STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Wynnewood guitarist and singer Lou Maresca was in the audience at the final show for New York’s Fillmore East Auditorium in 1971.
The Allman Brothers Band was the featured act. Just three months before that night, The Allman Brothers — who still had Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and Dickey Betts in the lineup — gave what some fans and rock critics consider their greatest performances ever. There was a certain energy, and in-the-zone epic jams, which got captured on the double album “At Fillmore East.” In 2014, all the stops got pulled out for the six-CD “1971 Fillmore East Recordings” box set of four complete concerts. There’s even an Allman Brothers Fillmore East three-disc concert Blu-ray.
That concert from June ‘71 left such an indelible impression on Maresca that he put together an Allman Brothers tribute band called Skydog that same year. Seven years ago, he formed a band called Live at the Fillmore, devoted to performing the sounds of the Allman Brothers specific to 1969-1973.
Although Maresca says “every Allman Brothers show I went to was a great musical experience,” they weren’t quite so musically transcendent or sublime as that summer night at the Fillmore. There was an electricity in the guitar interplay between Allman (who died in October 1971 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident) and Betts (who had a bitter split with the band in 2000) and how drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson were “playing off each other.” Bassist Berry Oakley, who died in 1972, “was like a third guitarist” in his approach to his instrument, he said.
Live at the Fillmore’s bassist, Hatfield resident Mike Mahomet, said that learning Oakley’s parts and matching his tone “took a lot of hours under the headphones.”
The equipment used by the Delaware Valley-based septet is either of that vintage, or modified to replicate the sound. “As they’re leaving, people are thanking us for taking them back in time,” Mahomet said.
Live at the Fillmore’s sets include the Betts-composed classic rock radio staples, “Blue Sky,” “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica,” as well as selections from “At Fillmore East.” Maresca and Mahomet both named the instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” as their favorite by the Allmans.
“For people that didn’t experience that personally … they’ll experience the origins of all that music. Some of the songs have signature parts and you have to play them literally. (Audiences) shout things out because they know what’s going to happen next (from the Allman Brothers recordings). When they’re on their feet and jumping up and down at the ends of songs, the first time you see that you’re kind of stunned,” Maresca said.
The other members of Live at the Fillmore are Barron Chandler on acoustic guitars, harmonica and vocals; Rick Baldassari on guitar and vocals; Jeff Quattro on organ, piano and vocals; and Dennis Barth and Don McCormick, both on drums and percussion.
“Fortunately, the guys in this band are already great players. The thing people comment the most about is the degree of authenticity. The compliments that have meant the most are from people that heard the original band,” he said. That includes Georgia audiences that have included Allman Brothers Band family members, friends, neighbors and former crew members.
“We’ve been all up and down the East Coast and playing some nice rooms, and meeting some great people,” Mahomet commented.