The Avett Brothers have an almost telepathic bond that they have honed over the past couple of decades. Scott and Seth Avett continue to write these finely crafted songs that feel timeless. I can put on an Avett Brothers record and get lost in the feeling of those harmonies. But it’s the live shows that are the prize. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s no wonder, over the years the band has been releasing albums, there have been four live volumes released.
For what has become a tradition at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, The Avett Brothers kicked off the summer concert series for the legendary venue. Three nights of foot-stompin’ sing-alongs with Scott, Seth, Bob Crawford (bass), and Joe Kwon on cello, along with Mike Marsh on drums, Tania Elizabeth on fiddle, and Bonnie Avett-Rini on keys. On the last night of the run, The Avett Brothers put on a brilliant show on a perfect night. That pre-summer feel where you can stretch out and it’s not too hot.
Iris Dement, whom I had been hoping to see for years, opened the evening at Wolf Trap on May 27. Dement told the crowd that the last time she had performed at Wolf Trap was with John Prince years ago. She was beyond what I had imagined and songs like “Our Town” shone bright.
Here are some photos of Iris Dement opening for The Avett Brothers at Wolf Trap:
As The Avett Brothers took the stage this crowd was clearly prepared. They started off with an old traditional bluegrass number, “Black Mountain Rag,” and the crowd cheered. And the audience became a chorus as the band started on “Shame” with the crowd singing along as Scott, Seth, and Bob played before transitioning smoothly into “Die, Die, Die.”
Newer songs like “High Steppin’” felt like the perfect country songs for this outdoor show. You could almost smell the barbecue. And although there were those slower, sweeter numbers (“Please Pardon Yourself,” “Laundry Room”), there were plenty of rollicking pop tunes (“Gimmeakiss”) that had fans out in the aisles and dancing.
But the one that had Scott himself going out to dance along with fans was an incredible performance of “Ain’t No Man” that had the singer take his mic out to the audience while he walked along the crowd and on the seats and then back to the stage.
Watch the official music video for “Ain’t No Man” by The Avett Brothers on YouTube:
Seth Avett stayed for a couple of numbers where he played solo, highlighting a voice that’s like a cool glass of water. “The Ballad of Love and Hate” is a perfect example of this, but it wasn’t the only one. One of the more recent tunes from the band’s 2019 LP, Closer Than Together, “C Sections and Railway Trestles” he wrote about the birth of his son. “The next one is a song I wrote in a hospital room in the blur after my son was born. He turned eight years old a couple of weeks ago.” Scott joined in, “A song for an old man.”
Joking, Seth didn’t miss a beat, “Forty years from now, ‘He just turned 48. Can you believe it? Isn’t that cute. I just picked him up the other day.’”
As things neared the close of the evening, The Avett Brothers seemed to shift things into higher gear with “Slight Figure of Speech” full of blistering guitars and a fabulous Mike Marsh drum solo before slamming back into the song.
The band came back out to encore with “Till the End of the World Rolls Round” by The Foggy Mountain Boys and “No Hard Feelings.” It was a brilliant end to a beautiful evening.
The setlist included:
Black Mountain Rag (traditional)
Die Die Die
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Who Will I Hold
Please Pardon Yourself
The Ballad of Love and Hate
Talk on Indolence
And It Spread
Rejects in the Attic
I and Love and You
Ain’t No Man
I Go to My Heart
C-Sections and Railway Trestles
Groundhog (The Doc Watson Family cover)
The Clearness Is Gone
Slight Figure of Speech
If It’s the Beaches
Till the End of the World Rolls Round (traditional)
No Hard Feelings
Here are more photos of The Avett Brothers performing at Wolf Trap on Saturday, May 27, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.