Eat a peach on Town Green
MANCHESTER >> Sometimes circles do reach a full turn.
One example of that could be the concert The Battenkillers, a local rock band, will perform next Tuesday, Aug. 9 at the Town Green.
They will be playing all the songs from a full-length album originally recorded in 1971-72; "Eat a Peach," by The Allman Brothers Band. It's become a bit of a tradition for the group to stage a show at the Town Green by playing all the songs in sequence from a classic and artistically successful recording — previous efforts have included "Dark Side of the Moon," by Pink Floyd, "Exile on Main Street," by The Rolling Stones and "London Calling" by The Clash.
"My dad loves the Allman Brothers, and I grew up listening to them," said Geoff Chamberlain, one of the guitarists in The Battenkillers. "I always wanted to play the twin guitar harmonies."
The Allmans still tour occasionally, although nothing like they did in their early 1970s heyday when they were always on the road. One of their Vermont stops back then included Burlington in 1971, when they performed at the University of Vermont for the school's winter carnival. The Georgia-based sextet, with a somewhat unusual lineup of two drummers, two lead guitars, bass and keyboards are widely credited with being the first to pull together and define a "southern rock" sound that went on to be widely imitated over the next two decades, although purists might argue that no other group brought to the genre the sheer skill and musical virtuosity that the Allmans did at their creative peak. They blended elements of jazz and blues into their compositions, and were accoladed for their long improvisional pieces as well as their shorter, punchier ones. One of the aspects of their sound that set them apart were the two lead guitarists, Duane Allman, the group's bandleader, and Dicky Betts, who often synchronized their riffs or weaved in and out of each other. No other group at the time offered that — sort of like what the Grateful Dead would have been like if there had been two Jerry Garcias.
So when Chamberlain was referring to the twin guitar harmonies, that means two guitars playing the same note — or something complementary — at the same time, often very fast. If that sounds hard, it's because it is.
The two drummer line up was unconventional too — multiple percussionists were still the exception back then.
As The Battenkillers began contemplating what to play this coming year after taking a year off in 2015, they faced a manpower problem — one of their members, Matt Langan, was on a long-term business commitment in Spain and unable to rehearse. So during an event at the Perfect Wife Restaurant last December to help raise funds to finish the new bandstand pavillion on the Town Green, Chamberlain approached Lee Romano, a bass player with "Don't Leave," another local band, to see if he would be interested in performing with them. Both were performing at The Perfect Wife that night with different groups. It was just a general idea, with no particular album in mind, Chamberlain said.
"Then he (Chamberlain) called and said 'we're thinking of doing Eat a Peach,'" Romano said. "So I said, 'when do we start?' It's a classic and it's stood the test of time."
But that still left them needing a second drummer to complement Dan Scarlotta, the Battenkillers regular drummer. The solution was obvious — Mike Meaney, Don't Leave's drummer.
This will be the first time Meaney will play in a double-drummer lineup, he said.
"It's actually pretty cool," he said. "You're trying to complement what the other guy is doing, for a fuller sound,"
So a project that got launched during one fundraiser to help build the bandstand and pavilion will now come to fruition at the very site that spawned the concept. Only the pavilion's roof remains to be completed, with more fundraising to follow. Those efforts will include another concert scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28, from 1-4 p.m., also at the Town Green, where The Battenkillers and "friends" will reprise the "Eat a Peach" performance set for next Tuesday, in addition to other songs they'll perform.
As originally recorded by the Allman Brothers in 1971, Eat a Peach is a double album, with a mix of live tracks and studio recordings. The signature track from the album is "Mountain Jam," a 33 minute-long piece built off a song originally composed by Donovan, an English folk artist from the 1960s, who enjoyed some modest commercial success — one of them was a tune he called "First There is a Mountain." The Allmans expanded upon that, incorporating long drum and bass soloes, which will be cut back in the version The Battenkillers will perform, and the piece will run about 15 minutes, Chamberlain said.
Several other tracks from the album went on to become instant classics. "One Way Out," a blues tune originally composed by Sonny Boy Williamson, features some searing guitar work, especially by Betts, but also showed off Duane Allman's brilliance as a slide guitarist. "Blue Sky," a country-flavored love song composed by Betts showed the pair at their peak when playing the twin guitar lines, as well as extended and elegantly melodic soloes.
The album straddled the first epic moment of tragedy endured by the Allman Brothers Band. As they were recording the album, Duane Allman, their leader and older brother of Gregg Allman, who still performs with the group, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Further tragedy struck the following year, when Berry Oakley, their bass player, was killed in an eerily similar accident, in almost the same location.
The band regrouped after Allman's death and finished the project. Three of the studio tracks are with Duane, including a haunting acoustic solo piece titled "Little Martha." Three other studio tracks, which composed side 1 of the four-sided album back in the vinyl era, were recorded after Duane's death.
The Battenkillers will start off with those songs, then move to the ones on side 3 which include "One Way Out" and "Blue Sky," then finish with Mountain Jam.
It will be the first time Romano has ever done a full length album project like this, he said.
"The difference is, as a result of the work you put in getting the songs prepared, you get to understand a lot about the band and their songwriting and the modes they're playing and the unique kind of stops that you wouldn't recognize if you were just doing one or two of the songs," he said. "You run through a whole album and you start to appreciate the nuances and how they played and how the music was written."
The concert will start at 6 p.m. The Battenkillers include, in addition to Chamberlain and Scarlotta, Scott McCampbell on guitar and Patrick Zilkha on keyboards. Romano and Meaney will be back at the Town Green the following week with their regular band, Don't Leave, on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
It shouldn't take too long to know if things are going well with their performance, Chamberlain said.
"We'll see how many people raise their lighters, or lighter apps, and we'll see what happens," he said.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.