A Tale of Three Cities  Part 1 Following the Allman Betts Band

A Tale of Three Cities
Part 1 Following the Allman Betts Band on tour

By Kirk Anderson

“It was the best of times,

It was the worst of times …”

So starts Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” a story of a life deprived in lockdown and then released back to an uncertain life.

Third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching throughout our planet.  “…the worst of times.”

Live music is again cautiously coming back and there’s new music.  “…the best of times.”

If you missed the articles about the Allman Betts Band’s musical history and previewing the postponed 2020 tour, please take a few minutes to go back and learn about this band as well as the articles of music history that have been assembled by the band to form a new project that looks to be with us for years into the future. May 2020 and September 2021 Washington Blues Society’s Bluesletter and September 2021 Cascade Blues Association’s Blues Notes.

This article, Part 1, and the complementary article in the Washington Blues Society’s next Bluesletter, Part 2, will cover the shows themselves. We’ll also look at the venues and the music communities around the venues that supported the tour.  I had promised interviews with the band members but this turned out to be impossible due to the bubble around the band which keeps the tour rolling.

As the tour rolled toward the West Coast, rumblings of the delta wave of the COVID-19 pandemic saw different bands canceling or postponing tentative tour plans until 2022. The Allman Betts Band tour turned northward in California amid more tour cancellations and postponements.  Would it happen again?

Nope. History did not repeat and as the tour came to the PNW, the tour picked up opening duo The River Kittens out of St. Louis and the current project for the former guitarist for the Black Crowes, the Marc Ford Band.

Well in a demonstration of their desire to work past their fathers’ coattails and earn what came their way on their own, they kept performing.  They did not let audiences down until the Neptune Theater had to cancel the Seattle date due to positive COVID-19 tests from a band that had recently played the venue.  For the protection of everyone, they had to cancel several weeks of shows, including the Allman Betts Band.

The band didn’t flinch and added a show at the Blues Bender in Las Vegas to their 80-gig tour. This added an extra 1,500 miles to the tour (with no extra travel days) and made me wonder how prepared they would be for the Spokane show.

Century Center – Bend, Oregon

A Tale of Three Cities  Part 1 Following the Allman Betts Band

Bend’s Century Center is in the southwestern portion of Bend just a few blocks from the Deschutes River as it runs north through the Cascade Range to the Columbia River.  Century Center Bend is more of a pop-up amphitheater that was becoming a regular part of Bend’s music community when the pandemic hit.  Scheduling only four concerts in 2021, Century Center’s concerts were rare and unique as a more personal venue than the Les Schwab Amphitheater, where the Dave Matthews Band was playing this same night.

Neither venue was taking any chances with the pandemic. Both required attendees to either show proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Balancing state regulations with community rules, Century Center’s staffers were strict at the doors, but also provided a safe-within-reason and intimate feeling inside.

As the River Kittens came out first, there was still light in the sky. A duo playing mandolin and acoustic guitar and trading off vocals, the term Americana came back into focus. Devon Allman had mentioned in several interviews for their second album that he considered the Allman Betts Band’s genre to be Americana.

Second on the bill was the Marc Ford Band. Ford, who played two stints with the Black Crowes, is the winner of an NAACP award for his work with Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama album, “There Will Be Light.”  Interestingly enough, the trio also included Berry Duane Oakley (do you remember that Berry Duane Oakley is the bass player for the Allman Betts Band?) on bass. Marc and Berry have a long musical relationship, going back to their stint together in the mid-’90s in Blue Floyd along with Allen Woody (guitar), Matt Abts (drums) and on one tour, Johnny Neel (keyboards).

Speaking of keyboards, John Ginty (déjà vu — do you remember that Ginty is the keyboardist for the Allman Betts Band?) came out for several songs to provide some extra meat to the proceedings.

