Talk about infectious energy. North Carolina folk-rock band, The Avett Brothers, have it. I've seen the three-piece a few times before, but last night's show at Rams Head Live really showed all their strengths. Their music was, at times, piercingly raucous and, at others, poignantly beautiful. And the crowd absorbed every emotion.
The band consists of two brothers, Seth and Scott Avett, who play all over the stage (everything from guitars and banjos to keyboards and drums), as well as stand-up bassist Bob Crawford and frequent addition, cellist Joey Kwan (if you think cellists can't rock out, think again). The Avett Brothers are on tour promoting their latest album, I and Love and You, released in September. Known for their rock and bluegrass infusion (sometimes dubbed "grungegrass"), the band is veering a little bit with their latest release, which contains a lot of softer, piano-driven tracks.
Their softer side was reflected in opening act Jessica Lea Mayfield, a Ohio-based singer-songwriter, whose brand of music is, well, downright sad. Whether she's singing about a lost love or her own loneliness, Mayfield's songs, including a cover of Buddy Holly's "Words of Love," were pretty dark and melancholy. But she carries the emotional weight with a beautiful voice—kind of a like a twangy Sarah McLachlan.
Needless to say, after the opening act the crowd was in the mood for something a little more up-tempo. And the headliners delivered, with songs like the poppy "Slight Figure of Speech," the Paul Simon-esque "Salina," the foot-stomping "Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane," and the extra-country "I Killed Sally's Lover." But throughout their set, they weaved a very tangible sentimentality, especially felt in new tracks "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise" and "January Wedding." Another particularly beautiful song was "Letter to a Pretty Girl" (and the crowd appropriately roared when they sang the lyrics "sunset over Chesapeake Bay").
They ended their first set, typically, with "Go To Sleep" and came back out for an amazing encore of the heartbreaking "If It's The Beaches," then "Die Die Die, " and "The Perfect Space." The last song was extremely fitting, as everyone in (sold out) Rams Head felt lucky to be in just the right place to see an amazing live show from The Avett Brothers.