What inspired this post was that my most enjoyable hour or two lately was spent watching music videos at You Tube. I'd call myself an above-average music fan who in adulthood has always had musicians and musically inclined folks nearby, from my very first post-college boyfriend to my very last coworker. But for a long time I hadn't had a favorite band -- one that I'd go out of my way to see -- until I heard a song by The Avett Brothers on the radio 5 or 6 years ago. The song was "Swept Away" and I tracked it down within days and ordered the CD, called Mignonette, which is in my all-time-top-10 records and which had a profound impact on my life that I won't go into here. I became a one-woman Avett Brothers publicity team, buying their CDs for myself and stocking up on them to give to others. I forced them on people, and still have a couple stashed away for the uninitiated. I saw as many of their shows as possible, as they went from playing (and I'm not kidding) the living room of a guy's house on my block -- a show I MISSED, something I'm still trying to get over -- to big venues in New York and Philly.
Talking with Seth Avett after a Sunday afternoon show at a wine festival in Maryland
(the worst wine you'll ever taste) on my birthday in 2006.
(If you're here for the jewelry, I made the nonbeaded earrings in this photo.)
|Bob Crawford, the bassist, about to hug me.|
Video I shot at an outdoor show of a wonderfully ebullient song about dying.
You may have just seen them on the Grammys, first playing solo and then backing Bob Dylan. I never even watch the Grammys but I tuned in just to see them. I was so proud of them -- these truly good guys making good -- but I was more than a little disappointed that they didn't come off better that night. You may not even remember seeing them if you watched the Grammys. And I blame that on (1) Rick Rubin, the hotshot producer who backed their last album, which was only a shadow of their previous efforts to my "old fan" ears; and (2) Mumford and Sons, who played immediately before them and knocked the alt-folk/rock/whatever ball out of the park. While M&S were playing, I just kept saying (much to T's annoyance), "This is an awesome performance! They're having such a great time! They're out-Avetting the Avetts!" (This is fitting since the first time I heard them on the radio, I thought they were the Avetts. Musta been the banjo.)
And then Mumford and Sons finished playing as the audience went crazy, and a different curtain opened and there was the beautiful (but itsy; the man is pocket-sized) Scott Avett sitting at a keyboard (he's a banjo player, Rick Rubin, banjo!); Bob Crawford, on electric, not upright, bass (another flaw); and some random dude on a full drum kit (the Avetts don't have a drummer; they use their feet to play a kick drum and a high-hat cymbal). Whaaa? They looked like the Doobie Brothers, not the Avett Brothers, and proceeded to sing one of their pretty but forgettable songs off the latest album while viewers at home went online and started downloading Mumford and Sons songs or ordering the M&S Sigh No More album, which I'd have done myself if I hadn't had it already. They put on the most fantastic live shows, but at the Grammys they were more forgettable than I've ever seen them, by miles.
So this post has two assignments for you:
1. Go over to You Tube and pull up some Avett Brothers videos. There's plenty because they're cool and generous about taping at their shows. Here's a good place to start. It's one of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, and if you're not interested in seeing more Avett Brothers after that, fine, you're off the hook, they're not for you. (I picked that one because it's nicely done and not too raucous but you still get the gist of the guys.) But if you are interested, I also recommend this professional video of them performing another artist's song, and this amateur video of what may be my favorite Avett song. Try them out; they're way better than what you saw at the Grammys (damn you, Rick Rubin!). I keep hoping they'll find their way back to what they do best, which is powerful, banjo-driven alt-something.
2. Get on the Mumford and Sons bandwagon too. I visited the Avett Brothers message boards today for the first time in a long time, and there seems to be some animosity toward M&S, but I say, why's that necessary? If the Avetts ain't bringing it no more, and Marcus Mumford and his peeps are, then more power to them. And it bears repeating how hard they rocked the house at the Grammys (the buoyant moment in the 1:50 region in that video when they exalt in knowing they're kicking it and taking names is worth the watch alone). Plus every other live video of theirs I've seen is so good it pains me a little. When I mentioned how impressed I was by the Mumford and Sons performance to a friend who's a CD dealer, he said Sigh No More has been his best seller ("Well, next to stuff like Rhianna") for the past several months, largely on word of mouth. So maybe you're already on the bandwagon. If not, I'm the mouth, spreading the word. Join us.