As the Allman Betts Band came out, it was fully dark outside and the Vari-Lites lit up the stage and the stage-wide screen behind the band lit up with the band logo. The setup at Century Center meant there were a few picnic tables set up around the highest end of the amphitheater, but unless you were sitting atop a short wall, you were going to have to stand and dance. Those who needed to sit found their places and the music started.

Dancing — OMG there was dancing. The fans seemed in touch with the music and hot to let go.  For a new band with only two CDs, the crowd seemed very familiar with the songs from “Down to the River” and “Bless Your Heart.” As Devon Allman sang the single, “Down To the River,” his call and response for the titular chorus to the crowd was met with amazing participation.

As most good bands will, the Allman Betts Band added a few covers such as “Shakedown Street” from the Grateful Dead and “Purple Rain” from Prince. Dancing — OMG there was dancing … and singing along.  As I’ve seen since my first concert back in early July, people’s initial apprehension about being out in public subsided as the music started and memories of good times past flowed.

The addition of popular songs from two of the band’s influences had them hitting a note with the fans as they built to another plateau and  gave the fans what they wanted — a few covers of the Allman Brothers Band. I did not expect the incredibly interesting mix of original material and covers.  All of the songs had tight, professional feels but also had some Allman Betts Band originality added to the mix.

Being an amphitheater set in the middle of town meant tight sound ordinances for a Wednesday night.  Fortunately, after all of that dancing, the dumpling truck in the back of the amphitheater was still open.

Roseland Theater – Portland

The Roseland Theater building has been in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown area since it started as the Apostolic Faith Church in 1922. All of the labor needed to build this church was donated by the community. After many years of serving the community, the church eventually closed and in the early 1980s, it became a music venue for the first time. The old Starry Night fulfilled the need for a medium-sized venue for the early music scene in Portland.

In the early 1970s seminal Pacific Northwest promoter David Leiken had hung out his promoter shingle for good booking acts across Oregon and Washington. David took a few minutes to talk to me about his promoting past and the Roseland Theater as part of the music community now.  He said two things that are relevant to the person buying a ticket. “To stay relevant you have to care and stay on top of the minutia,” he said. “Every individual ticket holder is as important as each individual staff member and each individual artist.”

In the 1990s, the building and David Leiken became linked as David’s Double Tee Promotions purchased and renovated both floors of the facility and the eclectic mix of artists took the stages. Artists from small, local bands to huge international acts have graced its stages and fans seem to understand how important this old-school venue is to the music community.

With a later curfew, the Thursday night show started at 8 p.m., again with the River Kittens. Again the clean, stripped-down sound filled the theater with attention-getting lyrics and instrumentation with so much feeling. Hearing their short set inside of a theater instead of outdoors at an amphitheater gave a different dimension to their sound. Listen up, dudes, one of their tunes has direct advice to you.

The Marc Ford Band was again up as the trio ran through a short set of songs punctuated by blistering guitar solos at times and rhythm guitar at others. Playing his Signature model Asher guitar through the show ended up giving a nice change of tone as Johnny Stachela (do you remember that Johnny is one of the three guitar players in the Allman Betts Band?) brought out his Gibson SG to sit in on Marc’s set. As was the case from the night before in Bend, John Ginty came out to sit in on a couple of tunes with the Marc Ford Band.

As the Allman Betts Band started their set, the energy in the theater grew. The 2020 pandemic tour suspension just prior to the PNW run had made the anticipation that much greater.

This night’s set list included three songs from their first CD, “Down to the River,” nine songs from their current CD, “Bless Your Heart” and four covers (one from a Donald Fagan solo effort outside of Steely Dan and three from the Allman Brothers Band). The Allman Betts Band again proved that fans know the original material, and not just because the band has been through town several times per year.  This was their first show in Portland, but fans still knew the original tunes and got into seeing the tunes live. The single from their first CD, “Down to the River” turns out to be a song that the fans know and when Devon Allman asks for audience participation in this original tune, the fans are only too happy to join in the chorus. Days later I can still hear the fans singing along.

