Avett Brothers bring unique sound, contagious enthusiasm



By Brian Hancock

In lieu of the usual sea of blue, a wave of plaid flowed through the doors of Rupp Arena Thursday night, as fans flocked in for the long-awaited Avett Brothers concert.

Blood brothers Scott and Seth Avett, who play banjo and guitar, respectively, are the founders of the notorious band. Their latest album ‘I And Love And You’ peaked at #16 on the Billboard 200 best selling albums in 2009.

The group combines country, folk, pop, rock and bluegrass melodies to create a sound all their own. The San Francisco Chronicle described them as having the “heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.”

“I started listening to them two years ago when I worked at a YMCA camp over the summer,” Hannah Kelly, an anthropology junior, said. “Their lyrics are so clever.”

“Their melody is so crisp. It puts me in the zone,” David Downing, a psychology senior, said.

Jessica Lee Mayfield provided the opening act Thursday night. The 22 year-old singer, who has also opened for prominent names such as The Black Keys and Ray Lamontagne, is known for her dark, sad songs. Maintaining an expressionless face while casually sipping on a glass of wine in between her numbers, the young singer established a mellow presence with a soft blend of country and folksy pieces.

The Avett Brothers immediately turned up the volume, however, when they took the stage around 9 p.m. The band came out firing, immediately playing crowd favorites such as ‘Head Full of Doubt,’ and ‘Shame.’ Their enthusiasm was contagious, and the crowd roared as the brothers stamped their feet and thrashed their heads.

While Seth remained on guitar, Scott transitioned from his banjo to the keyboard and back from song to song, working up a sweat in the first few minutes of the show. Cellist Joe Kwon matched their intensity, as the longhaired Korean native played so hard he broke one of the strings on his cello. He quickly pulled a new string from his pocket however, and re-tuned his instrument right up on the stage.

“It’s so good to be back in the south ya’ll, thanks for having us,” Seth said, once the group stopped to catch their breath.  “We cannot express how grateful and thankful we are to be back in the great state of Kentucky,” Scott added.

Things quieted down midway through the performance as the rest of the band took ten and Scott and Seth moved to the front of the stage. Under a pale spotlight, the brothers sang three songs, including ‘Murder in the City,’ during which they wondered aloud “which brother’s better, which one [do our parents] love the most?”

Kwon and the gang soon returned, though, and the stage sparked to life once again. All were on their feet as the Avett Brothers closed with several classics, including ‘January Wedding,’ and ‘I And Love and You.’

Students and fans sang along, often taking over for the band without missing a beat.

“The crowd was full of energy,” Downing said.  “I thought [The Avett Brothers] were even more impressive live than recorded.”

“Kind of like Mumford and Sons, they’re just hauntingly awesome,” Dhruv Sharma, a biology and Japanese junior, said.

As the show eventually wound down, Scott reiterated his love of Kentucky: “We’re on a long road, and we’ve been fortunate to have our road take us through here many times.  It feels like home,” he said.

The Avett Brothers are currently working on their seventh album, although the release date has not yet been announced.