The Avett Brothers conjure Carolina magic in Tennessee

by Carole Perkins

Two men stand cheek to jowl, eyes closed in deep concentration, singing, “Murdered in the City,” the first track on The Second Gleam. Scott Avett starts the set solo with guitar while Seth moves across the stage empty handed, with vocals that ride piggy-back on Scott’s, as only a brother can do. Seth’s hand subconsciously strums his invis ible guitar. Bob Crawford joins the ensemble, whirling and dipping his upright bass like a dance partner, as “Shame,” from 2007’s Emotionalism, stirs the voracious crowd into a frenzy of arms swaying like the snakes on Medusa’s head.

The Avett Brothers stomp and chomp at the bit with unbridled energy at this Saturday night show at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tenn. Scott and Seth’s right legs paw the ground, breaking into the signature Avett dancing gait. Bob bounces to the close, tight rhythms, heaving ecstatic fans into a kinetically executed momentum reined in by the next song. Stepping back from the mike, the crowd is calmed by a long interlude, pacification until the next song, “Signs,” released on the 2004 CD Mignonette. Joe Kwon bounds in for the fifth song, holding his cello in the air and mouthing words to “Distraction # 74” from Four Thieves Gone, released in 2006. “It’s so nice to be down South with you all,” Scott says. “We love you, Avett Brothers!” the crowd sings back in unison. Scott’s voice is wicked like a long pull of Southern Comfort, Seth’s a heady, clear sip of moonshine from a glass canning jar, as they sing “Living of Love,” from Emotionalism. Later in the set, Scott sings the lyrics to one of the three unreleased songs, “Laundry Room.” Ever the quintessential artist, Scott motions with his hands and paints pictures in the air. “Ya’ll are just some sweet people, you know that?” Seth asks the crowd. “Pretty Girl from Chile,” from Emotionalism, showcases Seth dancing a rumba with his guitar before giving Joe a quick hug, moving to the drums. Bob and Scott sizzle on electric guitars as Seth reaches his drumsticks to the heavens as the crescendo climaxes. “I want to thank you guys for keeping us going,” Scott says, thumping his heart with his hand to signify love. The Avett Brothers exit the stage as the throng roars ear-splitting screams, hands bang the stage like a bongo, tribal chants of “Avett Brothers, Avett Brothers, Avett Brothers!” “Thank you so much,” Scott says as they return, Seth smiling beside him. “We’d love to play another song for you. We have a new record coming out in a few weeks and we’re going to play a new song for you,” He says. The crowd is rocked into a trance as Seth sings his tender-hearted song, “Tear Down the House,” from The Second Gleam. “I love it already”, a fan yells, piercing the silence.

“Not so fast,” Scott grins. The rollicking song, “Go to Sleep,” from Emotionalism, ignites fans once more as Seth and Scott kick their legs into the air while Bob and Joe spring up and down, their instruments like pogo sticks. One of Scott’s banjo picks slips from his finger. An ebullient young lady snatches it as it rolls by, turns it over and over in her hand as if discovering the Holy Grail. Seth strides to front stage, claps his hands in the air as the crowd follows him like a game of Simon Says, clapping and singing the last verse to the song, “ La La La La La La La.” The fans continue singing the verse until the Avett Brothers return for a second encore, junkies needing just one more fix. The last song, the unreleased, “Late in Life,” ends as Scott braves a quick handshake with a few fans, narrowly escapes being kidnapped, and exits the stage behind Seth, who skips like the Pied Piper. Bob stays behind a few minutes, his aquamarine eyes glisten as he shakes hands and call the fans by name. Outside, hopeful fans hover near the tour bus, hoping and praying for autographs. Justin, a fan from Johnson City, Tenn. who designs posters for some of the Avett Brother shows, talks to a lingering group about an ecnounter with Scott. “Scott said, ‘Well, it’s a real honor to have you do this for us,’” Justin says with astonishment. “Like it was him honoring me, instead of the other way around.” — CP