Just as I discovered Dawes, hearing “Time Spent in Los Angeles” on The Current, I became aware of the Avett Brothers when that station played “I And Love And You.” Other songs followed; I came to recognize the sound and the distinct lyrics. Both bands seemed worthy followers of Wilco in that particular genre of my music appreciation. For confirmation I went to see Dawes perform at First Avenue this summer and listened to their latest album, Stories Don’t End. There was nothing on the record that jumped out – indeed, The Current’s efforts at pushing “Most People” struck me as the wishful thinking that produced airplay for Semisonic after “Closing Time.” Sadly, the live show only confirmed my fear that Dawes had peaked and perhaps exhausted their creativity. Still, if “A Little Bit of Everything” remains their peak, it’s a pretty good one, and when that closed the show I was close to tears.
I hadn’t mined the Avett Brothers as thoroughly when I went to hear them at the Santa Barbara Bowl last week (10/10/13), although I had been very impressed with their latest album, The Carpenter. My only reservation was that their singing seemed a little bloodless. Boy, did their show dispel that concern! Scott and Seth Avett commanded the big stage in their skinny-jeaned black outfits, with Seth’s scissor-kicking left leg and Jesus hair bounding up and down nonstop. They traded lead vocals seamlessly, their voices eerily similar and harmonizing wonderfully (think Everly Brothers). But best of all was their music: unlike the slightly monotonous sound of Dawes, the Avetts mixed soulful ballads with hoe-down fiddle, call-and-response, Latin (not so good) and heavy metal. Energy was high throughout and the four supporting cast members blended in gracefully (I especially enjoyed Yo-Yo Ma rocking around, cello on shoulder). By the time “I And Love And You” closed the show, it was a high point and a relief, a well deserved hit, but not all the Avett Brothers could do.