Smile Politely

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

This past Sunday I went to see The Avett Brothers perform at the Canopy Club. Walking up to the stage I felt a little out of my element. I had heard a smattering of songs by the group here and there; on car trips, during parties and in trebly tidbits bleeding out of my girlfriend’s head phones — but by no means was a diehard fan. I was more of an outside observer. I had heard of their amazing live show and figured I’d check them out.

As the crowd grew bigger, I could feel the anticipation in the air. The three sweaty and intoxicated guys next to me were beyond excited. I knew because they told me about eight times.

“Get pumped, son!”

“Best! Band! Ever!”

“Man, when they start playing I am not responsible for what I’m going to do.”

This sentiment seemed to be shared by everyone else in the place. I was terrified. I made mental notes of the closest emergency exits. The lights dimmed. I braced myself. The crowd erupted into hoots and hollers. The band made their grand entrance.

And as the trio started their first song, I couldn’t help but think to myself: these guys remind me of the Jonas Brothers.

Scott Avett took center stage clutching his banjo. He wore a grey three-button vest, nicely fitted pants, and a bold, big-knotted, red tie. His hair was perfectly disheveled. He wore dog tags on the outside of this collared shirt. It was almost the exact outfit that Joe Jonas wore on The Jonas Brothers’ performance on the VMA’s that very same day.

Note the vest, the color coordination and the long, dreamy locks. It was creepy. I couldn’t take this band, who I intended to greet with an open heart and mind, seriously.

Their solid set, however, made me forget about my first impressions momentarily. Seth Avett’s crazy-man beard also helped in shaking off the strange comparison. But as the show moved along, I watched the faces of the three men on stage and couldn’t help but have the image creep back in my head.

The way they hopped up and down in unison. The way they banged out basic chord progression. Even the way they hit every note in perfect harmony. I saw them ten years younger and a perfectly clear picture came to me:

I then looked around at that crowd. A bunch of exuberant people jumping up and down, hands in the air, screaming every word of every song. One of my three (now drunker) associates leaned over to tell me:


And so then I pictured everyone in the crowd ten years younger, without the beer bellies, with long, braided hair and stubble-free faces. These drunk twenty something dudes were just like a screaming mob of pre-teenaged girls. Change a couple descriptive details and this could be an out of hand B2K concert.

I can honestly say that their live show provided a new and different perspective on The Avett Brothers; a terrifying one. Now, the show was really good. The Avetts are fantastic musicians and performers. I’ll probably even listen to more of their stuff now. But at the same time, the line between something so revered (such as The Avett Brothers) and something so hated (like The Jonas Brothers) seems very thin.

I could go into further detail about each act: how the Avetts draw from Americana and Folk traditions whereas The Jonas Brothers perform songs written by computers. The essential differences are much clearer than their similarities. But they both do essentially the same thing. They perform pop music. People like to sing along to their songs. Both bands are comprised of mostly brothers. You could probably even find a chord progression shared by both groups.

My point? Let’s just say I smell an awesome world tour. But also, that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the mainstream and what’s off the beaten path. Each week I hope to continue to maybe close the gap.
Scott Avett photo courtesy of In The Aeroplane, Over UC

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