The night before at the Flemons and Reed show rtb, violaleeblue, and I were discussing that we didn’t know why the Avetts and Old Crow Medicine Show were playing Barclays Center when the Avetts couldn’t sell out Radio City Music Hall when they played there. Why play an arena when you’re not an arena band? Well, we were most joyously and pleasantly proven wrong. They are arena bands – especially the Avett Brothers.
This was my first time at Barclays Center. I’m not thrilled with an arena plopped down on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues like that. It really does look like it was simply dropped down in Brooklyn smashing everything underneath it. But the arena is set up well and the sound is very good. Plus we had excellent seats – on the side of the stage but only one section up. I have never sat that close at Madison Square Garden or the Izod Center (formerly Brendan Byrne Arena).
Before the show I went to a filled to the rafters with hipsters Bark, which sells gourmet hot dogs. Speaking as a Nathan’s girl – these hot dogs were most excellent.
Then I went to meet rtb, Mrs. Devereaux, mollyT, violaleeblue, and her boyfriend and got to the arena minutes before 8pm and Old Crow Medicine Show hit the stage at exactly eight. Once again, rtb and I were having trouble figuring out if Cory Younts was onstage. He changes the way he looks plus the stage is filled with musicians.
Ketch Secor leads the band on fiddle and off they go. Cory took a dance solo out on the landing strip and Secor took a solo there on his fiddle. The band members share time on the mic singing lead and they form circles and play off each other all the time. It is pure Americana, folk, country, bluegrass, roots – whatever you want to call it.
But they were in NYC and Secor made many references to the city and to Brooklyn. “It’s Friday night in the Big Apple and there’s three banjos on stage.” Just the way I like it.
Cory had an excellent whistling solo during “C.C. Rider.” The biggest cheer was for “Wagon Wheel,” probably their most well-known song. And they ended with their version of “American Girl” one of my favorite songs.
As they left the stage to very enthusiastic applause I yelled out, “I love you, Cory” and rtb yelled, “I love you more.”
The band is Kevin Hayes (guitjo, vocals), Cory Younts (mandolin, keyboards, drums, vocals), Chris “Critter” Fuqua (slide guitar, banjo, guitar, vocals), Chance McCoy (guitar, fiddle, banjo, vocals), Ketch Secor (fiddle, harmonica, banjo, vocals), Gill Landry (slide guitar, banjo, vocals), and Morgan Jahnig (upright bass).
I finally got it. What I got is why people love The Avett Brothers so much. Yes, I saw them before at SummerStage. And, yes, I liked the show a lot and gave them a great review. But there was something that didn’t pull me to them the way others are pulled to them.
They need to play an arena. You can’t see the power and energy in a smaller space because a smaller space does not give them the room they need. They are a rock band. Call them Americana. Call them alt-folk. Call them whatever you want. But they put the alternative into folk like nobody’s business. This is loud, in-your-face, headbanging rock and roll.
But also soft. Scott Avett came out first to the end of the landing strip playing banjo and then keyboardist Paul Defigilia joined him on fiddle. Bob Crawford made it a trio playing acoustic bass. Joe Kwon played cello right in front of the main stage on one side and Seth Avett played guitar opposite Kwon on stage right. Then drummer Mike Marsh joined in.
Some songs started soft and stayed soft. Others went back and forth between soft and hard. And others started hard and got harder. Kwon swung his head and long hair around as well as any heavy metal performer. Plus he carries and spins and dances with the cello, rarely setting it down. Seth and Scott both love to dance as they play and Crawford joins in when he can, switching from upright to electric bass. The brothers play keyboards and banjo, guitar, and kick drum and kept switching it up.
Also, you can’t talk about the Avetts and not talk about their harmonies. Scott’s and Seth’s voices blend so beautifully and their harmonies float up and around and surround you.
The back screen showed various photos and videos. There were also klieg lights behind them. And one thing that cracked me up was when Scott was following Seth around and making sure he had enough lead on guitar cable. If you’re going to play arenas then you should have enough roadies to do that stuff.
Secor joined them on fiddle for the second or third song, which was “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
Seth and Scott each took a turn singing a quiet song at the end of the landing strip. While Seth was singing “The Ballad of Love and Hate” someone kept yelling out, “I love you,” and finally Seth stopped and said, “I love you too. I can only ignore for so long.”
There were big responses for favorite songs like “Kick Drum Heart” (which always makes me think of Spoon for some reason) and “I and Love and You,” which was their last song. Of course, if you’re going to sing one of your best known songs that gives a shout-out to Brooklyn when you’re in Brooklyn then you better save it for last. The audience sang along and sang the lyrics so that the Avetts could feel all our love.
For the encore both bands came out and played “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Goodnight Sweetheart.”
What a great night to be in Brooklyn.
By Carene Lydia Lopez