The Beards…The Banjos…The Brothers!!

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Front: Seth Avett (left) Scott Avett (right)
Rear: Bob Crawford (left) Joe Kwan (right)

Driving from Pittsburgh to Wheeling proved to be a treacherous feat as the February snow quickly covered the interstate.  Cars and trucks pulled over to wait out the storm but we couldn’t waste any time.  The beards and banjos were back in town and there was no way we were going to miss this show.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty of concerts in my day, but nothing quite compares to the unique style of country music that we were currently in store for.

The Avett Brothers took the stage at Capital Theater in Wheeling, WV on February 15th to a packed house and for the next two hours, time stood still.  It seems like that always happens when I experience Avett…I can still place myself at the Blue Heron Music & Arts Festival in 2003 when I heard the song ‘Shame’ for the first time and it stopped me dead in my tracks.  And for the past decade, I have listened carefully as brothers Scott and Seth meticulously groomed their sound (and their facial hair) into an enticing style of modern, new music.  The brothers’ fusion of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock and country music is truly one to behold.

The band opened with ‘Slight figure of Speech’, a song from their last album I and Love and You produced on American Recordings (their first on a major label).  It seemed a perfect fit to begin the show this way as it is almost a self-mocking anthem regarding “selling out” (an all-too-common occurrence among modern country music singers/groups).

In reality though, the band has in no way “sold out”.  They retain all creative licenses to their work and simply needed a much larger outlet to satisfy a rapidly growing fan base while retaining artistic integrity.  American Recordings is a division of SonyBMG/Coumbia Records headed by famed producer Rick Rubin.  Together, Rubin and the Avett Brothers have created something special in a time when music and artistry have taken an indelible swan dive.  But to many indie-enthusiasts they’ve committed a cardinal sin.

To the fans though, none of that matters.  The brothers remain true to their mission of providing meaningful entertainment in a feel-good environment.  The passion for their craft is further manifested through the regular release of home recordings and music videos on their “crackerfarm” YouTube channel.

Other members of the band are stand-up bassist Bob Crawford and cellist/violinist Joe Kwon who are [obviously] not blood related but are brothers just the same.  And even though their energy, talent and true love for exploring music are felt in every chord, the hardest thing to comprehend is how.  Before the Avett Brothers I was under the impression that the studio version of a song was also the perfect version of that song.  But the Avett Brothers defy all preexisting notions of perfection.  I have seen them perform at seven different concerts and each song they play I feel I have heard seven different ways…each one better than the last.

If you do not know the Avett Brothers’ music I can honestly say you’re missing out.  Even if country music isn’t normally your cup of tea or maybe you’re simply looking for some new music to add to your audible arsenal, I highly recommend you give ‘em a shot… especially if you’re thirsty for something real.

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