Live At The Atlanta International Pop Festival

The Allman Brothers Band

Epic, 2003

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


So imagine you're 19 and stoned and hanging out in the blistering heat of Byron, Georgia in July 1970. You missed Woodstock – it was too far north – but you've heard about the Atlanta International Pop Festival, now in its second year, and you want to be part of the vibe.

You and your friends read the program; except for the Dead, every jam and blues band you like will make an appearance. Hendrix is coming down. B.B. King, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Mountain and some weirdo named Captain Beefheart will be here. And the hometown band from over in Macon, the Allman Brothers, will open and close the show.

The Allmans has been around for a year and have one album out, but they're a long way off from making major inroads yet; their brilliant slide guitarist, Duane, still does session work so the band has some sort of steady income. But their debut was amazing; you grooved to “Dreams,” you felt the passion and heat of “Whipping Post,” you saw the interpretations of blues standards from the black artists to whom the Brothers is indebted, and you felt something special was in the air.

So July 3 rolls around, about three in the afternoon, and the Allmans take the stage. They launch into the five-note stuttering riff of Blind Willie McTell's “Statesboro Blues,” which would become a fairly standard concert opener. They race through “Trouble No More,” a solid version of “Dreams,” a song called “Every Hungry Woman” that wouldn't officially surface until 1998, a blazing take on Willie Dixon's “Hoochie Coochie Man” and a long, groove-centric instrumental you haven't heard yet called “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” You're happy later in the year when the studio version of that makes it on the band's second album, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Idlewild South.

The menace and drama of “Whipping Post” is stretched out to 14 minutes here and every minute is astounding; less so is the 17-minute “Mountain Jam,” which is broken up by a rain delay and which shows the band clearly having fun but doesn't quite have the staying power of the other tracks. No matter; you're wet, you're high, this is one of the greatest live bands you've ever seen, and there are naked people roaming around. Groovy.

You come back two days later for the Allman's closing set. They play four of the same songs, including an extremely long “Mountain Jam,” as well as do a good take on T-Bone Walker's “Stormy Monday” and Gregg Allman's “Don't Keep Me Wonderin.” You notice some very subtle changes between the versions and you realize this is a stellar live band honing its chops, communicating musically with each other as they prepare to take the country by storm.

One year later, you pick up a double live album called At Fillmore East and, the year after, the double album Eat A Peach, which features live songs not on the original Fillmore album. You realize these are the definitive statements of this period in the band's existence and that East is perhaps the greatest live album ever released, or at least in the top five. In 2003, you pick this one up to remember your time at the festival, the time when the Allmans were ascending but still the cool, kinda weird long-haired hippies right down I-75, and you realize that although it doesn't differ too much from the live releases already out there, it is still a wonderful snapshot of a weekend in time with two great performances from one of the greatest blues-rock bands ever.

You then remember comedian Ron White's comment that there are two bands in the world: the Allman Brothers Band, and Not The Allman Brothers Band. You realize just how true that is.

Rating: B+

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