Reviews

The Avett Brothers

Greg M. Schwartz

You can’t quite call them a power trio, but they put out a big sound.

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

City: San Francisco, CA
Venue: Slim's
Date: 2008-04-04

It’s a jam-packed house on Friday night at Slim’s in San Francisco’s SOMA (South of Market) district. The Avett Brothers from North Carolina are back in the city for two sold-out nights, and elbow room is at a precious premium, suggesting that the Avetts are more than ready to move up to a larger venue on their next visit to town. But first, they’ll have to prove themselves once more here at Slim’s. Opener Jessica Lea Mayfield of Kent, Ohio, leads with a set of mostly somber tunes. Her biggest cheer comes when she is joined by Scott Avett and the welcome uplift his presence provides. More than one Kent State alumnus in the crowd (they seem to be popping up all over the Bay Area these days) speculates that Mayfield is so sad because she’s spent too much time in Kent. Her final number features a more electrified rock sound, though, and shows some further potential along those lines, should she decide to go that way. The antsy crowd is obviously biding its time for the headliners, whose blend of Beatles-esque harmonies, bluegrassy sounds, and high-energy rock attack has earned a devoted following. The band’s latest album, 2007’s Emotionalism, is an aptly titled platter: the group’s songs have a consistent emotional appeal that is lacking in much of the radio rock that passes for popular music these days. An up-tempo tune announced as “A Pretty Girl from San Francisco” finds a predictably warm reception, featuring a hoedown vibe with hoots, hollering, and rhythmic clapping from the enraptured audience. Scott Avett’s banjo picking mixes with brother Seth’s acoustic guitar lines and upright bassist Bob Crawford’s fat grooves, all combining to form a compelling attack. You can’t quite call them a power trio, but they put out a big sound. “Pretend Love” slows things down a bit and is followed by a rocker that mixes early ’60s Beatles melodies with more bluegrassy jamming. The unique vibe is furthered still with the addition of some Dave Grohl-esque screams from Seth Avett, which seems apropos given he looks quite a bit like the Foo Fighters’ frontman. Between the similarities in their looks and howls, it would seem only reasonable that the Avett and Grohl clans are related somewhere along the genealogical tree. The mix of grunge-style screams with bluegrassy pop melodies points to a whole new genre -- grunge-grass? The band soldiers on with new song “Andis Breath”, featuring a melodious cello line over a smooth groove from Crawford, with Scott Avett moving from banjo to drums. Crawford rocks out with an infectious energy all night, and it has a contagious effect. Even so, the crowd is having a hard time rocking out like it wants to, due to the lack of elbow room in this sardine can atmosphere. Set closer “Die Die Die” manages to change that, resonating with the crowd as if it were a chart-topping hit single. It’s a definite fan favorite, particularly with the ladies who start to bounce and sing along with the “die die die” chorus, converting it into what sounds like a simple “da da da” refrain. The crowd continues to sing the melody even after the band exits the stage, recalling the legendary refrain of Grateful Dead audiences chanting “no, our love will not fade away” after a “Not Fade Away” set closer. Such a connection with their audience would seem to indicate that the Avett Brothers have tapped into a phenomenon that could eventually make them legends in their own time. The encore features Scott on drums and Seth on electric guitar for one of the more rocking tunes of the night, which makes it hard not to imagine what a powerhouse the Avetts could be backed by a full band. In a world where Jack Johnson has parlayed his one-man acoustic act into several festival headlining slots this summer, it wouldn’t be so much of a stretch to imagine the Avett Brothers ruling this sector of the galaxy in a few years.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image