Many bands have gone down in history for amazing live gigs, but there are not too many venues that have achieved similar status. New York City’s Fillmore East, though, is one. Mercurial promoter Bill Graham closed the Fillmore East 40 years ago in June, 1971 (along with Fillmore West, in San Francisco), after just three years as rock venues. But in those three years, Fillmore East, in particular, played host to an unrivalled number of great bands, great gigs and great recordings.
New York gigs can certainly pump up players to perform, but maybe there was something about the Fillmore that made for stellar shows; it wasn’t for nothing that the Fillmore East became known as “the church of rock ’n’ roll.”
The Allman Brothers played so many shows at Fillmore East that they were sometimes nicknamed “Bill Graham’s House Band.” Recorded over two nights in March 1971, At The Fillmore remains the go-to album for Allmans aficianados. These performances sizzle: Duane Alman’s slide on “Statesboro Blues” is the stuff of legend, while his interplay with Dickey Betts seemed almost telepathic. The Fillmore somehow helped the Allmans raise their game: “The audience would kind of play along with us,” singer-organist Gregg Allman recalled. “They were right on top of every single vibration coming from the stage.” Mammoth versions of “Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” also pack amazing guitar punch but, as with Jimi, the shows seemed cursed. Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident just three months after the album’s release.