The Concert Tour: Day Five
Oct. 20th, 1991
A day off, relaxing. After the usual sleeping-in/breakfast routine, the day really begins at 3pm, when we pile into the bus and head over to Six Flags Over Texas. The agenda: some planned, complimentary fucking off. The promoter of last night's gig (See? It wasn't just a gig at a bar; there was an actual promoter ) is today putting on a larger event: Little Feat opening for the Allman Brothers Band at the Six Flags ampitheatre. We are on the guest list ("pick up your backstage passes at the box office"). One of Danny's favorite expressions comes to mind: mighty fine.
On the way Danny mentions he has Allman Bros. guitarist Dickie Betts' phone number in his book, and laughes that it is listed under "Almond Brothers."
We arrive early, pick up our admission stubs and backstage passes, and split up to see Six Flags. Sax/Keyboard player Bill Holloman and I discover we're both roller coaster fans, and team-up to ride Six Flags' new wooden roller coaster, the Texas Giant. This is by a long shot the most bang-you-around, up and down, spilling, shaking roller coaster I've ever been on. It is work to ride; we're both physically tired when it's done.
While in line, someone spys Bill's backstage passes (an adhesive-cloth model already applied to his jacket) and calls out "How much for the pass?", eliciting a chuckle from his friends. Our single-event cloth passes are not as cool as the permanent laminated passes carried by most groups, but as rock'n'roll accessories go, they're still pretty good. Sound engineer Jeff McHugh has a mini-flashlight and a pile of laminated passes attached to a lanyard, including a generic ALL ACCESS pass that gets him in "anywhere."
The show: A gorgeous day, late afternoon event in the smallish Six Flags ampitheatre. Little Feat opens up, and sounds good. Just good. Their new hires (forever doomed to play in Lowell George's shadow) do their job, the band is tight. Though he spends much of his time glowering at three females in the front row, bassist Kenny Gradney is excellent, and drummer Ritchie Hayward is, as always, amazing. But there is no fire, none of the raw electricity that typified Feats shows of the 70's and 80's. Danny concurs, commenting that it's just not the same without Lowell, adding "he really had something special." This is more than just a casual commentpart of Danny's legacy is that he missed a big break by a hair, when, after seeing him and being appropriately amazed, Lowell offered Danny a spot in his band, which Danny accepted. The gig however, fell through in the most permanent way when Lowell died shortly thereafter, of a drug overdose, coincidentally in our home town of Washington D.C.
The "Almond Brothers" are next. After a slow, relaxed start, they play a trademark 3 hour show, during which they work up to some intense peaks. The crowd loves every note. They are exactly the same as they have ever been, and I find myself questioning if this is cool, or more like self parody. But, signature-style music played by a tight, veteran band wins the day. They are who they are; it would be disappointing if they tried to be anything else. Greg Allman seems borderline out of it, removed from the action despite being installed center stage. (The promoter later would confirm indeed, Greg was in the bag.) Dickie Betts is the focal point of onstage electricity, contributes the only new song, and supported by original veteran double drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson, leads the band through its marathon set.
While the band is playing, the promoter invites us to feed from the backstage catering table. A free hot meal. In fact, we benefitted from this same kindness the other night at the Headhunters show. Given the lack of the food per diem, this is a welcome trend. Gatton bassist John Previti and I discuss (spurred on by the volumes of food being piled on plates) the tendency when on the road (and especially in the disorienting bus environment), to feel no clear assurance where your next meal is coming from. Not financially, but logistically. One is at the mercy of the collective eating habits of the group and the schedule. If you didn't chow on that quarter-pound diesel dog at the last truck stop, you may have missed all opportunity to eat for the next 18 hours.
So, when you are in front of food, especially large quantities of free food, there is a tendency to eat a lot. And the associated tendency to gain weight. When I left my full-time road gig in 1990, (The Assassins) I immediately lost ten pounds. (I'll probably gain it back this trip!)
Confession: my knowledge of the three-hour length of the Allman's set comes second-hand from one of the Gatton band members who stays behind to see its conclusion. After about two hours of the jam, most of us have heard enough and are ready to retire. We fire up the bus and make the short trip back to the motel. When we arrive and disembark, we're able to hear the Allmans still playing. Better yet, the sound carries well enough to discern what they're playing: the classic chestnut "Whipping Post."
Next: Day 6Hot times in Houston.
Day One || Day Two || Day Three, pt. 1 || Day Three, pt. 2
Day Four || Day Five || Day Six || Day Seven
Day Eight || Day Nine || Days 10-11
Epilogue || Feedback