The second CD’s “Doctor’s Daughter” is a Berry Duane Oakley-penned tune about a dear friend lost.  He moved over to the keyboard corner with John Ginty, Devon moved over to bass and Marc Ford came back out to sit in as Berry’s vocals moved front and center.

Something I haven’t seen in decades of concerts, for the encore, the opener, River Kitten’s logo came out on the big screen and Allie and Mattie (they are River Kittens) came out and started playing their tune, “Atlantic City.”  How unusual to see the openers come out and start the encore.

As the song progressed, the Allman Betts Band members came back on stage and finished the tune.  River Kittens stayed on the stage with the headliner for the final song of the evening, “Should We Ever Part” from “Bless Your Heart.”

The fans seemed happy as the theater emptied and the band and crew hurried to break down the stage as they had to make the 16-hour ride to Las Vegas for the Blues Bender and another 15 1/2 hours back up to Spokane the next night.

Finally, I am always looking for signs of working or not working when a new band starts. Pandemic-era international travel has forced the postponement of the European portion of the 2021 tour until 2022, The Allman Betts Band will finish their current Autumn in America Tour in Honolulu on Halloween. Less than two weeks later, they start on the Allman Family Revival tour. Eighteen dates throughout the U.S. following the theme of prior Allman Family Reunion and Revival one-off gigs since 2017, which is honoring Gregg Allman.

As Rolling Stone Magazine’s Andy Greene reports in his Sept. 14th article, “… Allman Betts Band will be the featured act alongside Robert Randolph, Donavan Frankenreiter, Eric Gales, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Jimmy Hall and Lamar Williams, Jr. They will be joined in select cities by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, G. Love, Samantha Fish, Alex Orbison and Kenny Aronoff.”

Looks like rolling with the punches, big and small, then getting up and moving forward has been and continues to be a signature of the Allman Betts Band. You’re a part of supporting this new band. Let’s sit back and see where they take us.

Part 2 of this Pacific Northwest tour review is going to be reviewing the Allman Betts Band gig at the Martin Woldson Theatre at The Fox in Spokane next month in the Bluesletter of the Washington Blues Society.  I met four people in Bend who had driven down from the Walla Walla area who are Cascade Blues Association and Washington Blues Society members. They were also going to Spoken for Saturday night’s show. When they read in both organizations’ magazine about this tour, they decided to take the road trip to support both communities and see one gig in Bend and one in Spokane.

Julie Amici and Dean Mueller
Julie Amici and Dean Mueller

Julie Amici & Dean Mueller photo by Darina Nayret

Julie Amici and Dean Mueller will be celebrating the release of their CD, I Loved You So… with a special show at The Lake Theater & Café featuring an all-star cast. The album is an old school Americana CD described as “a thick, low-simmering stew of blues, folk, and country peppered with subtle hints of jazz and gospel.” The on-line music magazine For Folks Sake wrote that I Loved You So . . . “[n]estled comfortably in the soles of old-school Americana, the kind of music that they create transports listeners into home-sewn stories of family, life, and love….”

Guest artists joining Julie and Dean will be Alan Hager, Thad Beckman, Adam Scramstad, and Alan Jones. Scramstad will also open the evening with a set of tunes from his forthcoming release It’s A Long Way To Go.

Lake Theater & Café, 106 N State St, Lake Oswego. Monday April 20, 7:00 pm. $20.00 general admission, $100.00 VIP tables (seats four, closest to the stage) at Laketheatercafe.com. All ages.


song speak

Lake Theater & Cafe brings you an opportunity to experience live original music at its best – with the songs, stories and strategies behind them from the songwriters themselves. This intimate and wonderful show features AJ Fullerton from Colorado along with Northwest-based musicians Steve Itterly, Lisa Mann, Rae Gordon and Pat McDougall performing and speaking. It will have you appreciating the passion behind the prose.

