The tribute band is led by a gifted musician and longtime fan who believes authenticity is what fans want most.
When Lou Maresca was a New Jersey kid in his teens back in the early 70’s, growing up in Soprano Land, he’d seen the original Allman Brothers Band play many times, at venues mostly in his home state of Jersey.
But he never expected what he would witness when he ventured across the Hudson into Manhattan with a couple buddies to see the band play Bill Graham’s heralded Fillmore East, which was soon to close. Yes, it was 1971, and yes, the show he saw was considered the best of those shows from that now legendary run that ended up birthing one of rock’s greatest live albums ever, Live at the Fillmore East.
“I’d seen them before, many times, but this show, this one was different,” said Maresca, founder and leader of what many ABB fans feel is the best reincarnation of and tribute to the original Allman Brothers Band on the planet, Live At The Fillmore, who plays DC’s The Hamilton and Maryland’s The Soundry on Dec 26th and 27th respectively. “There was something very special and profound about that Saturday night show, it encompassed everything the band was about in one performance, more than any of the other Allman Brothers shows I’d seen before.”
And what a lasting impact it would have on Maresca, a lifelong one, in fact. Not only would he start up possibly the first Allman Brothers tribute band ever called Skydog — Duane Allman’s nickname — as that Jersey teen back in the early 70’s, but around 40+ years later, amidst a career as a successful sound technician and designer, musical colleagues and friends would say, “Hey man, you’re too good to not be playing all the time!” That’s when he recalled those intense feelings from the Fillmore years ago so deeply that he would be compelled to create the quintessential Allman Brothers tribute band now in their 10th year and selling out venues nationwide, heck, even selling out venues at sea on some of those packed nostalgic rock cruises.
“Some people on the Southern Rock Cruise website were posting after this last one that they thought the best moment of the whole cruise was when Live At The Fillmore played ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,’ ” said Maresca. “That’s my favorite song to play, and really brings together what the band is all about, the blending of all those six guys to create such magic. Plus to stand out when you have Southern Rock bands like Marshall Tucker, .38 Special, Atlanta Rhythm Section and Molly Hatchet on board? Wow.”
According to Maresca, 64, who plays most of the Duane Allman parts and sings the Gregg Allman-voiced tunes, the key to Live At The Fillmore is that the band doesn’t deviate much at all from the original recordings of the Allman Brothers live, referring mainly to that legendary Fillmore run that Maresca saw and is the band’s namesake. He feels very passionately that fans want to experience the vibe and sound of the original band, and that’s often reinforced by the feedback the band consistently gets.
“Most people don’t want to see us reinvent the wheel,” Maresca said. “They want to hear exactly what has stayed in their mind for all these years. So it’s really the authenticity that makes it special. And we hope that after they see us, it’ll stay in their mind even longer.”
Through the early evolution of Live At The Fillmore, it’s been a mantra of Maresca’s that the players learn to replicate the songs verbatum, a mantra some can embrace, and some can’t.
“The guys who are in the band now get it, but there have been guys who were great players, but didn’t want to play the same thing every night, so they moved on. For me, it’s a matter of integrating rather than infiltrating. We want to bring the seven of us together to reproduce the original sound, not bring a whole lot of extra improvisation or playing to those original versions.”
Maresca is the first to admit that no band — not even the incarnations of Allman Brothers Bands that have kept coming after the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley shortly after that Fillmore East run back when — could match the dynamic precision and overall chemistry of that original lineup, the one that lived in that Big House in Macon, trying to get their careers going and creating their sound. And the Fillmore East performances are when the band first coalesced, when they really captured the bonafide power and glory of what would end up being the best live band ever.
That’s precisely why Maresca strives to reproduce that music as authentically as possible, to fill his soul as a player, as well as the souls of longtime Allman Brothers fans.
“You can never replace Duane, Berry and Dickey (Betts). But we do our best to bring that original sound to life. Some Allman Brothers Band hard core fans have said we sound more like the original ABB than even any later version of the band. We do work really hard to bring the music home to where it should be, so people can feel the passion.”
Live At The Fillmore performs Wednesday December 26th at The Hamilton, 600 14th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20005, for tickets click here. The band performs Thursday December 27th at The Soundry, 10221 Wincopin Circle, Columbia, MD 21044. For tickets, click here.