Down in the valley of the financial district, the Avett Brothers started a 21-song, hour-and-a-half set slowly, with “Bring Your Love To Me,” from its most recent album, The Magpie and the Dandelion. The set picked up quickly though, and reached a zenith toward the end, when “Murder In The City” played as Scott Avett’s face was blown up on both jumbotrons.
As I write this column the morning after the concert, I’m hoping that I took some reasonable notes to jog my memory—when the audience danced, or stood still, or seemed especially morose. My most useful note on my phone, unfortunately, only says, “Looks like Scott Avett does not know how to hold a guitar,” which speaks more to my own inability to hold a guitar than anything the front runner of the band was doing. The only other thing I wrote down is a comment that “Kick Drum Heart” was fire emoji. My lack of constructive commentary, I think, speaks to the fact that I was entranced by the boys’ beards and distracted by the fact that my favorite songs were all coming to life in front of me.
I listened to the Avett Brothers a lot this summer after work as I ran down the darkening sidewalks of Commonwealth Avenue, hoping I wouldn’t get murdered in this city. Hearing the brothers sing their music live downtown, at the end of the route I ran so many times with their voices echoing in my earbuds, felt like some sort of accomplishment. Even though they didn’t play my two favorite Avett songs—also their most depressing, “I and Love and You” and “If It’s the Beaches”—I felt like the band was becoming tangible in a way that I hadn’t yet felt, despite the hours and days I’ve spent listening them since high school.
In an abstract and unrealistic way, the Avett Brothers are a kind of alternate reality of my family band dreams. Between my four brothers and me, we play the guitar, banjo, trumpet, violin, and piano, there are between two and three beards, and collectively, we have a whole catalogue of L.L. Bean flannels. But we never really worked together well enough, and the one time Alex and I decided to start the Freeman Family band, we decided to only play Taylor Swift covers. Ryan Adams’ fever dreams aside, it was clear that our suburban Maryland home was not set to launch a bustling folk band. None of us can sing, so maybe it’s for the best that we never had our own Avett Brothers-like career.
Every time the Scott Avett sings “Murder In The City” live, he changes a verse. In the official, recorded version, Scott sings “Make sure my sister knows I love her / Make sure her mother knows the same.” This time, cast along the financial buildings and in front of thousands of kids in flannel and birkenstocks, he sang, “Make sure my boys know I love them / Make sure my girls know the same.” It seemed like a shoutout to his brother on stage with him, and to the other members of the band, Joe Kwon on cello, Bob Crawford on bass, Tania Elizabeth on violin, and Paul Defiglia on keyboard. And, I’m sure, he meant it as a message to his friends and family in his real life. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for an audience member to apply it to him or herself, though.
As Scott says on an album recorded live at Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C., “It’s real difficult to sound sincere on a microphone, but we love y’all too, in a very big way.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor