One Gregg Allman and the Maryland Room To this day, I don't know why Gregg Allman’s solo-project band was considered such a big deal in the rock-guitar music world. They sounded just like The Allman Brothers, only much slower. But in the early part of the 70s, Gregg’s “other” band was hot stuff in our high school parking lot, and I was rabid to find out why this was true. The only song of his I ever heard on the radio was the remake of Midnight Rider which was the same song The Allman Brothers Band recorded a little while before. However, it must be said that all the tasty-looking babes at school went, “ooh-ahh” when his name came up in conversation, so research became necessary for my edification on this matter. I consulted the legendary slag-heap screed, Creem magazine for answers to my enigma. The text was some help, but nothing in depth. It did contain many groovy pictures of Gregg doing flashy, live performance hair-action with funny captions written underneath: Get that fruity-smelling shampoo away from me!; What do you mean we’re not in Tallahassee? I'd borrowed the record Laid Back from my pal Mark, and some songs were foot- tappers and some were, well, kind of creepy. Aside from the Gregg-man’s cool, scare- wig tresses, he played very passable funky, redneck-piano, and the weirdoes in his splinter band looked extremely zoned and subculture, which is always a good sign when it comes to musical groups. Gregg and his entourage were coming to Largo, Maryland’s Capital Centre for a concert in a few days, and I was determined to witness why this ectomorphic, albino- looking piano player was considered so ultra-cool by the uber-babes. I liked The Allman Brothers’ music a lot; ergo, it would seem that a splinter-project Gregg Allman Band performance might work out to be a reasonably together southern rock show. Life on our planet Earth, like rock and roll shows, can be examined in a variety of theoretical and critical lights. Some people say our time here in the world is a seamless journey without reason or objectives. Other, more pointillistic types, say that being exactly where you are every minute is the ultimate of cosmic destinations. For this particular odyssey about to be described, both camps might well say that existence as we know it is something of a flat-out crap-shoot. My pals André and Jason wanted to come to the show, so we all plunked down our $6.50 at the Landmark Mall Ticketron and got our general admission, seating by intimidation tickets. I'd met Jason in the cafeteria at Arlington Central High School in south Arlington, Virginia; AKA the home of the Cragar racing wheel. Real men used Cragars on their bitchin’ rides or they were complete, sissified nobodies. Jason seemed cool enough to hang out with, even though he had no car of his own and no Cragars, like me. He had a full set of mossy green teeth however, but was thoroughly domesticated despite the appearance of his lime-hued choppers. André was in my World Literature class, and I’d known him from sophomore year when I'd transferred to Virginia from Wilson High School in D.C. He was a café au lait, skinny as telephone wire, black guy with a sunburst-corona afro that would have made Sly Stone more than a little jealous. He played keyboards in a local band called, I shit you not, Restaurant for Dogs. The white girls at school loved him thoroughly. They thought he was an arty, high-steppin’ cat, and he played the rock-star personality thing out to no end. He wore rose-colored circular shades, thin polyester shirts with palm trees and leaping tigers printed on them, and constantly had one blue zircon earring inserted in his left lobe. André told us that day, when we were noshing our cafeteria food in the student smoking lounge, that his pop was into rebuilding classic cars, and fun-looking junkers, too. André was interested in that line of mechanics also, so when our bud offered to drive us to the show no one had any problems with that transportation arrangement. Jason had purloined a pint bottle of Jack Daniel’s charcoal filtered bourbon from his dad's stash, and my older babe-pal Jackie had given me about 8-10 power bong-hits worth of her superlative Colombian reefer to take on the road for our collective mindset. We all time-synched ourselves before the event with several phone calls in the early evening. Soon we were hooked up NASA-style to have André pick us up and go to the Bailey’s Crossroads McDonald's for a royal munch before the festivities. Then we’d motor off to Largo to see the Gregg-unit and the always welcome rock show babes. At last the appointed hour came for us to embark on the journey, and André, I mean wow man, what could I possibly say about the ride he drove over to my place? He showed up at my house in this car that nobody in the land of milk and honey had ever seen before. It was some micro-Euro go-cart thing that was literally falling apart, and looked like it was hastily made out aluminum sheet metal cut from five gallon corn oil containers. It was a fixer-upper deal his father had bought on a lark from the Atlas junkyard on South Four Mile Run, and André was taking it on its maiden voyage from the salvage lot. The ride was a 1957 Fiat Nuova 500. It looked like a rolling, wiggly-baby incubator with roll-down windows. The gear-shift pulled out of the dash, and spun to the left and right, like the knobs of a cigarette machine. It was a homemade-looking, suicide machine for sure, but it was our ride and that was that. It was definitely not a Cragar- intensive Lamborghini Espada, or Maserati Bora, but if it would get us to Largo and