The trouble is: I have been spoiled for all other Avett Brothers shows ever.
I had never seen them live, after all. And tonight we could have driven to Asheville — but we didn’t; dinner with my parents — and seen them at the Civic Center with 7,000 other people, and it would have been great, because they are great. Grown-up and polished, still wild and fierce and heartbroken and joyous (“I just realized that all three of these bands sing a lot of songs about fucked-up marriages.” “Except Seth. Seth’s are all schmoopy love songs.”), still gloriously flaily and so much energy on the intimate stage of the Cradle. The Avett Brothers would be great anywhere because they are great.
But I never saw them, when they were still small enough to play the Cradle, and now they are not, but they played it anyway, and why, why, why would I want to see them anywhere I couldn’t be five feet from Scotty? Why would I ever want to see them with a crowd bigger than 500, all deliriously, stupidly happy to be there, energy running through the entire room in waves at every shouted chorus?
I know that we are not the only place where these things happen. The Truckers still play the 40 Watt in Athens, after all. It’s not the same, but it’s close. We are not the only state that has brought bands up on sheer willpower and love. The Avetts could have done this anywhere in North Carolina — Snug Harbor or the Tremont in Charlotte, the Orange Peel in Asheville, a street corner in Greenville would have dragged thousands of people out just to watch Seth sing the phone book. We love the Avetts because they are our own. They could have done it anywhere, but they did it in Carrboro, at the Triangle’s oldest and most venerable rock club. I sometimes shudder with jealousy over SXSW lineups, over shows in the Pacific Northwest and New York City and Los Angeles, in population centers that are bigger than mine, that can support those things. People are from New York and New Jersey and California; no one is from North Carolina, except when they are, and except when these things happen, these tiny last-minute staggeringly gorgeous shows, except when they happen where they’re mine.
And the Avetts were not just good. They were great. They were transcendent, they were as wonderful as I expected them to be, and they were better. Seth cut his hair off and looks like Harry Connick Jr. Scotty is the sort of front man you can’t take your eyes off. Bob Crawford holds it all down. And last night was a veritable party of, as shep. said, “a holla at Joe Kwon kind of night”, because Joe lives in the CH, Joe is ours even twice over what the Avetts are. The set list was a mix of I & Love & You, as rollicking and goosebump-raising live as it always was in my car commuting to Raleigh, and older stuff, things I wouldn’t have imagined wishing for (“Pretty Girl From Raleigh”) and things I didn’t know I loved stupidly until I heard them live (“The Fall”). They didn’t play a single song, save “Kick Drum Heart”, that I would say I wished to hear (my favorites, like “If It’s The Beaches”, don’t get a ton of live attention, though hearing two songs from that EP was amazing) and I didn’t mind a bit. I wouldn’t have changed anything. There wasn’t anything worth changing.
It was perfect. It was goddamned magical. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Setlist: Plague of Dreams (everybodyfields cover)/Talk on Indolence/The Fall/Rainbow Stew (Merle Haggard cover)/The Lowering (A Sad Day in Greenvilletown)/January Wedding/Shame/Tin Man/Matrimony/Down With the Shine/Kick Drum Heart/At the Beach/Pretty Girl from Raleigh/And It Spread/Head Full of Doubt Road Full of Promise/When I Drink/Sanguine/The Traveling Song/Pretty Girl from Michigan/I and Love and You/Slight Figure of Speech // Encore: Paranoia in Bb Major/Bella Donna
The Low Anthem opened up, with their particularly gorgeous brand of intimate, intricate indie rock, mostly songs from 2011′s upcoming Smart Flesh. One of my most highly anticipated albums for next year, thus far, and I think it’s going to be fantastic. If it doesn’t vie with the new Ha Ha Tonka for album of the year, I’ll be surprised; their new stuff sounds bigger and more complex than even OMGCD, built for their exact brand of instrument swapping, carefully layered, precise and heartbreaking songs.
Bombadil slid in with the middle set, and, oh, they’re always so charming. Their set was entirely new songs, save “Honeymoon” played at Ash’s request, and they almost have a new album finished, which is good news because I think it’s going to be great, and good news because it means that Daniel’s hands are healthier than they were last year. Even if they’re still not playing out much, it is always a good time to see them, and they didn’t disappoint.
It was perfect. I mean. Really. That’s the only word for it: last night was perfect.