As I was waiting in line, I met a man who offered to hold my jacket while I fiddled with my camera equipment. I soon found out that he had been standing at the front of the line outside EXPRESS LIVE! outdoor venue for over seven hours. He said he had taken off work to take his daughter to see The Avett Brothers, her favorite band. He seemed incredibly casual about what was going on, but as soon as the gates opened he rushed to the front of the pit the same way his daughter had. While taking photos, I could see the pleasant surprise on his face as he jammed along to the mixture of blues and punk rock that was sure to surprise anyone who had not heard this band’s discography before.
This moment encompasses everything I’ve ever come to know about The Avett Brothers.
The Avett Brothers has been making music for over 15 years and continue to hold a relevant spot in music lovers’ hearts because of their ability to change their sound fluidly and without explanation. Never have I been to a show where a guitar is thrown and smashed on stage and only a few minutes later people are eager for another three-minute banjo solo.
As anyone in the crowd Friday night could probably tell you, 15 years and nine studio albums later, The Avett Brothers are humbled by the crowd that they consistently bring in. The band even stopped frequently to tell everyone how much they loved Columbus and how it felt like home.
“The highway sets the traveler’s stage, all exits look the same… They do, trust us you guys,” Scott Avett said.
As Scott Avett crooned the final verse of crowd favorite “I and Love and You,” he took a second to remind everyone, or at the very least myself, how long the Avett brothers have been adorning stages across the world. Their longevity is obvious when looking through a crowd and seeing college students on dates, a 5-year-old on his father’s shoulders singing along to every song and burly men in leather jackets enjoying the performance.
Not a single person sat during the band’s 26-song set, with the same eagerness throughout the crowd for both face-melting guitar solos and the twang of Scott Avett’s banjo. The Avett Brothers successfully genre-bend to the times, but never waver from their down-home North Carolina blues roots. The band sings songs about family and spirituality with lyrics that hit home to anyone with a family or a broken heart. Scott and Seth Avett sing with a fervor and humility that translates across any stage. Whether it’s breaking out electric guitars for foot-stomping new single “Satan Pulls the Strings” or long-standing crowd favorite “Murder in the City,” where I definitely saw grown, bearded men shed a tear.
Aside from the namesake of the band Scott and Seth Avett, what really shined throughout the night was the plethora of sound that came from instruments that aren’t often featured on concert halls and stages. Joe Kwon on the cello, Tiana Elizabeth on violin and Paul DeFiglia on piano created an orchestral feel throughout the night. And as if the sound could not get any bigger, the crowd acted as seventh member of this ensemble, responding to every request the band had to sing along.
Friday night was everything this band has always tried to be; personal and homegrown. Whether you were there because your daughter’s favorite band was playing and she had been asking for months, or these songs were what got you through your last breakup, this band reminds us of home and we remind them of home, too.