboring theater. Lana and Sheyenne left to take their
customary seats onstage. After a detour to purchase a Beacon Odyssey
t-shirt, my dad and I walked up the stairs to the lower balcony. We bumped and
climbed and made our way to our seats, meeting his friend Kenny and Kenny’s
son, Sam, who was still in elementary school but nonetheless a veteran of ABB
The band took the stage at maybe a quarter after eight, pounding their way into
the first set with Trouble No More, and settling into form with the time-tested
sequence of Don’t Want You No More–>
It’s Not My Cross to Bear followed by Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More. With the
crowd sufficiently warmed up, the Beacon’s guest of honor, the one and only
Warren Haynes, strode up to the microphone. When the applause died down,
they launched into a song not heard at an Allmans concert in many years: Just
Before the Bullets Fly, written for Gregg’s solo album of the same name by
Warren. This time, Warren belted out the vocals in his unique roar. As they
heard one of the brightest highlights of the night, the veteran fans suddenly
remembered why worried so much when Warren and his musical brother Allen
Woody left the band in 1997. Just as there can only be one Duane Allman, one
Berry Oakley, or one Dickey Betts, we realized that there can only be one
Warren Haynes, and at least for the next few days, we had him back.
Sailin’ ‘Cross the Devil’s Sea came next, a song that is not only one of my
favorites, but brings to light what is perhaps my most noteworthy Allman-related
quirk. Near the end of the third verse, Gregg sings the line “I’ll prob’ly still be
here/when you come around next year,” at which I always let out a whoop or a
cheer of some kind. I’m taking the line wildly out of context, but I use it as an
indirect promise that he will return to the Beacon again the following March,
giving me the pleasure of doing the same.
Another feature of this run that excited the masses was the promise that Gregg
and Warren had written new songs together. Later in the first set, the second of
Gregg’s three new originals (he’d introduced Desdemona the previous night)
made its world premiere. It was a rocking, sorrowful tale called Who to Believe.
Watching Gregg perched behind his old reliable Hammond B-3 organ, I realized
just how strong his voice sounded. He had been making exponential
improvements since he cleaned up almost five years ago, but now he was right
off the charts. He could hit higher notes than ever, sing for longer stretches
without losing his breath, and give every line the weight it deserved. I can’t
understand why any singer would ever smoke, but if Gregg decided to use
himself as a before-and-after demonstration, they’d all quit en masse.
The set finished up with two more ‘Warren-era’ songs: Loaded Dice (which had
been absent from the band’s setlists for just shy of a decade) and What’s Done
is Done, and the Brothers and Sisters classic Southbound. Gregg took the lead
vocals, as he had when the song was young so many years ago, and Derek and
Warren brought the set to an explosive conclusion.
Set two began with song made popular by Gov’t Mule (though it was actually
written by Gregg, Warren, Allen and Jack Pearson) Rockin’ Horse. This one
had been played opening night as well, to a strong positive reaction, and it
wasn’t hard to figure out why. The Brothers were rocking out with a vengeance
this year, and there is no song this side of Whipping Post with that kind of
power. Derek ripped through his solo, and Warren’s screaming guitar brought it
to a thunderous climax. As the song wrapped up, I noticed that Jaimoe (as he
will, from time to time) was not in his seat on the stage right. Instead, some
blond guy was there, pounding the skins. After some debate with Kenny and
my dad, we decided it had to be the Mule’s Matt Abts.
Next came Black Hearted Woman, strong as love and twice as mean. Then
came a funky Leave My Blues at Home.
The next song started off very quietly, causing a slight wave of chatter to break
out in the crowd. Warren was softly strumming his guitar, and Jaimoe was
keeping a subtle rhythm behind him. Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You Too
Long caused a strange effect every time it was played. The audience was
always thrown off by its low-key style, but before long, Warren’s soul-wrenching
vocals would tear their attention from their beers and their buddies, and all eyes
were riveted on him. You could almost hear the necks twisting sharply in
unison as the crowd turned to let their eyes verify what their ears were hearing.
“What the hell is that!” their expressions seemed to say.
Matt’s appearance marked the start of a parade of special guests in the second
half of the show. Derek’s (and everyone else’s) sweetheart Susan Tedeschi
traded vocals with Gregg on a punchy Feel So Bad while Yonrico Scott took a
turn on Jaimoe’s kit. That was followed by a fantastic Warren-led Worried Down
with the Blues and a stellar Dreams, the latter of which softly segued into In
Memory of Elizabeth Reed. When I realized what was going on, I started
shouting at the top of my lungs. The night before, the band hadn’t played any of
Dickey’s songs, and it had occurred to me that I might never hear the Allman
Brothers Band play ‘Liz’ again. The idea was terrifying. But when I heard the
first chords and Warren’s introductory solo, I knew that my old friend wasn’t
going anywhere. She was here to stay. Kofi Burbridge walked out to Derek’s
side and (after some microphone problems were resolved) added a flute part that
nicely accented the song’s Latin touches.
