Wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into Workplay Friday to see the Avett Brothers, other than what I had heard from Clyde and others on how they play an intense live show. Still, I didn't know how revved up they could get with the diversity of their catalog, which has just as many ballads and bluesy odes as rockers. But when about 30 seconds into the second song of their set Seth had to replace his first of 5 guitar strings of the night, I knew I was in for a treat. The Avett Brothers are hell on their instruments. Slinging, elbowing, slamming, strumming, head-banging, convulsing their way through a blur of bluegrass/alt country/slam dancing jams, all while smiling ear to ear. Their relentless punishment of their banjos, guitar, bass, and high hat is done with a general excitement throughout. They truly look like they enjoy it, which is getting rarer and rarer these days amongst bands which have been on the road as long as they have been.
The Avetts energy on stage is contagious, making you want to jump and flail to the type of music that your granddad might sway in a rocking chair to. And I shouldn’t just reference age for hyperbole, as the age of the audience ranged from high schooler, to young professional, to middle-aged couple, to grandfather and grandson, seriously. The crowd was large (in fact, I wondered how many folks could have been at the DBT show next door with as many as were in the theatre) and eager, and their performance did not disappoint.
They opened with “Left on Laura, Left on Lisa” and moved through “Shame” and “Paranoia in B Minor” early in the set. Other notables: “Weight of Your Lies”, “November Blue”, “Die Die Die”, “Distraction #74”, “I Killed Sally’s Lover”, “Will You Return”, and “Go to Sleep”. Throughout the show it was hard not to notice the collegiality between the Seth Avett, Scott Avett, Bob Crawford and cellist Ben Kwon. At one point during the show Crawford and Kwon were bumping each other back and forth on their stand-up string instruments, laughing to each other as they surveyed the crowd. This interaction of the players continued to infect the crowd as they performed their 3 song encore set, finishing off with a number that broke for crowd participation, group hand claps and a capella singing by all members of the band. A great way to end an excellent performance which exceeded all my expectations. I purchased the Live, Vol-2 album after the show in an attempt to memorialize the evening. Pick it up if you can, in place of hearing them in person.