Time of the Season
Benjamin Franklin once said that “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes,” but if he was around today, I bet he’d amend that statement to include the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon. For as long as I can remember, the Allman Brothers have taken over the Beacon each March and, for as long as I’ve been gone to see live music, I’ve made at least one pilgrimage to the Upper West Side to catch their annual residency. As a teenager, I remember eagerly running out of high-school to catch a train into the big city and as a slightly jaded New Yorker, I remember weighing the pros-and-cons of ordering an omelet at the diner next door or catching the Allman’s first song (in the end extra Warren beat out extra cheese).
Over the past nine years I think I’ve sat in every single section of the Beacon possible, from backstage to the back row in the upper balcony, and gone with almost everyone I’ve know, from my parents to my, at the time, permanent + 1 (be sure to bounce around the Greenhaus Effect archives for a full review of that glorious night of misplaced neuroses). I’ve gone late, left early, lingered after hours and, even, once, spent an entire afternoon before the show podcasting (or at least geeking) with ABB guru Kirk West. I’ve seen them play with Fillmore icon Johnny Winter, jazz sensation David Sanborn and American Idol champ Taylor Hicks (and that was all just in one night) and reported on the appearances of everyone from Roy Haynes to Taj Mahal to Bruce Willis to Bernie Williams to Duane Allman (or at least Dickey Betts the year the run fell on April 1st). And, through all that, I’ve only held one rule as absolute gospel: only digest one ABB show per season. With the exception of 2005’s Big House Benefit, I’ve done a pretty good job at adhering to this seasonal diet, no so much because I’m full, but because early on I observed that the more time you spend at the Beacon, the more you begin to look like an Allman Brother (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
That is, of course, until this spring.
Sometime last summer I began to hear mumblings that the Beacon had been sold and that the Allman Brothers Band’s annual residency was nearing the end. I began to panic, as if baseball had been cancelled, and bought enough seats to consider myself a season ticket-holder. In all honesty, I’ve never been a fan of baseball, mostly because I feel like I’m stuck in the stands whenever my friends start talking about fantasy baseball, but I can’t deny the cyclical beauty of the game—-one of the few pastimes my grandparents would truly understand. And, much like the Allman Brothers Band’s annual trip to the Beacon, there is an understated beauty in the idea that, as much as things change, certain constants remain the same and that —-global warming pendingthe arrival of the Allman Brothers Band signifies the arrival of spring. Even though I’m never quite sure who or what to expect when I enter the Beacon each March (except an extended trip to the bathroom during “drums” and a second beer during Oteil’s scat), it’s comforting to know that it’s there, counting down the years like a Turkey on Thanksgiving or heartburn after Passover dinner.
In May it will have been four years—-and entire college cycle—-since I graduated from Skidmore and, more than anytime since I picked up my diploma I feel as if my community is in a state of flux. Friends are leaving, friends are arriving, friends are breaking up, friends are getting married, having kids, buying apartments, graduating from grad school, taping over their Phish cassettes with Arcade Fire bootlegs. It’s not only clicho say the more things change the more they stay the same, it’s plain wrong. In fact, something it feels like everything is changing—-growing, evolving—-but certain constants remain the same, small reminders that the worlds been around far longer than anyone I know (except maybe my parents). I’ve been told that one’s twenties are a time of constant transition as people grow up, find failure and stumble into success (or at least real life) and each year I’ve found myself grasping tighter and together on those few remaining seasonal constants. It’s funny how on the same day I can feel both old and young, rich and poor, quiet and loud, a failure and a success, simply depending on my surrounding. But I guess that’s the beauty of living in transition, drifting between beer pong and baby showers on alternate evenings, all the while bouncing between tax brackets like peaks in my favorite “Piper.”
It feels only fitting that I finished this column the same week Tonic, one of New York’s last avant-garde strongholds, closed its doors, the latest victim of Lower East Side gentrification. When I first moved to New York I spent many nights in that box shaped room, dipping my toes into a scene I can only describe as the jam-genre’s older, slightly more worldly brother. And, though I like to joke that you can’t hit a hanger against a drum and call it music like you used to, it was still nice to know its there, stretching the boundaries of what is considered art and, frankly, what is considered music (heck, even I enjoy watching a musician play his guitar without touching a string every once and a while).
It also feels fitting that yesterday another friend forwarded me this post from Gawker about my alma matter’s increased footprint in New York:
One of the nicer things about the Lower East Side is that it isn't Park Slope. Sadly, that nice thing became a little less true with the news that the Cocoa Bar will be opening at the end of April down at 21 Clinton Street. Those of you who've had the misfortune of stumbling on the original 7th Avenue Cocoa Bar in Park Slope might know what this arrival heralds. Dave Matthew's “Crash Into Me blaring through shitty speakers, a barista with dreadlocks and a kerchief (signed by Trey, if you're lucky) indolently doling out lattes with a malicious I-went-to-Skidmore glint in her eye. In the corner, meanwhile, two mothers passive aggressively share baby stories while their tots systematically pour coffee on the laptops of the other customers. A boob comes out, an infant suckles. Hello, reverse suburbanification. Brooklyn is winning the game.
As much as it pains me to admit, it’s often difficult to point fingers in New York’s great struggle with gentrification and, even after the “below 14th St.” world I call my home has swallowed my three favorite clubs, I still can’t put my finger on exactly who is right (except Mike Gordon and Al Gore) and who is wrong (except Trey Anastasio and George W. Bush, but what else is new). If the Fillmore East hadn’t closed, there may never have been a Wetlands and if the Wetlands was still around there might not be a Rocks Off boat cruise. And, while “reverse suburbanification” may indeed be the proto-post-jam of the real estate industry (alas, I almost made it through a column without evoking my favorite hyphen), it’s proof that clubs seems to come and go with the seasons, seeding new sub-styles for dorks like me to waste hours upon hours annotating on Wikipedia (once again, global warming pending).
Indeed, though I fear it more than a “Shine” second-set closer, change is one of the few constants in everyday life and perhaps the only thing I can truly count on with absolute certainty as I enter my ninth semester of real life. That is, of course, until next season’s pilgrimage to the Beacon.
Despite catching the Allman Brothers Band four times this season, Senior Editor Mike Greenhaus managed to turn in his taxes on time.