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The Avett Brothers crack the Beta Bar (3/6)

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(Contributed by Stephanie Castellano)

Seeing the Avett Brothers live is like riding a long winded rollercoaster and feeling its effects afterwards.  That exhilarated, drained and woozy feeling after the ride is that same feeling generated when The Avett Brothers perform live.  The band whips through an hour-long set with such high-speed intensity that you think, “Wow! What the hell just happened?”

The wooziness may have come from all that beer. At any given time during the show, there were at least ten or more sloshing cups of foamy beer waving around in the air. The excitable crowd at Tallahassee’s Beta Bar swayed, stomped their feet, and sang along until their throats were raw.  This is where the desire to drink more beer comes from.

The Avett Brothers, whose music is often described in stuffy terms such as “non-traditional bluegrass” tore through song after song with the ferocious punk intensity of a category five hurricane.  It’s as if bluegrass got off the back porch rocker one day, ran down the hill and dove face first into a huge quagmire of mud.

Though the core of the Avett Brothers’ music is rooted in old-time country, they turned the Beta Bar into a rowdy, reeling honky-tonk that Johnny Cash would be proud to hear. Scott and Seth Avett (Scott on banjo, Seth with a big ol’ dreadnought), pummeled their instruments into rollicking, foot-stomping tunes.  Both brothers belted out their soulful lyrics with Seth showing his rocker side with primal howls.  All the while, the band constantly gave the audience a fix of music with bleary, sweaty and baleful glares. Even though the brothers never once smiled, the crowd’s overall mood was of delirious happiness.   The high point of the evening hands down included the sprawling sing-along “Shame”. Scott Avett plucked out delicious melodies that propelled the band and Bob Crawford on upright bass filled out the band’s line-up.  At the show, the band also included cellist Joe Kwon playing with them. The cello rounded out each song beautifully, even the more grungier tunes.

The Avett Brothers have their share of slower, sadder ballads.  However, last night wasn’t the night for that stuff at all. The band avoided bogging down their set list slow numbers that probably would’ve had the drunks in the crowd bawling. Still, there is something about the Avett Brothers’ presence on stage that is honest and naked. Perhaps it’s the gorgeous rawness of their vocal harmonies and acoustic instruments. Perhaps it’s the graceful tones of the cello or the occasional wail of the harmonica. Or perhaps it’s that element of folk purism always present in the band.  Regardless, the members’ unwillingness to electrify their down-home acoustic dynamic is definitely the reason why they’re so great.

Folk, bluegrass, punk rock, honky-tonk, cling clang, boom boom and balls-to-the-wall attitude…put it all in a blender, crank it to eleven and you get the Avett Brothers. These guys break all those molds, which is true for every great band; they resist definition and create a new label that’s all their own.

Check Out: 

 “Murdered In The City (3/6/2008 at Beta Bar)”

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