It really started to hit me that my year of 50 shows was coming to an end as I trudged up the hill from the parking lot at the Mann Saturday night to see The Avett Brothers. It seems like yesterday that I was scalping a ticket in the parking lot to see Robert Plant last year as my 4th show and here I was seeing my 4th from last show. Anyway…
I love the Mann Music Center, even with their new $2 credit card fee at the box office policy (fee at the box office!?? Do I agree with that? No, I do not. See any other post where I talk about service fees.). But the Mann means summer to me and there is nothing better than that first walk up the hill to see your first show of the season. Though it was warmer at Christmas than it was this past Saturday in May, I was ready for the season to start.
We got there for a couple of songs from the openers- Chatham County Line. I would have liked to hear more of them, as they were more traditional bluegrass than The Avett Brothers. Hopefully, at some point they will come back around headlining their own tour
I had a little trouble getting a handle on how to describe The Avett Brothers’ sound. With the line up of instruments, I was expecting mainly new bluegrass. However, there was also some gospel influences as well as indie rock, ragtime and even a little punk at times all wrapped up as kind of poppy. Basically, not really classifiable. In a 2009 article, Rolling Stone Magazine described their sound as “spike banjo and acoustic guitar-powered tunes with early Beatles-esque harmonies and scuzzed-out guitar riffs on tales about paranoia and sexy girls from Chile.” I think that nails it, if I could figure out exactly what those words mean and how those words translate into sound. See, confusing.
Their 7-piece band was really fabulous, just great, and I got completely caught up in all the fun they were having. Their energy and rapport with each other and the audience was totally infectious. There were my usual suspects of favorite string instruments- an upright bass, banjo, cello and an awesome fiddler (and, ahem, only woman in the band). I have to admit that the cello guy really captured my attention, because he was jumping around most of the time while playing. I mean I can barely dance and clap at the same time (seriously, ask Susan), but this guy was jumping up and down and dancing while playing the cello. As I was deciding that the cellist was my favorite, the fiddler and banjo player leave the main stage and are on this built out walkway seven rows into the audience and completely jam out for about five minutes. Hair and sweat flying and my sweet, sweet bluegrass music at full throttle. Awesome!
While I am digesting this all, The Avett Brothers (yes, two are really brothers), bring out their father to sing “In the Garden,” a gospel tune, around one microphone and accompanied by stand up bass and guitar. Crap, now, I am confused. I could not stop smiling or dancing to their high energy jamming versions, however, the next day all I thought about was that song along with their cover of Doc Watson’s Country Blues. My only complaint of the evening is that I wished I had seen them about 7 years ago before they became this polished larger venue band. I can easily imagine them coming on late at night at a bluegrass festival as I sit low in my beach chair with a dark and stormy cocktail in hand. That is a pretty good complaint of a band in my book and my first Mann show of 2016 was a total success.
3 shows to go, 25 days left…