back, who could argue? We picked up Jason at his house off of Columbia Pike, and headed for the K-Mart department store parking lot off of Route 7; the one with the open field and further off woods behind it. We were hopelessly sober, and started with the Jack Daniel’s before we were away from his driveway. In retrospect, we should have waited a while before flying head-first into heavy Dionysian-activity, but that's a luxury that's not available to me now. Kind of like peroxide-icon Cherie Currie, former lead singer of Hollywood’s inimitable glam-babe band, The Runaways. It’s simply not available. I, of course, realized that a 24" Tokemaster Executive model bong was too conspicuous to walk around with in public, so I took my steel bowl pipe along for the ride. Steel bowls are wonderful little things, and dirt cheap, about two bucks at the Faster Pussycat Record Store and Head Shop in McLean. But GOD do they get HOT. Man, you've really got to watch it when you're getting torched with one of those tricky machines because if you handle it the wrong way when you’ve got a red hot bowl going, you will be a branded man. Wooden bowls were surely the way to go, but we were young, good natured, and dangerously IQ deficient teen-people. We pulled into the rear of the parking lot, and like true high school hoe-heads, we marched through the field and into the adjacent woods trying to look like it was just the most natural thing on earth. I took it as a good omen that there were dairy crates and lots of empty booze bottles scattered around back there in all the scrub and muck; it was a ceremonial getting- out-of-your-mind place for homegrown freaks and local alkies alike, and I was glad to have it at my disposal that evening. We pulled up milk crates, prepared our equipment, and took hits from the two mega-bowls I filled for us. I am not exaggerating this time concerning the heft of the these two bowls. I do mean “mega” and I do mean “filled.” Here, for your enlightenment, was the step-by-step construction of the ritual big-bowls we consumed: take a good-sized bud, crack it open for ventilation purposes, and cram it down into the cavity of the pipe with your thumb. Then place some loose leaf from the bottom of the bag on top and cram that down. Finally, place more loose powder on top of that to catch the flame from your Cricket disposable lighter, or sturdy wooden match. After primary ignition and the first couple of hits, the steel pipe billowed smoke from its maw like an oil-well fire. After completion of the second bowl, we were completely, 100%, swamp- boy wasted upon re-entering civilization and the enormous parking lot. We tried to look cool and together walking back to the Nuova 500 after our herbal refreshment, but we just started to crack-up laughing at everything around us. I do love that part of the buzz. The Kafkaesque-honeymoon intro where everyone looks like they’ve been made out of cheap medical-kits. If anything even slightly out of the ordinary happens, like seeing someone on the sidewalk eat a candy bar, it’s impossible not to guffaw and hoot like a farm animal at the hilarity of their actions. Your cackling gets all loud and backed up in your throat; you gag and turn red. Then you horselaugh at those self-generated noises that sound like something stuck in your apartment’s garbage disposal unit. Woonnnggaaa, blat-blat. That’s what happened to me quite often. I’d seen it happen to other people, as well. After we successfully got back in Andre’s pygmy-ride, we fired up her little engine, and cruised to the Route 7 McDonald’s for burgers and fries. After successful arrival at America’s favorite fast food restaurant, we disembarked out of the machine, went inside the place, and then got into the food line. I believe one’s got to be self-determined like The Fantastic Four’s rugged and rock-like character Ben Grimm, AKA, “The Thing,” to do this strange, lock-stepped, option-intensive exercise. The three of us were there, in the line; we were stoned, laughing at everything, and trying to look cool. Everyone in the place knew we were toasted to infinity, especially the service people behind the counter. They knew stuff about blitzed people we didn't even know about ourselves. Listen, this is a true thing: out of all the times I've been wrecked silly standing in line at McDonalds, trying to figure out what to order, trying, sometimes, just to figure out what to DO so as to get some nourishment in my mouth, they've never hassled me. Not even a little. One time, an employee whose name was Damian, just gave me a Big Mac and coffee to get me out of the way of the normal people. With rock-like concentration, we finally managed to order, pay, and successfully wait for the goods to arrive. The hard part after that was balancing all the pastel-colored, hexagonal styrofoam food containers and tall, skinny paper cups on the plastic trays. The next, really hard part, was trying not to fall on your derriere while getting to the seats on the outdoor terraces that all the cool McDonalds have. After a moment, we wobbled out there, donned our Peter Fonda shades over our fuchsia eyeballs, choked down burgers, put the rest of the Jack Daniel’s bourbon in our large Cokes, and watched the traffic filter down Route 7. It felt really good having a serious nosh with your pals and knowing that you were about to hit the road to go to a potentially kick-ass rock show in just a little while. The evening had truly begun. After our repast and leisurely exit from the golden arches, we must have looked hysterical tearing down the street in the Nuova 500; we were