When it comes to Avett Brothers fandom, I'm strictly a newbie. Less than a year ago, I'd never heard of them. A friend at work recommended them as someone I might like, so I checked out a few tunes on YouTube, and liked what I heard. Bought their 2009 album, "I And Love And You," and thought it was great - ranked it #2 on my list of 2009 favorites. Recently bought an older EP, "The Gleam II," but barely had a chance to listen to it, caught in the midst of my Drive-By Truckers obsession.
Heading into last night's show, I was expecting to be entertained, but I'm not sure I expected to be blown away like I was. It was an amazing show from start to finish - one filled with humor, energy, passion, and great music. And it wasn't as if we were familiar with the songs - only 5 of the 19 they played were from the new album, but it was obvious that most of the crowd knew them all.
And who knew that Sacramento, California was such a hotbed of Avett mania? Sure, we're only talking about a theater that probably holds less than 2000 people. On the same night, The Eagles played at Arco Arena, in front of what was probably close to 17,000 patrons. I'm sure it was a great show, but I'm just as sure (and mind you, I am an Eagles fan) that Glenn Frey and Don Henley never had as much energy on their best days in the 1970s as the Avetts do today. As it turns out, the Avetts do have a Sacramento connection (an uncle), and one of the highlights of the show was an anecdote about a show many years ago in Fair Oaks (for those of you unfamiliar with the Sacramento region, Fair Oaks is a suburb of the capital city, and just happens to be where I spent my formative years) where there were more chickens in the audience than there were paying customers. Now, that may only make sense to someone who's been to Fair Oaks, but it was an example of the bond that the band had with its audience.
It's fair to say that nothing on "I And Love And You," good as it was, prepared me for the energy demonstrated by the brothers and their band in concert. There's plenty of live clips on YouTube to check out if one so desires (including quite a few of last night's show, just enter "Avett Brothers Sacramento" in the search bar), but even having seen Springsteen as often as I have, I'm not sure I've ever seen performers maintain a sustained energy level for as long as the Avetts did last night.
I'm lucky to have seen two shows as great as DBT and the Avetts in the past month, and they both reminded me of the importance that music holds in my life. I don't play an instrument, though I suppose it's never to late to try, but my music collection is huge (probably vast by the standards of most normal people), and put simply, I can't imagine a life without music. On a day when things look their darkest, the redeeming power of a musical artist like The Avett Brothers is a wonderful thing. Sitting there last night, listening to the sincerity and the humor that are such key components in the songs of the Avetts, seeing the bond they have with their audience, and seeing the passion that their audience has for their work...well, for those moments, everything was right with the world.
A joyful noise is probably the best way to put it - beautiful vocals (even when almost screaming, they were able to maintain perfect harmony, conjuring up visions of the Everly Brothers), a bass that thundered so loud it shook the very core of your being, a banjo that, even when slightly out of tune (and, as was noted, it is damn near impossible to keep a banjo in tune, especially the way that Scott Avett plays it), terrific acoustic guitar, and even a cello, which is not something you normally hear in a band, unless it's playing in tuxedos.
Great stuff. Hope they come around again someday.