Last June, the Avett brothers had the unenviable task of playing the main stage at the prestigious Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee on the final afternoon of the four day festival. After listening to nearly non-stop live music for the previous three days and partaking in round the clock celebrations, the audience traditionally becomes near catatonic by the final afternoon. But when this North Carolina based band released their own fiery brand of punk tinged bluegrass, the crowd was revived, temporarily bereft of their complete exhaustion.
So it was no surprise at the nearly sold out UCSB Arts and Lectures Avett Brothers concert, in the Arlington theater in Santa Barbara on February 10th, when the band transformed the normally stoic academic audience, into a euphoric crowd from the get-go. From the moment that the band stepped on to the stage in the opulent theater, it was obvious that security would have a struggle keeping the audience in their assigned seats. As evidenced by the scene at the Arlington, the band has amassed a fiercely loyal fanbase all across the country. The band’s twitter feed on their Facebook page, lit up all through the night, with audience members weighing in on their excitement at being at the show. One fan named Mary commented “Your show topped the “Cream Farewell Performance” – thanks for the music, the energy, the love.”
Fans even sported homemade t-shirts to commemorate the evening. It was the third time that the band has played in Santa Barbara, twice at the Arlington sponsored by the UCSB Arts and Lectures concert series, and even headlining the much larger Santa Barbara Bowl last summer. But with a 24 song set list, including a double encore this was the bands longest and most intense performance in Santa Barbara, to date. The band started right on time at 8PM, sans an opening act, with the upbeat song “Go To Sleep”. The principal members of the band had exhibited exquisite stage presence, stepping to the edge of the stage to play fanatically, creating a flurry of fans rushing the stage around them. With no 10 PM curfew to deal with like last year’s bowl show, the band was able perform late into the night, adding an especially poignant acoustic beginning with the song “Shame,” and highlighted by one of the most well received songs of the night, “Murder In The City”. Sung by Scott Avett, accompanying himself on guitar, he wonders “which brother is better, which one our parents loved the most,” with his father responding, “I love you and I’m proud of you both, in so many different ways.” It closes with the lyrics, “Always remember, there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.”
Scott and Seth Avett lead the band with compelling harmonies and exquisite guitar and banjo picking techniques. The other two original members of the band are the anchors, bass player Bob Crawford, and maniacal cello player Joe Kwon. On tour, the band is joined by keyboardist Paul Defiglia, drummer Mike Marsh, and an animated violinist Tania Elizabeth. Elizabeth spent much of the show dueling directly with Kwon, in mesmerizing synchronic string assaults, with strings snapping on almost every song that provided fuel to the musical blow torch that is known as the Avett Brothers band. By the time the band played their second encore, possible their most popular song, “I And Love And You,” the crowd had swarmed the front of the stage in a dancing frenzy. It’s hard to imagine how the band will top this performance the next time they make it back to Santa Barbara, home to a hoard of avid Avett Brothers fans.