scraggly-looking, full of hamburgers, half in the bag from liquor, completely reefer-toasted, and cruising out to the highway with our insect-like shades on in a car that looked like a dirty fishbowl. But we did press on, and about a half-hour into the ride André pulled the canvas lid off the top of the car and we were now in a convertible, pop-top looking, cruising vessel. His afro regally stuck out of the top of the machine, and looked like a giant tumbleweed that was incapable of ejecting from a hurricane cellar. We cranked radio station DC/101 to 10 and listened to atonal distortion the whole way to the arena. The car was so small that Jason could stand up on the floor boards and actually have about two- thirds of his body protruding out of the roof, like a bachelor party girl popping out of a cake. So he did just that for a while, and seemed to be having a grand time doing it. On the highway, you could always recognize the mobile yahoos who were going to a concert and the standard issue Citizen X’s just going home from their jobs. The concert people were like 4-6 to a car, and looked like psychedelic monsters from the local funny farm. They had the car windows down and the radio music blaring, always honking the horn and waving at any other mobile group of nutjobs that looked remotely like themselves. Wiggly girls in tube-tops shouted intelligent epithets at passersby motorists like, “WooooWoooo..Aerosmith," or "WooooWoooo..Zeppelin," or simply, “Woooo Woooo.” It was an immediate reptile-brain connection. A very cool thing. Everyone else, this included ALL Citizen X's, were just trying to stay clear of our strange horde. This time we passed something on Interstate 495-North I had never seen before: An 18-wheeler truck with an open trailer full of Allman Brothers-looking children on the shoulder of the road. There must have been 50 or 60 serious long-haired, completely teleported-looking people in that machine, and it was stopped to pick up more folks from the side of the highway. The truck’s inside was just stocked with loopy-smiled, cookie- cutter mutation-children, and as we flew past them, we beeped the tiny ride’s tinny horn, and tried to scope the scene as best we could. You could smell and see the clouds of spent reefer smoke circling around them. It looked almost as if they were having a weenie-roast in the bosom of the payload area. They were sitting in small groups or leaning on the truck wall grinning like jack-o- lanterns and getting stewed on their various mind-candies, and seemed to be having a wonderful time doing it. It was one good, albeit freaky, omen after another on 495-North that day. We got to the arena at 7:00 and the show didn't start until 8:00 so we parked on the fringe of the Liberty bell lot, smoked a third super-bowl, and watched these people and their dog play ballistic frisbee in the unused area of the parking lot. That was a mind-blower if there ever was one when an individual was so crispy and watching the goings-on. This terribly over-friendly mongrel dog with a tie-dyed bandanna around its neck was hauling-ass after this long-range Frisbee, launched by a fellow who looked a lot like Johnny Winter. The spry animal raced after the flying disk with relish, and when the saucer began to descend, he scrambled underneath the target and completed the catch with an ecstatic long-jump, and ultra-flamboyant turn-around finish. It was poetic like the frat-parties in the Odyssey. Nearby people clapped and whistled in appreciation and the Johnny Winter guy took a bow for the crowd, and gave his pooch a chocolate chip cookie from a big blue bag of Chips Ahoy cookies. It was a true highlight of the day. It must have been a dog-endorphin thing for the animal because it looked so damn exhilarated with its performance. It was the last delightful thing that happened to us before everything started to cave-in big-time, and André started to look really icky. We saw an abundance of Gregg-freaks in line to get in the place, and because we were affable lemmings, we queued up, too. As we got in line to get into the show, we heard loud music coming from the portals. This added to our new found difficult mindset. Jason and me were scorched, it was true, but André was sinking fast from too much partying. In our addled minds we had to decide if we should go in and see if he'll recover, or just miss the whole damn spectacle. Well, almost needless to say, we propped André up between us and moved towards the Capital Centre’s big, Valhalla-sized, sports arena doors. Then came the feared and dreaded position-3 body search by some rent-a-cop rivet-head. André was oscillating on his Adidas as our host patted him down, but was allowed in without a whit of protest from the security guy. I think we got in because the he’d been programmed only to deny entry to those who were in possession of any textbook, State of Maryland contraband, or something he just thought of as bad. You could be as walking a blackout as ever entered the Capital Centre, but just don't have a fifth of anything bonded, or any black juju looking things under your jacket and you're a welcome patron. So it was now about 7:30 p.m., and the show was supposed to start at 8:00. The situation was approaching a profound weirdness factor. I found out from a skinny child wearing an eye-patch and a Brian Jones T-shirt that the band on stage was one of two support bands that were going to play before Gregg agreed to come entertain us in Largo. It was possible that the revered Allman wasn’t yet in the same North American time zone as we were, his devoted flock of arena weenies.