The Avett Brothers with Justin Townes Earle
September 28th, 2012
Charter One Pavilion
A handful of friends including fellow LxLer Todd came into town for the weekend, and what better way to start the weekend than catching two quality folk acts under the city lights on Lake Michigan. It was my first trip to Charter One Pavilion, the make-shift venue thrown up in the summer on Northerly Island, the attached peninsula on the lake front where Adler Planetarium lies, and it was a great one. This was quite a venue for a folk legacy like Justin Townes Earle and a folk band in Avett Brothers that has only grown more confident and comfortable on stage in the recent years.
Justin Townes Earle opened the tranquil night with his brand of earnest yet sly alt-country steeped in the roots tradition. There is inevitably a Dylan quality to Earle, but even more so, there is clearly a folk tradition Earle has inherited from the two names that make up his surname, which stems from his father (Texas folk legend Steve Earle) and his father’s mentor (the late and reflective singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt). Earle’s set was no doubt pleasant, but lacked much to get the crowd riled up or entranced in his music. The best of Earle’s set was when he took the stage on his own for the last two songs (song names escape me since I am not familiar with his catalogue), where Earle let his persona take center stage rather than just bleeding into the background with the rest of his band on stage like he did for the remainder of the set.
After a half hour down time, the Avett Brothers finally took the stage and immediately pulled the crowd in with “Live and Die”, the lead single off of their latest album, The Carpenter. This was the fourth time for me to see the Carolina-born folk brothers and their band and this was the best of the four. The band clocked a 2.5 hour set – impressive for a band whose songs mostly clock in around 3-4 minutes – and played old live staples, folk standards, and plenty of new material. The band also didn’t stop and chatter but just kept the tunes coming, making for 2.5 jam-packed, show-stopping hours of music.
The Avett Brothers on stage consist of Seth (guitar, piano) and Scott Avett (banjo, guitar), who split vocal and songwriting duties for the band, then standup bass player Bob Crawford and the highly skilled and highly Asian cellist Joe Kwon. The band also has the occasional accompaniment of a keyboard player or drummer, but for the most part, the four primary members take care of business on stage with pedal drums and cymbals for the percussion and Seth himself takes drum duties a couple of times in the show. The band’s music can only be described as folk-pop, as the brothers employ simple and infectious melodies informed by everything from classic rock to doo-wop to country to Latin music. There aren’t a lot of bands around that write songs that are not only thoughtful, but you can’t stop whistling or humming.
Highlights of the set included the Latin melodrama of “Pretty Girl from Chile”, the driving reflection on youth that is “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, and the simple yet beautiful gospel hymn that closed the show, “Closer Walk With Thee”. I highly recommend catching the Avett Brothers if you are a fan of folk, pop, or just great live music.
Check out the set list here.
Can’t Miss: “Pretty Girl from Chile”, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, “Murder In The City”
Can’t Hit: none