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Apr 10, 2018 12:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Devon Allman Project Set To Ride Into Westhampton Beach

Devon Allman. COURTESY EMILY GINSBERG
Apr 10, 2018 12:07 PM

Nearly one year ago, the world of rock music lost one of its longest-running Southern sultans in Gregg Allman. The founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, who helped bring Southern rock to the masses in the 1970s with albums including “Eat a Peach” and the iconic live record “At Fillmore East,” died on May 27 after a battle with liver cancer. His death was met with great sadness by fans and musicians alike, but one person used that grief and turned it into something new: his son Devon.“After the first month or two of coming to grips with my father’s passing, I decided to put my energy into really re-inventing myself,” Mr. Allman said during a recent interview.

That energy has morphed into The Devon Allman Project, a new six-piece rock outfit led by Mr. Allman that will be making a stop at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 20. This will be the fourth stop in the band’s inaugural tour, set to make stops throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia. The band is set to play a series of cover songs along with music from Mr. Allman’s prior music catalog.

Speaking over the phone in March before the tour began, Mr. Allman was in the midst of both rehearsing with his band and overseeing the business-side of the tour.

“It gets insane and it takes a village, but this is a passion of mine and I like to know what’s going on,” Mr. Allman said.

The Devon Allman Project has a lot going on in its musical stew. According to Mr. Allman, there are hints of rock, soul, blues and country with a “jazzy flavor on top” mixing the band’s chemistry together. Mr. Allman says fans of Tom Petty and Al Green will have no problem grooving to the music, compared to his older band Honeytribe, which he described as a “turn the volume up and jam” type band. Mr. Allman said that the band has been doing one-off gigs from last October up until now to test out how the band sounded live and gelled onstage. He went on to say that this current band is his favorite of his entire career because of how skilled the musicians are.

“As a musician, you’re always wanting to evolve and you’re always wanting to change,” Mr. Allman said. “I love how [Eric] Clapton was in Blind Faith and the Yardbirds and then the solo stuff and Derek and the Dominos. He was always kind of seen in a different light. That’s the way to keep things interesting.”

Before The Devon Allman Project takes the stage, audiences will be treated to a 30-minute opening set featuring the band’s rhythm section plus guitarist John Satchela Jr. and Duane Betts, the son of another Allman Brothers Band founder, Dickie Betts. Duane Betts and Mr. Satchela will then join The Devon Allman Project after the main show for a 30-minute encore. It certainly won’t be the first time the sons of the elder Mr. Allman and Mr. Betts have jammed together, as Devon Allman said that he’s known the younger Mr. Betts since 1989, when the two were, as he put it, “looking for girls and trying to sneak whiskey.”

“Over the years, we’d run into each other and jam,” Mr. Allman said. “Now he’s ready to stick his neck out there and play for the people. I also know it’s something that’ll make a lot of people happy to see an Allman and a Betts play together onstage.”

While Mr. Allman wasn’t too keen on discussing the set list (“You want people to be surprised by the set,” he said), he and Mr. Betts are expected to play songs from the Allman Brothers Band catalog. Less than a year removed from his father’s death, playing his father’s music is “two-sided,” Mr. Allman said.

“On the emotional side, it’s very hard,” he said. “I’ve almost wept while playing ‘Melissa’ because I’m personally bummed out that I’ll never hear him sing that again. On the musical side, it’s not hard at all. It’s my job to play it and it’s my job to play it well. It’s to honor the memory and the legacy of my father.”

No matter how hard it might be to play some songs, Mr. Allman knows how to craft a show that the audience can enjoy whether they’re longtime rock fans or first-time listeners.

“I think it’s important to treat it like you would a film, a movie script or Shakespeare,” Mr. Allman said. “You want to come out and pop into the place, then build a story and you want to have some tension and release. I always try to craft a set around what I think will provide that tension and release. You build it up and build it up, then you make your final statement.”

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