AJ Fullerton is a young multi-award winning roots and rock guitarist and songwriter that is fast making fans all over the world from his authentic style, busy touring schedule including the Big Blues Bender and lyrics that get right to the heart of the matter. He was raised in rural Colorado and is well-known for his skillful guitar, and powerful vocals and is often called “Beyond his years”. His playing style falls somewhere between the finger picking & slide of Country Roots music and the groove based up-tempo sensibilities of Hill County & Delta Blues. His awards have includes the Colorado Blues Society Members’ Choice Awards, best guitarist, best vocals, songwriter and recording, among others.


Steve Itterly is an accomplished guitarist from Washington State (and apparently didn’t provide a bio)

The event will also include Portland favorites Lisa Mann, Rae Gordon and Pat McDougall.

Lake Theater & Café, 106 S State St, Lake Oswego. Monday, March 23, 7:00 pm. General admission $15.00, VIP tables (seat four, closest to the stage) $100.00. All ages.

Four Trains Runnin’ Muddy Waters Tribute

Four Trains Runnin’ Muddy Waters TributeFour Trains Runnin’ is a Muddy Waters Tribute show that features four internationally acclaimed blues musicians who relish in the performance of old school traditional blues. Featuring the songs of Muddy Waters and his influences performed in their original style. This show’s artists have accepted many Muddy Awards over their lifetime. Alan Hager on guitar, Mitch Kashmar on harmonica, Jimi Bott on drums, and Dean Mueller on bass.

Lake Theater & Café, 106 S State St, Lake Oswego. Monday, March 30, 7:00 pm. Dance floor admission $10.00 (no seats or standing), $20.00 general admission, VIP Seats (one of six seats along the bar) $25.00, Laketheatercafe.com. all ages.

John Clifton

Bluesman John Clifton has dedicated himself to the genre that wasn’t getting the respect it deserved. But when you’re a frontman who delivers the goods straight from the heart, soul and gut, the blues become relevant. From the first note of the first song on stage, you know Clifton is the man in charge. Great musicians play off one another and take each other to new heights when they do. John taps into honest emotions, and by doing so, he brings the band along for the ride. Originality and fire in his harp and vocal stylings. Electrifying excitement consistently brought onstage. This is what keeps the John Clifton Band new and entertaining every time they take the stage!

Catfish Lou’s, 6540 SW Fallbrook Pl, Beaverton. Saturday, March 21, 8:00 pm. $8.00 advance Tickettomato.com, $10.00 at door.

Amanda Fish

Amanda Fish

Amanda Fish began as a singer songwriter in late 2012, refining her original material as a solo act for 2 years before she formed her band in early 2014, a Roots Rock and Soul project featuring  Amanda’s signature gritty lyrics belted out with her ‘from-the-gut’ vocals. In 2015, she released her first all-original LP, “Down In The Dirt“, on VizzTone Label Group, for which she was awarded the 2016 “Sean Costello Rising Star” Blues Blast Music Award. Amanda became a semifinalist in the 2017 International Blues Challenge where she garnered acclaim from new fans and industry professionals alike. From her performance at the IBC, she was able to start touring the US and Canada. In 2018, Amanda released her second all original studio album, “Free“, on VizzTone Label Group, debuting at #6 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart and nabbing a 2019 Blues Music Award for Best Emerging Artist Album.

Catfish Lou’s, 6540 SW Fallbrook Pl, Beaverton. Saturday, March 14, 8:00 pm. $15.00 advance Tickettomato.com, $18.00 at the door.

