“We tune because we care.”
Back in 2002, about to record A Carolina Jubilee, The Avett Brothers were hired as a wandering band during freshmen orientation at Virginia Tech. Nobody wanted to listen to them. They kept following people around trying to find an audience.
Seth and Scott told this story to their VT audience twelve years later, as if to say, “look where we are now.” In all the shows I’ve seen since 2007, the band has inflated and changed their style, but they have not lost what makes them who they are. I saw the same energy, passion and soul.
They opened up with an instrumental tune I forgot the name of [now I remember—”D Bag Rag“], and wrapped it up with kazoos. Because why not? They cranked out “Live and Die” with Scott killing it on banjo, followed by “Morning Song,” and the audience had already jumped right in with the team of brothers who trade off one another like real brothers do.
The full band carried the energy in their own way, every player. Tania the fiddler danced and responded to Joe in a way you knew she felt welcome. Bob spins his bass like it’s nothing. Seth sails with his voice and Scott goes from leaping wildly to crooning between still pauses. The two brothers displayed that same perfect harmony inherent in them, particularly in “Through My Prayers.” And this was the best concert of Joe’s I remember. He made that cello speak like I had never seen happen before.
Scott must have begun experimenting lately with speaking word, as he did often tonight. He preached his way through “Down with the Shine” like a snake oil salesman confessing his wares.
The brothers paused to tune twice, filling the space with stories and shoutouts, banter that gave us that feeling we Avett fans enjoy, knowing that they love us as much as we love them.
Guest songs were brought in, like Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever” and John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
It was a night of creative alternatives, renditions of album songs in variation. They beatboxed in the middle of “Salina.” Seth lent his voice as a cold echo to his brother’s chorus of “Winter in My Heart.” They even ended the show with a full band pop version of “Hand Me Down Tune” that turned the regretful lullaby into the very anthem the songwriter promised the recipient would have.
But as they return for the encore, The Avetts sign off on the 9/11 anniversary of a terrible tragedy with a song sending us back on the road and recalling the great city of New York: “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.”
They played more slow songs, and had longer pauses, but in between they have kept the energy they always had. My favorite band has adapted and survived. They are and will always be, I believe, the same lovable family of music-makers.