An Amazing Night with the Avett Brothers
Thursday, June 11, 2009
It all began with a mention I made several months ago in Time magazine. As part of a regular feature, the editors asked me to list five things I've been listening to/reading/watching lately. I gave them a movie, a book, an HBO series, a favorite actress. Then I mentioned the band I had recently discovered and been smitten with, The Avett Brothers, a quirky indie-label bluegrass/folk/grunge foursome out of North Carolina. That endorsement led the band's bass player, Bob Crawford, to drop me an email. In it he shared a funny story similar to ones I've heard from a lot of men who would never be caught dead crying in public. The band was on tour hopping from one city to the next, and Bob was reading my book, which his wife had given him.
Bob wrote: "The day I finished Marley & Me I was on a 6:30 am flight from Philadelphia to Raleigh. I knew what was coming but I didn't think it would affect me like it did. I was sitting next to a kid who looked like he was a rapper. He had gold teeth, tattoo's, and just looked tough. When I came to Marley's passing I began to cry; uncontrollably. So I'm holding the book up high and close to my nose with one hand and with the other I am try to cover the side of my face without looking like I was trying to hide. Anyway, I tell people that it is impossible to read your book without crying and I am suspect of anyone who does."
As many, many women have told me, ya gotta love a guy who cries over the loss of a dog. Bob's that kind of a guy. Our correspondence bounced back and forth and pretty soon my whole family was invited to be guests of the band at the Avett Brothers concert in downtown Philadelphia recently. We went with our good friends, Sara and Dave, grabbing Thai food on the way. At the charmingly seedy Trocadero concert hall, the band manager, Dolphus Ramseur met us at Will Call and led us backstage. Dolphus is living proof that the Southern Gentleman is alive and well, and he volunteered, "Would you like to meet the guys?" Heck, yeah! He led us up a narrow staircase to the green room where we found the band: Seth and Scott Avett, the fraternal songwriting duo extraordinaire; Bob on the bass; and Joe Kwon on cello. They were every bit as warm and friendly as their music, and we had a great time jawboning. Then it was time for them to go on and they invited us to watch the show from the stage wings behind the curtain, just feet from where they were playing. How could we say no to that?
I had never had that up-close of a view of a live performance -- well, other than the kids' school band concerts (which definitely rocked!) -- and it was quite a thrill. The Avett Brothers have that rare ability to play with your emotions and energy levels, taking you from mellow and heartfelt contemplation in one moment to heart-thumping, foot-stomping, hyper-energized joy in the next. For an all-acoustic band, they definitely know how to harness raw electrical energy. The standing-room-only crowd out front, mostly college kids from nearby Penn and Temple, went wild.
And then it was over and after quick handshakes the band was hustled onto a bus to begin an overnight ride back home to North Carolina. We left the theater tired, sweaty and giddy. Fun night. Great band. Good people. And I wondered nearly aloud, What would life be without music?
The Avett Brothers are not for everyone. They are far from the mainstream, but I find that refreshing. If you want a sample, here are a few youtube videos:
posted by John Grogan at 11:40 AM