Benefit For Fenix Sanders

Fenix Sanders – photo by Andree Pothier

A benefit has been scheduled to help Fenix Sanders meet the expenses of a month-long hospital stay following surgery recently that also meant lost revenue due to missed work. The event will take place at The Blue Diamond on the Fenix Rising Band’s regular Wednesday night gig, and starting with the second set they will be joined through the night by numerous well-known local musicians, which will surely comprise some truly remarkable combinations. This will be Fenix’ first time back on stage since early December, and though he still is yet to be able to play his saxophone, he will be bringing his soulful vocals to the show. Admission is your donation, please give generously who has been entertaining us every Wednesday night for the past twenty years.

Blue Diamond, 2016 NE Sandy Blvd. Wednesday, March 11, 8:00 pm. Donations requested.


Little Eva - Eva McCoy

 Little Eva - Eva McCoyPortland’s music community comes together in support of 10-year old Eva McCoy who underwent an emergency liver transplant Nov. 16th, 2019. Severe complications kept her hospitalized at Seattle Children’s Hospital for almost 3 months. Eva is the younger daughter of guitarist Larry McCoy, manager of Portland Music Company’s Broadway store and long-time guitarist with Rich Layton & Tough Town.

Artists from across Portland’s musical spectrum will come together on behalf of Larry’s daughter for a 5-hour event billed as Honky-Tonk Rock, Rhythm & Blues for Little Eva! Scheduled to appear will be bands: The Strange Tones, The Jumptown Aces, Wes Youssi & The Country Champs, Rich Layton & Tough Town, and the Portland Music Company All-Stars. Special guests sitting in throughout the event will be Rae Gordon, April Brown, Mark Shark, Franco Paletta and more TBA.

All proceeds raised from the admission, donations, silent auction items and raffle tickets will be donated on Eva’s behalf to the Children’s Organ Transplant Organization, a nationwide non-profit that assists children and their families with fundraising for transplant-related costs. (http://cota.org)

McMenamins Kennedy School Gym, 5736 NE 33rd Ave., Sunday March 29, 3:00pm. Admission $15.00

David Jacobs-Strain

David Jacobs-Strain

Three of the area’s brightest young artists will come together for one special night to release of new music Eps at the Alberta Rose Theatre.

David Jacobs-Strain is a fierce slide guitar player and song poet known for both his virtuosity and spirit of emotional abandon. His live show moves from humorous, subversive blues, to delicate balladry, and then swings back to swampy rock and roll.  It’s a range that ties Jacobs-Strain to his own generation and to guitar-slinger troubadours like Robert Johnson and Jackson Browne.

Christopher Worth, better known locally as Worth, has become known for his unique style of bohemian blues which he developed as a street performer traveling across the US and Europe. His songs are timeless and real and are tied together by the power and purity of his voice.

Together, Strain and Worth have collaborated with performances the past couple years and have created new music that they will be sharing and releasing at this show.

Haley Johnsen’s newest release, When You Lit The Sky, s a soulful helping of blues and pop songwriting with nostalgic arrangements, and a window into the great passions of an artist whose dynamic vocals soar and whose heart is eternally, vulnerably, human.

Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000NE Alberta St., Saturday, March 28, 8:00 pm. $15.00 advance at Etix.com, $20.00 at the door. VIP seating (first few rows center stage) available for $30.00. Minors OK when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Seth Walker

Seth Walker

Over the past 10 years, Seth Walker has been recognized as one of the most revered modern roots artists in the United States — a three-dimensional talent with a gift for combining melody and lyric alongside a rich, Gospel-drenched, Southern-inflected voice and a true blue knack for getting around on the guitar. With a bluesman’s respect for roots and tradition, coupled with an appreciation for—and successful melding of—contemporary songwriting, Seth sublimely incorporates a range of styles with warmth and grace. Country Standard Time described Walker best: “If you subscribe to the Big Tent theory of Americana, then Seth Walker –with his blend of blues, gospel, pop, R&B, rock, and a dash country—just might be your poster boy.”

Jack London Revue, 529 SW 4th Ave. Friday, March 27, 9:00 pm. $10.00 Ticketweb.com. 21 & over. Austin’s Jesse Dayton opens.