It’s March in New York City. The Allman Brothers Band is coming to town. And, like just about every year since 1989, the band is bringing its zany carnival of music, friends and fans to the glorious Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side, one of the loveliest spaces in the city to experience music. My guess is that by the time you’re reading this, tickets are all sold out and that you may have to pay an arm and a leg to actually make it into a show. But where there’s a will—and a good friend who plans in advance—there’s always a way in.
The band has dubbed 2012 “The Year of the Peach” (Honoring the 40th anniversary of the live classic, Eat a Peach) and will be on the heels of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award when they come to town. The award is a perfect complement to their 1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and further evidence that royalty will most certainly be in the house for ten magical nights at the very regal Beacon. The Allmans and the Beacon. Fans of the band can’t think of a more fitting pairing.
In the freewheeling universe of jam bands and exploratory rhythm and blues, it can all come down to one essential question: The Grateful Dead or The Allman Brothers? Now, I know we’re talking about two sides of the same coin here, but if you think about it, the differences between the two really say a lot. One is whimsical and playful, while the other is brawny and tough. One is flower power, while the other is shotguns and beer. One bikes to work, the other drives a Harley. When I was younger and haunting arena parking lots around America, Grateful Dead fans always had this innocuous kind of far away benevolence, while Allman Brothers fans were gritty and chiseled. Present. I always felt they could kick my ass if they wanted to.
But, of course, they wouldn’t. And they didn’t. And they probably can’t now. Or won’t. They’ll be too busy soaking in the sounds at the show or transforming Broadway into a melodic playground of yesteryear, strumming the strings of memory at every crosswalk and light.