Look, going out on the Saturday night before St. Patrick's Day in St. Louis is surely some form of masochism I'm not ready to face, but I really wanted to be at Allman's debut solo CD release party in his hometown. I had three expectations for the night: to hear some kick-ass rock 'n' roll, drink some green beer and not get stabbed in the neck.
Devon Allman's story is like that of a baby whose capsule was launched from Planet Allman to come to rest in suburban St. Louis where he grew up unaware of his superpowers, or super heritage, until later in life. Gregg Allman is Kal-El, in this little fantasy, by the way.
If he has a Kryptonite, it's not girls. They are crowded all around him as he and his band and the openings acts are all out mingling. The girls' cell phone camera angles, and the thrusting out of their chests, suggest it is important their décolletage be in the shot.
I finally just broke in and introduced myself. I had heard from others but now confirm for you: nice guy. Also, he tells me, "My car radio is stuck on your radio station!" I think he meant on purpose.
The Duck Room seemed the perfect spot for this rock and blues show. I was there when the doors opened, hoping to find a seat and a spot to rest my notebook, and got to watch the jungle law that defined how the twenty-odd café tables and hundreds of randomly arranged chairs got aligned. It wouldn't surprise me much to learn that Joe Edwards was filming the entirety of it each night, under different circumstances, as social experimentation.
Interestingly, jungle law allows for a dance floor to be wordlessly formed.
It's a good thing too. For, while there were many head-bopping-and-fist-pumping single male types present, there were a lot of couples and single girls, too. And a lot of the girls left their guys to meet up with the single girls in this agreed-to clearing in the jungle.
Truth: I called the first girl to dance with her arms above her head to, what I believe was, the amazement of my tablemates.
It was good I got there early because Johnny Fox
came on at 8:11 p.m. and provided a kind of soundtrack to the milling about and Survivor-like atmosphere of getting seated. Poor bastard. But his six-song, solo acoustic set was very strong, including two original tunes, two Graham Parsons' covers and the Stones' "Torn and Frayed." "Hot Burrito #1" was a standout with strong vocals on the gorgeous Parsons' melody.
I was barely done talking with the very personable Fox when Delta Sol Revival took the stage and began the shredding of the place. Wow. I was not prepared for the sounds that came out of this group. Sounding like Jonny Lang-meets-Santana, the band played a ten-song set that moved between salsa, blues, rock and shuffle. The entire band played well and engaged energetically with each other and their audience, but guitarist and Allman protégé Tyler Stokes was difficult to take your eye from. Looking about 17 of his tender 20 years, he jumped, danced, boogied and stomped. And he tore that guitar a new orifice.
I spoke with him at the bar. He was getting change because he's not yet old enough to drink. I told him I hated him a little bit. It didn't seem to bother him. I bet he gets it a lot.
He told me that he lived next door to Allman and, at his dad's urging, he went over to meet him and play guitar. "We just started playing the blues and it took off from there," he told me. Allman is producing the bands' forthcoming EP. I will definitely be on the lookout.
By the time Devon took the stage, the only Drunken WooHoo Guy in the whole room had positioned himself at my right ear. I must have done something very, very wicked in a prior life.
Enough of that. For even WooHoo Guy could not dampen my enjoyment of the splendid and fine throw-down to come from Allman and company. Allman has long fronted the great Honeytribe and just returned from a year on the road with his band, Royal Southern Brotherhood, whose self-titled album, Allman told the crowd, had been nominated for a 2013 Blues Music Award for Best Rock Blues CD.
Allman seemed very relaxed and glad to be among what were, obviously, his people. He spoke of leaner days when he played the Landing -- and paid four dollars to park and had one person show up to the show, netting two dollars for the night -- and seemed genuinely grateful for the support that was so obvious in the room.
He's a good looking lad. You see his father in his Blues/Orgasm face. If he'd shave his short beard into muttonchops, he'd look almost creepily like his uncle Skydog. But his playing is his own. Look, unless you're Buddy Guy or B.B. King, the blues are derivative. That doesn't matter. It's a form to be built on. What matters is that you find your own stamp. I think that not finding his superpowers until later on really helped Allman find a place of his own.
Allman's band was absolutely at the top of their game. Guitarist Bobby Schneck Jr., who looked like Garth Algar if you left him in the dryer too long, was formidable and could front an outfit of his own. Pedro Arevalo was strong all night on bass and played a solo that was reminiscent of seeing Jaco play with Joni in 1978. Anthony Nanney rounded out the group on drums and he, too, played a solo that was inventive and unpredictable. I know: "bass and drum solos?" Hey, it worked.
The set list was, of course, heavy with the songs from the new CD and that worked, too, because the album rocks. It burst onto the Billboard Blues chart at number five and was listed as a Hot Shot Debut by the same group earlier in March and sales are, according to Allman, brisk.
The best song of the night, for me and a lot of swaying, swooning girls, was the sweetly beautiful "Melissa," which Allman introduced by saying, "My old man wrote this song in 1969." The band ended the show with a non-reggae version of "No Woman, No Cry" but came back quickly with buddy Stokes joining the band on the encore of "Cocaine" and a blistering version of "One Way Out."
Looking around the room, with the musicians from all three acts mingling with their adoring friends and fans, I have to smile at the bright lights thrown on us all. We'd been rocked.
And so I leave, happy to report that two of my three expectations were met. They didn't have green beer.