The last of the visiting friends was Rob Baracco of Phil and Friends, who added
danceably energetic piano solos to Statesboro Blues and One Way Out.
Normally, the last chords of a concert are accompanied by a let-down that is
simultaneously joyous and sad. But on this night, I was running on an energy
that was not my own. We stumbled outside with the rest of the crowd,
marveling at this phenomenon that (if we were normal people hearing a normal
band) would be commonplace after this many years. But of course, we are far
from normal, and so are the Allman Brothers.
It was pouring rain outside, but nothing could quench my hunger for an
autograph, so while my dad sanely stood under the overhang of the American
Grill, I tried to shelter my pad and pen as I waited for the band. I was unusually
lucky on this night: both Derek and Oteil signed my Beacon Hotel stationery.
When more of the crowd had dispersed, Warren made his way outside as well.
Rather than ask for an autograph, I decided to ask him about the new songs
they were playing; I still didn’t know the titles at the time. He told me that the
first night’s song was Desdemona, and the one they had just played that
evening was Who to Believe. My dad politely asked Warren if he would pose for
a picture, and of course he obliged. A few moments later, Lana and Sheyenne
came out the stage doors (and they truly are members of the band). I tracked
Lana down and asked if we were going to have dinner, as she’d promised. Ever
the woman of her word, she said yes, and we walked into the American
Over my mushroom burger and my dad’s pancakes, we were introduced to a few
other fortunate superfans. The most awe-inspiring of them all was Akira
Horiuchi (of the Akira Chronicles), a young man who had flown all the way from
Yokohama, Japan to take part in this Gathering of the Peaches. He was quiet;
perhaps he was awestruck by the simple fact that he was there. In a little over
a week, I would be sharing the same feeling.
Because it was only going to get better.
I was way behind on my sleep as it was, and I knew that the next day, I would
need at least as much energy as I had expended that night. I slept like a rock
on the train, and after we walked home, I slipped into my bed and passed out.
My dad went into the city before I did on Saturday, giving me a few extra hours
to charge up. As I have been every day of my life, I was slow to get out of bed
the following morning- I should say afternoon. Wondering as she always does
at my lethargy, my mother facetiously asked me if I was going to the show.
She needn’t have, of course. I may very well be late to my own funeral (my
seventh grade homeroom teacher was sure I would be), but there is no way I
would ever be late to- let alone miss- an Allman Brothers concert.
A few hours later, we were once again at the hotel, warming up for our second
show as a team. Lana and my dad decided to hit the nearby Bear Bar, which
naturally would not admit Shey or myself. We both look reasonably older than
we actually are, but without what I like to call “alternative identification,” we
didn’t have a chance. Far worse things have happened. Shey said that she
needed more pictures for an online tribute called The Beacon Experience that
she was assembling for Hittin’ the Web, and asked if I could think of any sites of
interest within walking distance. Unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with New
York geography (especially embarrassing because I was born in Manhattan),
and I wasn’t at my most creative, either. But I recommended that we capture
the 72nd Street subway platform because so many Beacon pilgrims use that
particular method of transportation.
We also (after several attempts) got the picture of the American Grill that she
needed, with the help of Glenn Boireau. As an added treat, we ran into Kofi on
the street. He asked us for directions to the Sushi Palace, and I complemented
him on his work the previous night while inquiring if he might stop by again. He
said it was very possible, and went off to ask the hotel front desk about
directions (as I said, I know nothing about New York geography).
The gray rain was coming down again, so we went back up to Shey and Lana’s
room, and I stood in awe as she put the pictures we’d spent an hour taking onto
her computer and into the framework of The Beacon Experience in mere
seconds. I consider myself reasonably computer-competent, but I was taken
aback. I could no more compete with Shey on the computer than I could with
Derek Trucks on slide (not that I wouldn’t want to try…).
We still had a while before our respective parents would come back, and we
passed the rest of the time getting to know each other. Both of us were part of
a parent-child team ‘sharing’ a love for one band. For me, it was intriguing to find
another person like me (in that respect), not to mention the fact that she and
Lana were so closely linked to the band itself. It was a little bit like finding a
unicorn, or some other magical creature.
And even when our time to talk ran out, there was no reason for disappointment:
it was time for another show! We filed into another elevator (on one floor, the
doors opened and we were greeted by an “AAAA-IEEEEEE!” – no fellow
passengers, just the famous Florida call, “AAAA-IEEEEEE!” – and made the
trek next door.
