Overall Show: A+
The Avett Brothers are one of my favorite bands, their records are always consistent and every video I have ever seen of them playing live absolutely blows me away (watch the video posted in This earlier post for an example of that). And I have had countless people tell me “you NEED to see them live” and “you haven’t experienced the Avett Brothers until you’ve seen them live”. And were they right. The show (at the Summercamp music festival) was one of THE music experiences that I have had the pleasure to be a part of. Despite standing in a mud pit for two hours surrounded by less-than-sober festival attendees in a real hot sun, it was worth it for the performance on stage.
The Band: A+ (with extra-credit)
The stage presence of the Avett Brothers is unlike any other band I have ever seen. They commanded the crowd and interacted with each other as if each were close family members (it makes sense, since Seth and Scott Avett are close family members… brothers actually…). They switched instruments literally every song and brought in an occasional drummer who fit the Avett vibe perfectly. Their interaction with the crowd was genuine, authentic and surprisingly witty, including one instance when Scott Avett stuck the mic into the crowd and allowed a lucky fan to sing the chorus of a song. They had the crowd singing along, and they used that almost as a musical track in itself. During “Go to Sleep”, Joe Kwon started up the “la la, lalalala” and the crowd quickly joined in. The brothers did something similar during “Kick Drum Heart” and “I and Love and You”.
The show, outside on a hot day, at a festival where they are second to some crummy jam bands and obnoxious dubstep, they had every excuse to play a lethargic set, but instead, despite the venue, they exhausted themselves and gave me my moneys worth for the entire three-day festival.
The Setlist: A+
If I could have chosen a set list for the Avett Brothers to play, if would have looked remarkably similar to the set-list from the show I saw. The majority of the songs they sang were from “I and Love and You” (2009) and “Emotionalism” (2007), but they kindly threw in a few earlier tunes for their diehard fans in the crowd. Each song was a experience itself, sometimes changing the mood and feel of the crowd song-by-song. They started with “Slight Figure of Speech” off of “I and Love and You” and ended with an encore performance of “Talks on Indolence” (which I was secretly dying to hear them play. It did not disappoint).
The Venue: B
I had a great view of the band, probably about 3 rows from the front, below stage right (right underneath Joe Kwon) and I had a fantastic spot, especially considering the 15,000+ people watching the show. The sound was solid for an outdoor amphitheater, making for a very pleasant listening experience. But, the mud was almost unbearable. It had rained heavily during the day, and subsequently cleared up a bit, but the crowd was still standing in a lagoon of sinking mud. I ruined my Sperrys! I don’t think an amphitheatre is the place to see The Avett Brothers, I think an intimate club would be ideal. But regardless, it did not detract from the show all that much. But the people in the crowd did.
The Crowd: D
I went to Summercamp with literally zero expectations; all I knew is that The Avett Brothers would be there, it was an outdoor festival and it was supposed to rain. Turns out, it was a bunch of Jam bands and the same crowd that might find itself at a Grateful Dead show in decades past (more to come on this in future posts). But all of this to say, they were not really the Avett Brothers typical crowd. They danced oddly, smoked a lot of weed mid concert (ironic, considering the relative innocence of the Avett Brothers’s song content) and were somewhat rude. As a man with a somewhat large “personal bubble” I did not enjoy the ‘dancy’ demeanor of the crowd. But I guess that is what you get at a Jam band festival.
Despite the crowd, it was an unforgettable show. If you ever get the chance to see the Avett Brothers, whether surrounded by hippies, hipsters or something in between, do it.