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Behind Stage Lines: A Night with the Allman Brothers Band

Backstage with the Allman Brothers Band | Beacon Theatre

It’s one thing to sit stageside, at an Allman Brothers Band concert, behind Jaimoe Johansen’s drum kit; it’s another to sit there next to David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Dressed like a gentleman from head to toe, Honeyboy is a popular man backstage. “You look better than everyone,” Jaimoe’s manager laughs. The crew makes sure to stop and extend a hand and Susan Tedeschi warmly embraces the man. “Charlie’s here,” she beams. “It’s his birthday!” and over walks her eleven-year-old son, the spitting image of her husband, Derek Trucks. “I remember when you was this big,” Honeyboy smiles, measuring almost to the stage floor. No family tree connects the Allman Brothers Band, but a loving lineage exists nonetheless.

Over an hour before show time, Johansen sits at his drum kit, tinkering at cymbals, high-hats and snares with the dozens of drum sticks in a canvas bag near his feet. One of the crew (who dress in black) hands a protein shake to the meticulous drummer. Near the apron, a guitar tech tunes with the opening riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and other stage crew check off their lists. Nearby, publicist Ken Weinstein pops his head in to make sure Greg Allman is taken care of and all is running smoothly. Even setting up the fourth show requires a machine that relies on communication, cooperation and know-how. The Allman Brothers Band and Co. are professional to a T.

It’s showtime and out walks the band to perform an incredible two-hour set to a sold-out house. Two songs in, those opening licks to “Midnight Rambler” peel out with Jaimoe and Butch Trucks steadily grooving behind, and it hits us like a straight shot of whiskey—warm and tingly all over. The set carries that feeling with “No One Left to Run With,” “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Alone, the three drummers dig into a percussion frenzy while Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks walk offstage, passing notes and sharing a laugh like schoolboys. The Brothers’ energy continued with plenty of nods to the greats, including an innovative interpretation of the Band’s “The Weight” with Joan Osborne on lead vocals, “Amazing Grace” by the Blind Boys of Alabama, “The Same Thing” with John Popper blowin’ harp like he invented the damn thing, and some love for Van Morrison on “And It Stoned Me” showcasing the Juke Horns.

After the show, inside the backstage entrance, a street sign reads: ALLMAN BROTHERS WAY, where cigarettes are lit and everyone backstage congratulates the performers; Joan Osborne’s sultriness rightfully sparks conversation. After catching up with friends, the band and crew wish each other a good next day off about midnight.

Outside, fans linger on the street behind gates, eager to shake hands and snap photos. Warren Haynes’ guitar tech Brian Farmer is mistaken for Warren—a common error. Unobserved, Butch Trucks passes through, jumping into the back of a black SUV. With Jaimoe riding shotgun back to the hotel, the two drummers discuss the night’s set. “Oh MAN!” Butch says, “That was such a good night.” He takes out a drummer’s glove he recently bought and shows it to Jaimoe, offering to get him one. They chat about Levon Helm and the Band, discuss covering “The Weight” as the SUV reaches their hotel.

While most Allman Brothers Band fans continue the night at unofficial afterparties near the Beacon Theatre, bandmembers head back to their own private sanctums, grab midnight snacks and wind down. Derek Trucks returns to wife and son where they share leftover birthday cake; others sift through new copies of the soon-to-be-released Duane Allman compilation his daughter Galadrielle Allman has recently completed. Jaimoe flips open his laptop and simultaneously plays an audio book of Caroline Kennedy and a smooth jazz number.

At some point, the world returns to normal—or perhaps normal was hours before, when hundreds united under one roof. It’s another day in the life for a rock ’n’ roll band.

– Melissa Caruso

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