The buzz for the show started as soon as we hit the pool at the luxurious Super 8 Motel in North Myrtle Beach, SC. Most of the other sunbathers and toedippers were also “warming up” for the show. The Avett Brothers from neighboring North Carolina were finishing up a three night run at the House of Blues and had already put down two blazing shows that begged the question: what do they have left for us on night number three?
After moving the party from the pool to House of Blues we took in opening act, Jessica Lea Mayfield. Jessica and her band took the stage about 8pm and played about 45 minutes with the bulk of the setlist coming from the Dan Auerbach-produced, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (2008). At the age of 20, Jessica Lea Mayfield has a sound and soul beyond her years. Songs such as “For Today” and “Greater Heights” displayed Jessica’s brand of moody alt-country. She has opened for the Avett Brothers a number of times and they showed some of their support when Scott Avett and Joe Kwon joined her onstage for the second to last song of her set. She closed the set with another song from With Blaspemy So Heartfelt titled “I’m Not Lonely Anymore”. As Jessica and the band exited the stage and the curtain closed on their HOB run, I expected to see the standard bathroom rush. But, the largely general admission crowd stayed firmly planted in their spots to make sure they had a good vantage point to take in the headliners. While I was disappointed that I would not be able to improve my position, I took it as a sign that the boys’ reputation for exciting, frenetic live shows was not to be taken lightly.
Shortly after 9pm, the curtain was pulled back as Seth and Scott Avett took the stage along with cellist Joe Kwon, bass player Bob Crawford and touring drummer Jacob Edwards. Scott sat down behind the keyboard as the band launched into “Colorshow” from 2006′s Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions. The opening line of the song (“Be loud, let your colors show”) seemed to double as a mandate for the evening’s show as the crowd went straight from 1 to 11. The band again pulled from Four Thieves… with “The Fall” which brought Scott from behind the keys as he strapped on his familiar banjo and harmonica. A pair of popular tracks from 2009′s I and Love and You followed as they played “Headfull of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and “January Wedding”. A deep catalog allowed the group to go back to 2003′s Carolina Jubliee and 2004′s Mignonette with “I Killed Sally’s Lover” and “Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane” respectively. At the end of “PG from Cedar Lane,” all the band except for Seth Avett exited the stage. He stepped up to the mic armed only with his acoustic guitar and the microphone to play one of the most intimate songs in their catalog, “My Last Song to Jenny”. It’s a song that captures a tender moment at the end of a loving relationship that left Seth a little damp around the eyes. Scott and Bob Crawford returned for another tune from Carolina Jubilee (and another from the “Pretty Girl” line of love songs) with “Pretty Girl From Annapolis”.
Towards the end of the song, Scott sang the lines “May you catch the joy that a melody brings/From my dear brothers ragged six string”, brother Seth took a moment to throw in a “Is This Love” interlude from the one and only Robert Nesta Marley before Scott and Bob rejoined him to close out the track. The band’s loyal following was never more apparent than when Seth took a fan made sign requesting a song titled “Die, Then Grow” that was debuted only earlier this summer and the band granted her wish. The track is not on any of their records and its not apparent whether it is a new song or one that failed to make the cut for I and Love and You. Nonetheless it is a track that deserves to be released in some manner. It featured Scott on acoustic guitar with Seth on keys backed by Joe, Bob and Jacob. The night of rare live cuts continued with “Pretty Girl at the Airport” which was written in nearby Wilmington, NC as declared by Scott.
The band’s dynamic sound was on full display with the raucous “Slight Figure of Speech” which was followed by the title track from I and Love and You a touching song that lends itself well to the singalongs that often occur at an Avett Brothers show. A slowed-down version of “Traveling Song” from Carolina Jubliee led to a staple of their live show, “Murder In the City”. “Murder In the City” as a title gives one a notion of a dark, ominous song, but nothing could be further from the truth as it is a song that professes the type of love that can only be shared with one’s family. During Emotionalism’s “Pretty Girl from Chile” Seth gave Jacob a break as he took a turn behind the drums.
The set was closed with “Laundry Room” from I and Love and You. Its slow start slowly builds towards a banjo-filled, footstomper that had the entire place dancing in unison before its abrupt end which left the crowd begging for more. They didn’t make us wait long before returning to the stage in front of jetnoise-level applause and as Seth took his seat behind the piano for “Kick Drum Heart” he jokingly pleaded to the crowd, “Can we please play another song for you?”. They closed their night(s) with the very appropriate “If It’s The Beaches” from The Gleam EP. The houselights and curtain did not close for a few moments and that briefly fueled thoughts of a second encore but it was not to be as the next notes we heard came from the house speakers.
Whether it’s stand up bass, cello, banjo, drums, harmonica, guitar or some good old fashion foot-stomping, the boys utilize every ounce of skill and energy to produce their uniquely American sound. The depth of their catalog was on full display this evening as they played nine songs that were not played during the previous two nights and they clearly answered the question “what do they have left for us?”. The answer turned out to be: more than enough.
Headfull of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
I Killed Sallys Lover
Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane
My Last Song To Jenny
Pretty Girl From Annapolis > Is This Love > Pretty Girl From Annapolis
Die, Then Grow
Pretty Girl at The Airport
Will You Return
Late In Life
Slight Figure of Speech
I and Love and You
Murder In The City
And It Spread
Pretty Girl From Chile
If it’s the Beaches
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