Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gregg Allman

The passing of Gregg Allman last month was an epic blow to fans of his music and of The Allman Brothers Band, though perhaps not a complete shock. Plenty of ink has been spent on the singer's health issues over the past decade, but while many fans hoped for the best when he canceled all 2017 tour dates, many read between the lines. After years of battling to stay on the road and burying lost band mates along the way, it is hard to believe anything could stop Gregg Allman from once again climbing the riser to his B3 Hammond Organ and belting some blues for the soul. However, it is comforting to know that Gregg Allman earned some peace towards the end as he retreated to his coastal Georgia home these past final months. Allman Brothers fans found a great deal of solace knowing that Gregg and Dickey Betts had mended fences in those final months.

Laid Back, 1973. Art by Abdul Mati Klarwein
The Allman Brothers may be my favorite band by a long shot, but I don't always get tied into the personalities of the people who make the music I love. But Gregg's music has been huge in my life. I can still listen to his first solo album, Laid Back, as if it were my first time hearing it as I did in 7th grade. I can vividly recall falling asleep to it as a teen on repeat more times than I can count. It is a haunting record, full of melancholy and self-reflection. So when I felt compelled to create an Gregg Allman animation after his passing, that's where I started. I didn't want to make something that commemorated his death, rather, a piece that reflected what that music meant to me. Much of the iconography of his popular songs such as "Dreams" and "Ain't Wasting Time No More" I had previously covered in other animations, so I concluded short and evocative was the way to go. It's not much, but like I said, I felt compelled.

Although the Allman Brothers were nearly 3 years behind us, Gregg was still touring strong and recording - he was the highlight for me of Wanee 2016. However difficult it is to accept for those of us who only knew his music that Gregg Allman is gone from this world, I can only imagine how it is for all those who did know him.

But he will never be completely gone. His music will go on forever.

GREGG ALLMAN | The Road Goes on Forever from Brett Underhill on Vimeo.

Monday, June 5, 2017

"Ol' Fidel" | Dangermuffin Music Video

Every Fall, the lineup for Wanee Fest is released and I excitedly pour over the list of bands both new and familiar. In 2011, one band name stood out among the rest: Dangermuffin. How can a name like "Dangermuffin" not get your attention? I filed it away, not even really looking up the band itself since the bill was large that year, but a band called "Dangermuffin" had to be fun, right? 

Sure enough, April 2011 I was sitting at the glorious Mushroom Stage watching Dangermuffin play, and I loved every minute of it. The whole band is jammy, fun, light, and breezy, but lead singer, Dan Lotti, has an incredibly unique voice, something that is missing from a lot of jam bands. I don't remember a lot of other details (Wanee can often be hazy) but I remember singing their praises a day later to the delight of a huge Dangermuffin fan from their hometown of Charleston, SC, who was overjoyed that their local hidden gem was getting some love beyond SC. I looked forward to hearing more from the band with the unforgettable name.

Fast forward to Summer 2016. We were on a 30-day road trip, making our way back home to Brooklyn through western New York, looking for stuff to do and see when I noticed Dangermuffin would be in Rochester. Easy decision, we scheduled a stop. The venue, Abilene Bar, is small and intimate, so it was easy to get a  reminder of what a fantastic band they are - they got a big sound just as a 3-piece. We chatted after the show and swapped dog photos (we often refer to our dog Mia as "the Dangermuffin"). A few weeks later I threw out the idea of an animated music video if they were ever interested, and they just happened to be finishing up their latest album, Heritage. Sometimes life just comes together if you open your mouth.

This was a total collaboration with the band. Dan Lotti had a great song and a vision, stuff I would never have thought of, but was a total inspiration that lead to some fresh ideas on my part as well. Relix was kind enough to give it some ink on their site. Here is Dangermuffin's "Ol' Fidel":