Gregg Allman, Jason Isbell, America, the Marshall Tucker Band, Jaimoe's Jasssz Band, Orleans, Devon Allman and Levon The 2016 Laid Back Festival Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wantagh, NY July 23, 2016
Starting out as the creative collaboration between Gregg Allman and Live Nation, the Laid Back Festival began as a one day celebration in August of 2015, at the picturesque Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island. Allman named the event after his 1973 debut solo album and he envisioned it as a way to bring together live music and good food and drink, all on a beautiful beach. The success propelled it forward and in 2016, the Laid Back Festival has five dates including stops in Nashville, Chicago, Red Rocks, Atlanta and back at Nikon at Jones Beach, with various musicians rotating in and out of the tour. The Atlanta date, originally set for May 7, 2016 was postponed to October 29th when ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill fractured a shoulder backstage prior to a show at the Lone Star Events Center in Lubbock, Texas in mid-April.
The show's lineup, curated by Allman is a Who's Who of the music industry, with an Americana influence. This year at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, the talent was hearty and plentiful enough to span two stages: the Low Country Stage and the Laid Back Stage. The Low Country Stage was home to Levon, Orleans, Jaimoe's Jasssz Band, and Allman's gifted son, Devon Allman. The Laid Back Stage sported the Marshall Tucker Band, America, Jason Isbell and Gregg Allman, himself, in the headlining slot.
Truly a celebration of music and food, the Laid Back Festival arrived ready to help concert goers indulge. With wineries, breweries and a variety of delicious fare, the doors opened with more than enough time for the crowds to make their way around and check out all the offerings. The secondary stage even featured a number of large outdoor couches toward the back of the standing area, creating an oasis of comfort on an unseasonably sunny and nearly record setting temperature day in July. The breeze off the water definitely helped as the all ages crowd slathered on sun block and enjoyed the low key excitement that was building as it grew closer to set time. As the lineup is announced at the festival that day, part of the fun was not knowing who would be first to grace the two stages until arriving at the venue.
The festival itself was nothing short of sensational. Allman was able to curate a truly diverse and entertaining concert and well as a distinct food event featuring vendors from all over the area. Concert goers were treated to southern rock, blues, Americana, old fashioned rock 'n' roll, Southern California breezy rock, pop and just about every other form of American music. The assorted food vendors offered everything from burgers and hotdogs to pizza to pulled pork to empanadas to bakery products and ice cream and numerous different craft beers and sodas.
Jaimoe's Jasssz Band was the first band to perform on this sweltering afternoon. Taking the Low Country stage at 5pm, the Allman Brothers drummer and his group (Junior Mack on guitar and vocals, Dave Stoltz on bass, Bruce Katz on keyboards, and the horn section of Paul Lieberman, Kris Jensen and Reggie Pittman) delivered a burning hot set of tunes that made a hot day in Long Island boil, blister and simmer even more strongly.
The first set on the main stage set featured Doug Gray and his Marshall Tucker Band cohorts delivering a strong set of southern boogie rock. Gray began the day's festivities with one of the best quips ever delivered at a music festival. He greeted the crowd by waving to the folks in the upper levels and then to the audience in the middle of the venue and finally the orchestra and stated, "If you ever make it to the Carolinas, give me a call; I'll buy you a beer!" The audience erupted and cheered the band through its entire set, which, of course, was highlighted by a stellar versions of "This Ol' Cowboy," "Fire On The Mountain" and "Can't You See."
America is a band that seems to have been around forever. Forever being a relative term, even if one considers that the band has been making music for just under 50 years. Forever does not, however, bring with it a negative connotation. Original members Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley have been together since 1970 and the band is currently comprised of Rich Campbell on bass/keyboards, Ryland Steen on drums and Bill Worrell on guitar/keyboards. Dan Peek, the band's other founding member passed away in 2011.