PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Avett Brothers: 20 May 2011 - Houston, TX

Despite being able to draw audiences into 3,000 seat venues, The Avett Brothers still manage to capture a bit of the feeling of street buskers.

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

City: Houston, TX
Venue: Verizon Wireless Theater
Date: 2011-05-20

The Avett Brothers were supposed to play in Houston back in mid-April, roughly four years since their last appearance in town, but that concert was abruptly postponed due to the birth of Scott Avett's second child. After a month-long delay, the band arrived at a crowded, but not quite sold out, Verizon Wireless Theater. The Avett's steadily-growing profile received a significant boost with the Rick Rubin-produced and polished album I and Love and You, and they presumably got another bump earlier this year when they played at the Grammys. Regardless of how they got there, the band now has the pull to fill a 3,000-seat theater, which is impressive for an Americana group.

Opening the show was the LA-based Truth and Salvage Co., who seemed energetic and fun. Sadly, though, I missed the majority of their set, and I would've liked to have seen more from them. Scott and Seth Avett took the stage shortly after 9:00 pm along with the rest of the band, bassist Bob Crawford, cellist Joe Kwon, and drummer Jacob Edwards. They kicked things off with a bouncy take on I and Love and You song "And It Spread", which got the crowd moving and singing along right away. The set was dominated by songs from that album and its predecessor Emotionalism, but the band found time to work in some older material, an unreleased song, and a cover or two along the way.

When the band slowed it down early in the show to play "January Wedding", couples all around the floor danced quietly together. Then the audience went back to bopping along to more upbeat songs like "Paranoia in B Flat Major" and "Slight Figure of Speech." Even with a regular drummer, Scott and Seth still have a kick drum and hi-hat, respectively, to provide percussion on songs where they don't use him. It captures a bit of the feeling of street buskers even though they're playing really big rooms these days. The two actual Avett brothers are highly energetic performers and congenial front men. They made sure to thank everyone for coming out and apologized for not getting to Texas all that often. They also referenced their '07 Houston show at the Engine Room, and revealed that they were all suffering from the flu at the time. I've been to the Engine Room, and it's a horrible sweatbox, so that must have been an incredibly difficult show to play with the flu.

The band's other two official members are no slouches when it comes to performing, either. Bob Crawford bounces around on the upbeat songs regardless of whether he's playing the upright bass or bass guitar, while Joe Kwon roams his half of the stage with his strapped-on cello, playing his head off. The cello's versatility allows Kwon to fulfill several musical roles during the show, at times mimicking a fiddle and at other times playing softer, orchestra-like accompaniments. In the upper register of the instrument, some of his parts even sounded like a soft trumpet.

The second half of the set brought out some of the band's best songs, showcasing them at both their most hard-hitting and quietest. The thumping "Kick Drum Heart" led into a swirling interlude that eventually blended into the dark and noisy "Colorshow". The pretty, contemplative "Murder in the City" was followed by the laid-back new song "The Once and Future Carpenter". Then the band reached back to Carolina Jubilee for the raucous "Sally's Lover", which they played as fast as possible. From there it was time for "I and Love and You", which had the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs.

The main show closed on a quiet note with the brothers playing "Laundry Room" as the audience listened attentively. Well, mostly attentively. As good as the crowd was overall, a few girls couldn't help themselves, yelling "I love you, Scott!" or "I love you, Seth!" during the quiet moments, while a handful of passionate dudes just had to scream "WOOOO!" at the top of their lungs. The encore was similar, as Seth Avett played the beautiful story-song "The Ballad of Love and Hate" all by himself, as the same handful of audience members shouted out amongst roughly 2,8000 others listening raptly. Rather than close things out on another up-tempo song, the band said goodnight with Scott, Seth, and Bob singing the traditional spiritual "Down in the Valley". This was my first experience seeing The Avett Brothers, but it certainly won't be my last.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.