This time, my dad and were sitting in separate (though very similar) seats; his
on the left side in row R, mine in row U on the right. For the first time, I sat next
to a taper, a nice guy from St. Louis named Randy. I was also close to the
soundboard, and as I walked down to inspect the awesome piece of equipment,
I caught a glimpse of the night’s setlist. “Wow,” I thought. We — well,
everybody else — had a few surprises in store.
After Warren and Derek cut some glass on Don’t Keep Me Wondering, one of
their highly-acclaimed dual-slide songs, the gang reached back into its early
’90s catalog and dusted off All Night Train, which had been in cold-storage for
almost six and a half years. Next, Gregg pulled out his reading glasses,
signaling that it was time for another one of his new tunes, the highly
autobiographical (note: that’s just how it seems to me) High Cost of Low Living.
Then came the biggest surprise yet: the spotlight narrowed down to Warren,
who began making squealing runs with his slide. Up and down the fretboard it
flew. After Warren had sufficiently grabbed everyone attention, Derek joined in a
call-and-response that was, alas, cut short- Derek broke a string. Warren didn’t
skip a beat, working the momentum up and up until the tide broke, and the band
went into the brutal, escalating riff that can mean one and only one thing:
Hoochie Coochie Man, for the first time since Warren said goodbye four years
The St. Patrick’s Day crowd absolutely erupted. Beacon crowds, though, are
notoriously inexhaustible, and here they showed their staying power: the
opening notes of Soulshine got exactly the same reception. Gregg and Warren
traded the vocals on one of the most uplifting songs ever written by anyone,
anywhere. After bringing things to the slow boil of Loaded Dice, they returned to
uplifting territory and closing the set with (and I apologize for quoting myself
here) “the happiest song in rock” — and to be more honest, the most joyous
song this planet has ever known — Jessica. Randy was moved to turn on a tiny,
rotating sign that proclaimed “Jessica” (and “Warren is God”) in red lights. His
impressive display drew a lot of attention as he walked down the aisle; fans
crowded around him to gaze at his little toy.
As good as the band had been last night, there was no way to avoid the fact
that so far, they’d been even better tonight. The band decided not to give me
any time to doubt it as they opened the second set with Midnight Rider, granting
an old wish I was sure no one had heard — Gregg stayed behind the Hammond,
bringing back an old dimension to the song and leaving Warren and Derek more
space on guitar. I say this as no disrespect to Gregg’s guitar playing, of course,
but it was a very pleasant surprise. After the urgent last chords faded away, we
were treated to a return engagement of Who to Believe, which allowed me to
confirm that yes, the song’s a keeper!
Hot on the heels of that tune came the musical highlight of that weekend: a
white-hot rendition of The Same Thing, with Warren and Derek trading off, upping
the ante with every note until the intensity was almost unbearable. Further
contributing to the powerful mayhem was a keyboardist neither Randy nor I
could identify. “Is that Bruce Hornsby?!” he wondered/exclaimed.
Warren enlightened us: it was really Danny Lewis. After Gregg’s fine voice
guided us through only the second rendition of the smoky Gambler’s Roll since
’93, the band switched back to full, guitar-driven power and ran through Rockin’
Horse once again. This was definitely a unique incarnation of the Allman
Brothers Band: it walked like the Brothers, sang like the Brothers, and kicked
like a Mule!
‘Horse’ flowed into a slide war on the song that had opened the run to stunned
ears: Done Somebody Wrong. The opening of that song is difficult on one
guitar; the fact that Derek and Warren managed to play it in unison was simply
staggering. Then came another staggering harmony: High Falls. The band was
riding the crest of a wave now, flying higher and higher with unexpected twists —
perhaps because they were pressed for time, the drum and bass solos were
skipped. One Way Out closed the set, Statesboro Blues kicked off the encore,
and then the wave reached tsunami proportions: Whipping Post!
The band drove through Gregg’s brooding masterpiece, their momentum
unstoppable even when Warren snapped a string while shredding on his
climactic solo. As I commented on the Guest Book, “I’m surprised they don’t
melt!” The landscape surrounding the Beacon was flattened by the band’s sheer
power, and I met up with my dad wondering how on Earth we were going to
make it six days without hearing this band again. How would we deal with the
ecstatic reports of the other GB’ers, the surprises we would have to wait for
tapes to hear? How would we live with the fact that we knew there was still
another amazing guest to come: Chuck Leavell?!?!
A fundamental truth had set in, though I was yet to be made conscious of it: It
was only going to get better.
Frankly, I don’t think I remember a minute of the next five days. I remember that
I went to my old high school that Friday to take in a play put on by the drama
club to which I had dedicated so much of the past four years of my life. I went
out to dinner with friends who were still in high school. I’ll single out of them for