Band of Brothers

With their infectious, indescribable sound and loyal fan following, the Avett Brothers are the local music scene’s best hope

A lot of ink and a few too many thesauri have been used trying to describe the music made by the Avett Brothers. Some of the attempts are interesting, some are close to accurate, and some are downright ridiculous. Of all the efforts, the brothers themselves say they prefer “Depression-era dance music,” “pre-Civil War modern rock,” “indie folk,” and “honest music.”

Here’s a new one: important. For the Avett Brothers represent hope for the Charlotte-area music scene.

Let’s introduce the band. The two brothers are Scott, twenty-eight, and Seth, twenty-four, from Concord. Scott plays a steel-string guitar and high-hat, and Seth plays banjo. They both sing and harmonize and occasionally let out a barbaric yawp. They were in a hard-rock band first, and sometimes opened shows with traditional acoustic numbers. The rock band split up, and the brothers had just begun to consider going fulltime with the acoustic stuff when they found Bob Crawford, who brought his stand-up bass to the group. Together, they play a fiery brand of bluegrass that isn’t bluegrass at all. “We’re part of a movement,” says Scott, “bringing roots music to a different level.”

To see the Avett Brothers live is to experience the hope. Fans whoop and holler and scream along with the lyrics, and the brothers do their own fair share of whoopin’ and hollerin’. On ballads, fans shut up and listen. An Avett Brothers show is not a concert at all, says Seth, “it’s a big celebration.”

The band’s last two Charlotte shows, at the 650-seat Neighborhood Theatre and the 700-seat McGlohon Theatre, were raucous sellouts. They’ve carried that same energy as far away as Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. They’ve dropped jaws at Merlefest and the International Bluegrass Music Awards.

It’s been a long time—maybe forever—since a band from the Charlotte area has generated this kind of excitement. If the local music scene is ever going to mature, it needs a band like this.

“Hell, the Avett Brothers, they’ve shown what you can do,” says local rocker David Childers. “They’re getting out there and letting people know there’s some good stuff to be found down this way.”

“A band like the Avett Brothers does a really good job of having something that’s unique and fun and creative and getting the word out and doing their thing,” says Joe Kuhlman, a local musician, recording engineer, and co-owner of live music venue The Evening Muse. “They have something that’s infectious, they have something that people really dig.”

But ask him to describe the sound, and he can’t. “It’s like porch punk music or something like that. There’s a lot of reckless abandon to it, and it’s great. The boys really, they truly live that role. They live it. They’re not faking it.

“There’s a beauty in that.” —R. T.

Categories: Feature, The Buzz