When Gregg Allman announced earlier this month that he was canceling tour dates through October 16th to deal with “serious health issues” at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, it left a major void in the lineup of the Peach Music Festival. The fifth year of the music and camping fest, launched by the Allman Brothers in 2012 and held in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was set to feature a headlining performance last night by Allman.
In the end, it took more than one artist to fill the shoes of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. Colorado jam masters the String Cheese Incident, who were set to perform a collaborative set with Allman, joined several Allman Brothers Band alumni for an ensemble dubbed the “Allman Brothers Family Incident.” (Watch the group perform “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” below.)
Buzz about the set was as abundant as the humidity in the muggy Northeastern Pennsylvania air. Early in the day, fans chattered about what to expect from the collaboration, but when the impromptu “supergroup” took the stage, they drew the largest crowd the festival had seen since kicking off Thursday night.
String Cheese Incident appeared first with original Allmans drummer Jaimoe behind a kit, and SCI guitar player and songwriter Bill Nershi addressing the crowd. “As you know, Gregg has fallen on ill health,” he said. “We threw this thing together as sort of a big get-well card.”
Opening with “Statesboro Blues,” they eventually segued into “Midnight Rider,” taking the song to climactic moments of jam tension without overly embellishing Allman’s signature tune. It was an epic tribute, tastefully transposed.
Throughout the set, the ensemble called up numerous guests from both the Allman Brothers and the Gregg Allman Band: Bruce Katz, Oteil Burbridge, Marc Quinones and Jaimoe’s drumming counterpart Butch Trucks. Songs ranged from a soft delivery of “Melissa” and a rambunctious “Jessica” to a rocking performance of SCI’s “Outside and Inside” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo.”
The highlight, however, was a spirited run-through of “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” With SCI’s Nershi on vocals, and Trucks, Burbridge, Katz and Pearson sitting in, it was an especially poignant moment. Pearson took off on a sultry Southern blues-solo that would have made Duane Allman smile, building to a climax of high-fret slide work before taking a turn back toward laid-back grooviness.
Near the end of the set, with the spirit of the absent Allman looming large, Nershi asked for “as much love as humanly possible” for the ailing icon. The noise that followed was the signature on the musical get-well card. If the good vibes offered didn’t necessarily heal, they served as one hell of a sincere prayer.