January 5, 2011

The Avett Brothers - Asheville Civic Center - December 31, 2010

The Cure for the Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

A super-hero banana suit; top hat-donning carnival caller complete with pencil-thin, drawn-on mustache; father time; you name it, somebody was wearing it down in Asheville for New Years.  Megaphones, googly glasses, and plastic top hats filled the hilly streets of the high country capital.  But in the Asheville Civic Center, there was only one piece of festive garb - the party plaid.  Yes folks, we were at an Avett Brothers New Year's Eve show in their home state, bidding bonne nuit to 2010 with 7,000 of our closest North Carolinian audiophiles.

Fans starting queuing up on the doorstep of the ACC as early as 2 PM in order to get first seat selection.  It's always a crap shoot when a semi-seated venue offers a GA show, so I can somewhat grasp the logic of wanting to get there early and snipe the best views.  However, there are sanity limits: six hours before doors is on the outside of those limits.  Especially during a winter day when the sun is out and the temps are pushing up over 50 degrees.  But perhaps that speaks to the dedication, the devotion, the commitment that the Avett Brothers' fans have.  I won't speculate as to the intentions or internal workings of fans other than myself, but I will repeat the wise words of one of the soundproof editors: "If you don't stand in a line, there won't be a line."

Crowds poured into the ACC at 8 PM, filling about half the floor and almost the entire upper bowl.  If you haven't been to this venue, well, it's pretty much a really large DAR.  There are bleacher seats in an upper area surrounding an ovular concrete floor with stage end.  All seats point toward the middle (not stage end mind you), so it's pretty much perfect for a basketball game, roller derby, dodgeball tournament, etc. but less than ideal for a concert.  The size is a nice feature, as it allows larger acts to play in a smaller market, so I'll give it some points for being big.

The Avetts were accurately slotted to take the stage at 1030 and came out hot.  The crowd billowed, wailed, and lept to their feet as the lights dimmed and the boys picked up their posts.  From the get go it was clear that it wasn't going to be a hit-heavy setlist like the previous night.  They opened with a Sam Cooke classic, Cupid and the launched into two Four Thieves tunes, Colorshow and LoL, LoL.  Bonnie (the Avett sister) came out and played keys on Go to Sleep and then provided some backing vocals on Swept Away.  They continued playing some of the less radio-friendly-yet-wonderful songs, and even busted out what I can only assume is a new track.  They didn't touch I&L&Y until the tenth song when they played Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise.  Then the band exited the stage to give Seth the spotlight on Ballad of Love and Hate (which was fantastic and oddly, rarely performed live).  Kick Drum Heart was the final song the Avetts played in 2010, and it was a crowd pleaser for sure.

The tickets for this show were not cheap.  Asheville isn't exactly in DC's back door.  And accommodations for the weekend were not easy to get.  But the balloon drop rigged up by the ACC for the countdown at midnight was worth the price of admission alone.  Thousands of red and white balloons filling three or four bladders were dropped on the crowd as the band broke into their first song of 2011 - Blue Ridge Mountain Blues.  It was surreal, stunning, sublime.

The other two songs I'll mention as highlights were Down with the Shine and the PG from Annapolis set.  Jessica Lea Mayfield looked a little nervous, but Scott was able to calm her down with a reassuring hand on the shoulder.  Great energy and poise.  Everyone was sure there was going to be a second encore after Laundry Room, but to much chagrin, the house lights and music came up shortly before 1 AM.

This show was great but it wasn't perfect.  The crowd was incredibly rude.  I heard the words "Excuse you" twice during the night, one said to me after I said excuse me.  The fans in the lower bowl were very chatty, and at times seemed more interested in after-show plans than during-show events.  Hey lady, Seth Avett is singing his heart out on Ballad which he never does - can you cool it with the talk about Tommy Mayflower's sext messages?  And the ACC has probably the worst alcohol setup I've ever seen.  First of all, they charge you for a wristband (thanks dicks, I missed David Mayfield), and then the lines to get to one of the four bars is around the bend.  Probably because you only allow one drink per person.  And don't even think about buying a drink at the floor concessions: the line bobs and weaves through the concert-watching crowd, never moving, and always picking up freeloaders who don't ask where the line ends.

Ultimately, the scorecard says it all.  Much props to the band and the city of Asheville, but the concert missed points based on a chatty crowd and a pretty bad venue.  Still, this show will be one of the highlights of my 2010 AND 2011.  If you haven't already bought tickets to see a great band at yet another terrible venue, I think there's still some seats for the DAR show in February available.

Check out these stellar photos over at organicthink.com.  We actually have a bit of video, and if I can figure out how to edit my geek-outs off the film, we'll post.

Cupid - Sam Cooke cover
Left on Laura, Left on Lisa
Go to Sleep (w Bonnie on keys)
Swept Away (w Bonnie)
Traveling Song (new version - "no pretty girl can ever slow me down")
New Song (with the line "if i live the life im given, i won't be scared to die")
Please Pardon Yourself
Will You Return
Ballad of Love And Hate
Distraction #74
Nothing Short of Thankful
Kick Drum Heart 
*break before new year*
Blue Ridge Mountain Blues (w David Mayfield) - Earl Scruggs cover
Down with the Shine
Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane
Pretty Girl from Annapolis > For Today (w Jessica Lea Mayfield) > PG from Annapolis.
The Fall
Wanted Man - Doc Watson cover
Walking into Jerusalem (w Sr. Avett?)
Laundry Room

1 comment:

  1. Loved this show -- can't wait to see them again in February! What a way to ring in the new year with good friends and great music.