Saturday, January 11, 2014

No. 145 – In Memory of Elizabeth Reed

Performer: The Allman Brothers Band
Songwriter: Dickey Betts
Original Release: Idlewild South
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Live at Great Woods, 1992.

I read something a week or so ago that made me think. You might have seen that the recent playoff game in Green Bay was close to not being a sellout, which seems amazing: When have you ever heard of a football game in Green Bay not selling out? I’m sure it’s been a while.

The official excuse was plausible—that the Packers’ playoff hopes were all but dead when tickets went on sale—but so was the unsaid one that several folks online mentioned: It costs too much to go to a football game only to be surrounded by obnoxious drunks. In this age of 60-inch hi-def TVs, why bother?

That got me to thinking about rock concerts. I’ve sworn off shows at outdoor amphitheaters mostly due to horrific traffic, and I can see myself swearing off shows at any large venue at some point in the not too distant future for a multitude of reasons—mostly that rock shows, like the music itself, is a young person’s game. But it could just as easily be for the same reason as fans weren’t rushing to buy NFL playoff tickets—exorbitant prices combined with doltish drunks.

Which brings me to this song. I’ve never been in a real fight and certainly nothing past the age of 12, but the closest I ever came was at Polaris Amphitheater when I saw The Allman Brothers Band in 1996, during this song, of all moments.

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed was for a long time my favorite Allman Brothers song. I loved the progression of it: 6 minutes in the studio; 13 minutes on Fillmore East; 19 minutes on Great Woods. The night I saw them in Columbus, they pushed this song to its outer limits. If it wasn’t 30 minutes long, I’d be shocked. For sure, it had to be the longest song I’ve ever heard a band play live—including Genesis and ELP.

Debbie and I sat in the amphitheater, as opposed to on the lawn, and you’d think that that would diminish the alcohol-fueled loutism. You’d be wrong. Unfortunately, the seats next to ours were empty as the show kicked off with the inevitable Statesboro Blues. This became obvious as the show progressed, and eventually a couple of dudes moved into the seats. These guys were into drinking and being at a show. The Allman Brothers themselves? Not so much.

Well, as you might imagine, the imbibery took its natural course, and one of the dudes slumped down in a seat—the seat next to mine—and passed out. I’ve been nearby passed-out drunks at a concert, and it’s not a big deal, unless they go from passed out to puking … like this dude.

Yes, right as this jam really got rolling on stage, the drunken doofus started spilling his guts. Well, that brought Polaris security over in a jiffy. Soon, two employees showed up with a bucket and a mop and mopped up everything—all while the Allmans were just blazing away on this song (that’s how long it was)—and then left … and left the said doofus in his seat! What the effing eff? Get him out of here!!

So, I told Debbie, loudly, that if said doofus ralphed again, I was going to beat the rest of the alcohol out of him. (If he had gotten any on me the first time, it already would’ve been a done deal.) Soon after that, his buddy whisked him away—finally. Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—my concert experience had been ruined, but what did Polaris care as long as the concrete in the amphitheater was clean?

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