I spent the first 7 years of the new millennium managing a small independent music store in Iowa. I was a music snob before I got that job, having worked with original artists back home in Canada before moving to the good ole’ U. S. of A., so it was a good fit for me…standing around day after day, talking about college radio and the brilliance of Sufjan Stevens. Watching with secret delight as an entire generation of young’uns discovered the Pixies and the Smiths and Social Distortion.
There were special, private times at the store when I would indulge in my guilty pleasures; mostly before I would open up for the day. If you listened closely, you could hear Josie by the Outfield, or Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind reverberating off the slat walls. But in general I was (and remain to this day) very opinionated about what is “good” music.
My husband will try anything. He has fallen in and out of love with so many artists, most of whom I wouldn’t spin for more than one rotation. I won’t name them, because…well it isn’t fair to put them down. Part of aging is the ability to relax in to my opinions, and allow other’s to do the same.
My husband…he owns Motley Crue picture discs, and Green Day 7 inches, and everything Jeff Tweedy ever laid his hands on. I was able to indulge his interests and supply him with new music on a ridiculous basis. It was so outrageous that I stopped paying attention. He would try and talk about these new artists with me and I wasn’t listening – because there were so damn many of them, and frankly after five years of standing around talking about music every day, I didn’t feel like doing it anymore when I got home from work.
On Sunday mornings we lazed around – drank tea and played with the babies. I usually liked a bit of quiet and he respected that. One Sunday though, he slipped in a cd – Mignonette by the Avett Brothers.
Growing up Irish in Canada I was heavily influenced by folk music – music that tells a story, that touches you on your insidey parts. Music that makes you laugh till you cry (or cry till you laugh…whichever.) Mignonette did all of these things to me.
We went that year to see the Avetts at the House of Blues in Chicago. They were the opening act. It was my first time away from my babies over night and I was NOT pleased to be forced into going. Yes, I loved the music, but I didn’t need to be in the same room as them to do that. I could love them from the privacy of my own home…where my babies and I were safely insulated from the drunk drivers and slippery highway conditions between here and there.
But I went.
I had never seen the Avetts – no picture, no video. My first misconception was age. I thought for sure they were older than me – only wisened mountain men could make the sounds they did; a LONG life of experinces was required to sing those stories. But the boys that took the stage were not much more then babes.
The second misconception was that I could understand and appreciate their music without seeing them live. I had forgotten the magic of a live show. And nobody does live like the Avett Brothers. They played for something like 20 minutes. There were maybe 20 people in the audience. But they were fully there, engaged, and grateful for their crowd.
People say Johnny Cash was like a freight train. Well the Avett Brothers are a tornado. They whip themselves into a frenzy and you can’t help but being caught up in it. In their wake you and everyone around you are breathless, and touched, and changed. But not destroyed. (Unlike a tornado in that respect.)
A few new albums, numerous TV appearances, and studio time with Rick Rubin have passed and the Avetts seem older. There is a reserve that wasn’t there that first time. There is more drumming and less stomping. The crowd at the last show numbered in the hundreds. There were no post-show hugs for my husband (I was too shy to get mine that first time.) But it was still amazing. It was still them. And for that, I’m nothing short of thankful!
Go see them now. Buy their records.