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Review: The Avett Brothers at the Fraze Pavillion

Blood Harmony is a phrase used to describe how well close family members can sing together. It goes beyond two brothers having similar voices--it bleeds into all the commonalities family members usually share. Scott and Seth Avett have been singing and performing together for so long it’s a little erie how well they harmonize. On Tuesday night, they brought their brand of Blood Harmony to a sold-out show at the Fraze Pavillion up in Kettering, Ohio.

The Avett Brothers have been touring and recording as the Avett Brothers since 2000. A regionally popular Bluegrass/Americana band gained national traction in 2009 with the Release of their album I and Love and You.

The whole country was introduced to the most earnest band around. Scott and Seth Avett write songs about all the usual topics--but they write in a way that is completely devoid of irony and snark--contrasting the majority of how much of the country communicates today. When most people hear the first verse of a typical Avett Brothers’ song like, I and Love and You, for the first time, there’s almost an instinctual eye roll. There’s something kind of corny about them. In a snark-leaden world--something seemingly earnest causes a reflexive mistrust of the content. Who are these Avetts and what are they selling? What’s this new gimmick?

With the second verse, the catchiness of the melodies hooks the listener. There’s something fun and playful about their music. While there may be no snark--that doesn’t mean there’s no humor. You can tell the Avett’s enjoy playing together and they want you to enjoy listening. It’s starts to don on you that maybe there is no gimmick. They’re not pretending--these guys really are this earnest. It goes from corny to admirable. 

Rock, country and pop music have plenty of edgy and wannabe edgy artists. Very few proudly go the other way. The Avett Brothers’ brand of earnest music is never more contagious than when they perform live.  

Prior to their breakthrough, their music was a blend of bluegrass and rock. Now they lean a little more into the pop/rock sound, but the feeling and style remain. When they pull together songs from their nearly 20-year run, the demonstrate their skill. They can let loose with pure stomp and clap-along numbers like Satan Pulls the StringsTalk of Indolence, and Ain’t No Man; or they can dial it back for a host of ballads and slower tunes like Murder in the City or Head Full of Doubt.

Scott and Seth share lead vocals in an organic way--it never feels robotic when one takes the lead on one song, only to give way to the other on the next. It’s so comfortable, they can manage it within the same song, trading verses and coming to together to harmonize so seamlessly it’s like they have a telepathic connection. The rest of the band orbits around them, sometimes providing backing vocals but contributing best to the backing music that wraps the Avett’s vocals. Whether playing a stand-up or electric bass, Bob Crawford is a presence on stage and his playing gives every song an added depth. Fan-favorite, Joe Kwon and his cello bring a unique warmth to the music. Whether the cello is prominent in the song, or simply a backing element, it never feels forced. Tania Elizabeth fills in with piano and keyboard work, and occasionally background vocals--but she got a little lost in the Fraze sound mix. Mike Marsh picked his spots on the drums--knowing when to go full throttle on songs like the aptly named, My Heart Like a Kick Drum, and when to fade into the background. 

The best word to describe an Avett Brothers’ show--is fun. They are fun, and the audience is fun. The Avett Brothers’ fans really like The Avett Brothers and they really get into watching The Avett Brothers play. It was a high energy show that showed The Avett Brothers in their element. They have many good recordings, but they truly shine live.