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Avett Brothers

Adriana Pratt | Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For the folk of heart, dreams came true this weekend when the North Carolinian band the Avett Brothers graced South Bend with a performance. The Avett Brothers landed at the Morris Performing Arts Center on the last leg of their January tour this Saturday and were met with enthusiasm, appreciation and an abundance of plaid.

Even from the worst seats in the house, the performance was exquisite. The acoustics and energy travelled across and through the hearts of the thousands amassed. Feet were stomping, voices were warbling and bodies were swaying as the Avett Brothers transitioned from tune to tune.

Opening act David Mayfield Parade started off the night with a lively performance that prepared the theatre for what was to come as the Avett Brothers graced the stage around 9 p.m.

Brothers Scott (banjo) and Seth (guitar) took turns alternating on vocals while upright bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon strummed along. Performing in South Bend was a great experience, Crawford told the Observer in an interview Monday.

“It was a wonderful night. Everybody was very warm and welcoming. A pleasant surprise,” Crawford said.

The Avett Brothers wasted no time making a commitment to their audience, opening their concert with a performance of the simple country ballad “January Wedding.” Screams of delight met them as they recalled their bad decisions with a lighthearted rendition of “Shame.” Two songs later they reinforced their decision to be something and then to go be it with “Head Full of Doubt.”

The college kids in the audience cheered the band on with extra enthusiasm as Seth and Scott listed the booze blunders they incurred with “When I Drink.” Saying things they don’t mean to say, feeling things when they shouldn’t really care and doing things they didn’t want to do topped the list of mistakes. Songs like these further solidified the Avett Brothers’ relevance as a band for our generation.

The evening was full of surprises, even for the bandmates themselves. When Crawford walked out on stage Saturday night, the monitor came out to tell him that for some reason his whole mix had been erased. Crawford took the news in stride and the show went on.

“We’ve played all kinds of places and been in all kinds of situations … That’s where the experience kicks in. I think, ‘What do I really need in this situation? I can probably get through this,'” Crawford said.

That was not the only surprise Crawford received. During the sound check, he was also told that he would be performing a solo that night.

“There’s never time to prepare. I never know when I’m going to be called upon but that’s an example of me kind of playing my role on the team,” he said. “For me, doing it that way is great because I don’t do it every night and therefore whenever I do it, there’s the heart palpitations and the adrenaline kicks in. I think it’s great because it keeps it very real.”

In spite of the nerves, Crawford kept his cool on stage and impressed the audience with a light and easy performance of “Letter to a Pretty Girl.” His turn as a singer made obvious one of the characteristics that sets the Avett Brothers apart. They are a multitalented group who don’t limit themselves to a conventional musical approach.

With a conglomeration of songs including jigs that sound like Ben Folds (“Kickdrum Heart”), ballads reminiscent of Johnny Cash and tunes that defy any sort of category, the Avett Brothers are a unique presence. Their infectious banjo, piano, guitar, cello, drums and bass concoctions draw you in and keep you guessing.

Not only are the songs impressive, but the dancing itself makes the concert worth the ticket price. Legs have not moved in such jerky spirited motions like those of Scott and Seth Avett since the days of Forrest Gump. The brothers jumped and kicked around — and somehow kept enough breath to sing— while Crawford and Kwon strummed along to their hearts’ content.

The night closed with a performance of their biggest hit, “I and Love and You.” Then sadly the band said their goodbyes.

Though the Avett Brothers left South Bend, fans can still expect more to come. The band doesn’t seem too concerned about the direction it’s headed but has faith it will go where it needs to go — including to its next album, expected to be released in the next year.

“That stuff will just come when it comes. We haven’t been able to see this road unfold before it’s unfolded for the past decade and we don’t expect to be able to see it now,” Crawford said.