Devon Allman first came to Saratoga as a young musician who, through a random encounter in a Minneapolis bar, had chanced into a strange gig in a town he'd never heard about. It was 2006, and though Allman was the son of Gregg Allman, of Allman Brothers fame, Devon was still relatively unknown.
Big Name, Small Town
A little over a decade later, that's no longer true. As the Allman scion noted at a Nov. 25 private recital hosted by the Hotel Wolf, he has now cut nine albums and toured in 30 countries. About 45 people attended the recital, and many more came to a more boisterous gathering afterwards at Duke's Bar and Grill. It was Allman's fourth swing through the Valley.
Allman's fateful random encounter was with Cindy Bloomquist, local music aficionado and operator of The Yard concert venue. Having been moved by the bar performance she walked in on in Minneapolis, Bloomquist asked Allman to come play a show in Wyoming, and the whimsically named "2006 World Tour," was born. The trip included two major cites: Saratoga and Centennial.
These days, Allman has two managers scheduling his time and the rider for his contract runs 18 pages. Even so, his affection for the people who were first moved by his music was palpable last Friday night: "Cindy Bloomquist was one of the first people to believe in me," he said onstage.
No Cry(ing) Wolf
In traditional musician fashion, Allman arrived a little over half an hour late to his Wolf appearance, but what he lacked in punctuality he made up for in personality. Accompanied by a somewhat more attention-averse Brent Vigneri on drums, Allman exhorted the crowd to sing along with a brief selection of covers (samples: Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, and Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry) and he also played some original works during the first show.
An arsenal of sugar-free Red Bull complimented by beer kept the musician on his feet after a long day spent flying from St. Louis to Phoenix to Denver and he and Vigneri happily chatted with fans and accommodated selfie-requests after their jam session ended.
The Hazards of Duke's
Then Allman and Vigneri switched to the north side of Bridge Avenue for the second half of their act and their musical playfulness truly blossomed into a special scene. Perhaps at the Wolf Vigneri and Allman had worried about playing too loudly; maybe the they felt bolstered by Duke's looser crowd; possibly the duo (who had never played together prior) was getting a better feel for one another's proclivities.
Whatever alchemy was at work, a daringly riffy version of Jane's Addiction got both musicians romping freely, and suddenly Allman was no longer asking the crowd to sing along–he was demanding it. Dancers took to the floor, and Allman kept breaking into a big grin behind his thick brown beard, seemingly unable to help himself.
That reaction squares with Bloomquist's take on the artist: "I just think my place on Earth is to make people happy," she remembered Allman telling her one day.
Getting the Act,
Bloomquist said the performance was arranged when Allman called her up and told her, "I miss my Wyoming family." He was scheduled to play a show in Casper Nov. 26, and hoped Bloomquist could book him a last-minute gig in town.
The Wolf portion of the evening was a little more staid than the more energetic post-pub crawl jamming at Duke's later on.
Luckily, it wasn't Bloomquist's first rodeo. Soon, she had enlisted Duke's Bar and Grill as a partner for the performance, and she convinced local resident Andy Van Tol to do sound work for Allman gratis. Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode and local gallery owner Laura Morrow also chipped in on short notice, Bloomquist said, and she called all of their efforts "fundamental to what happened here."
"What happened here" was a community coming together to bring a special performer into its orbit for an evening.
Allman waltzed through town with an irreverent twinkle in his eye and more than a dash of mischief in his heart.
Drawing nervous laughter onstage at the Wolf, Allman joked that when he first came to Saratoga, he thought, "this is the gig where they kill you and take all your gear." He kept coming back though: whether that says something about him or here Allman left open for all of us to ponder.