Allman Brothers Band fans from across the nation and at least six other countries have gathered in Macon this weekend, many for the first time since the deaths this year of the founding band members Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks.
GABBAfest 2017, a series of concerts and events held by the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association, kicked off Friday with a concert at the Douglass Theatre.
“I think that a lot of people came this year because of the sentiment with Butch Trucks and Gregg passing,” said GABBA Vice President John Howard. “People just want to be together with people who understand it.
“The music brought us here, but the friendships keep us coming back,” he said.
This year’s shows sold out two weeks before the festival, Howard said.
Playing at small venues, 320 tickets were available, he said.
Several fans visited Rose Hill Cemetery Saturday and left tributes on the spot where Gregg Allman is buried. His grave is across a walkway from the fenced in graves of his brother, Duane Allman, and bass player Berry Oakley.
Barry Zion traveled from New York to attend the weekend’s festivities.
“I just wanted to see, to make sure Gregg was near Duane,” Zion said during his cemetery visit. “It’s very communal when I come here … Just standing here, it’s very soothing for some reason.”
Zion, who previously lived in Atlanta, said he started listening to the Allman Brothers Band in 1972 or 1973.
“It’s been the most influential thing in my life,” he said of the band’s music.
Mike and Tess Gioia said they listened to ‘Southern Blood,’ Gregg Allman’s final studio album released this month, on their seven-hour trip from Picayune, Mississippi.
High school sweethearts who’ve been married 40 years, the Gioias saw the band together in 1975 and have been fans ever since.
The couple stumbled across GABBAfest in 2014 while they were in town touring the Big House — the band’s former home on Macon’s Vineville Avenue — and Rose Hill, Mike Gioia said.
They formed a friendship with other fans during the trip that led to other trips, he said.
Fans toured the Big House Museum just before Saturday’s jam session — a time when attendees mix and match players to perform songs for the crowd.
Last year the museum hosted 7,500 visitors, said Richard Brent, director of collections and merchandise for the Big House.
“We’re going to well surpass that this year,” Brent said, adding that the Big House has become Middle Georgia’s second biggest attraction after the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds.