Following the show last night, a small crowd grew around the barricade surrounding the Avett Brothers tour bus – the biggest bus I have ever seen – and we were all told that the band had already boarded and would not be signing autographs or meeting with the fans. Disappointed sighs and a general reluctance to move along followed for a bit until the door opened and out walked the band’s tour cellist, Joe Kwon. Crowd excitement grew. Following Joe, out walked Bob Crawford, the band’s bassist. Smiling, they both started to shake hands and sign autographs. Then the brothers came out and the crowd was VERY excited. Someone piped up, “Hey, they told us you wouldn’t be comin’ out to sign autographs,” to which Seth Avett replied, “We just couldn’t help it.”
Joe, Bob and the brothers Avett, Seth and Scott, put on one hell of a show last night. It was a sold out audience at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI, and the Avett Brothers wanted us to know that they appreciated us all comin’ out on a Wednesday night. One long set was briefly divided by a curtain-less call out from the fans with chants and clapping and voices loss in chaotic crescendo crushed back down when Seth declared that sure, they’d play another tune. They preceded to play THREE more tunes and just brought down the house.
The band’s constantly evolving sound was clearly displayed with members swapping instruments, shuffling from drums to keys to even having Bob sing lead on a song. From their original setup with upright bass, banjo and acoustic, their signature sound and fan-favorite tunes poured out over us and we were pleased. Peppered in between were tracks from their newest release, “I and Love and You”, and we were *moved*.
I’ve read complaints that they seem to be drifting too far from the shore; a sentiment reminiscent of reaction to Bob Dylan’s switch to electric that was all too amplified by a fellow show-goer behind me continually declaring that Rick Rubin (the legendary producer who worked with the band on their new album) was taking the band down the Dave Mathews path to “crap-town”. (My words, not his. Poetic, no?)
However one feels about the growth of the band and the product they thankfully chose to share with us, you can’t help but feel excited for them. They work hard, relentlessly touring and composing…and their growing fan base is a testament to that. Three years ago I was introduced to the Avett Brothers at the High Noon Saloon. On a whim, a friend and I had decided to check out a honky-tonk band that was passing through town, BR549. Opening that night were the Avetts, and they stole the show. There were about 50 people in the entire place – if that – and we GOT DOWN. The following two years found the Avetts returning to Madison and to the High Noon and to bigger and bigger crowds. Clearly, as receipts from the Barrymore prove, they’ve outgrown the High Noon, and perhaps even the Barrymore.
Maybe we’ll get treated to TWO shows next year. How’s about a Friday & Saturday night lineup, guys? Waddayasay?
The raw emotion released upon the crowd last night seemed almost involuntary; a catharsis for some terrific love lost, with the pain pressed from their flesh. Or….perhaps, torn? Some people in the crowd had wet eyes, broadly grinning and singing along and for a few moments I was actually somewhere else. A place where classwork and and my job and the day-to-day stress seemed featherweight in comparison to what these four men were sharing with us. Good music does that. It removes your pain and shares with you new perspective and you feel gratitude.
Someone might want to ask the Avetts how they were able to put on the best show Madison has seen this year. They may ask how they managed to put on the best show that I have EVER seen at Madison’s best indoor venue. The Avett Bros need only reply, that they “just couldn’t help it.”
Vids from the show:
“The Perfect Space”