The Allman Brothers Band

The Power of Love

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

official website.

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)

“BEACONBEACONBEACONBEACONBEACONBEACONBEACONBEACON!!!”

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

Anthology.

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

poster.

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

do.

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

shows.

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

together.

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

ago.

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

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