It's not easy grabbing attention from big names, but the Avett Brothers managed to do just that last year at one of the biggest musical festivals of 2013.
The Avett Brothers stole the thunder from acts considerably more prominent at the Firefly Festival. The mega-fest, in June in Dover, Del., featured such dynamic live acts as the unpredictable Red Hot Chili Peppers and the iconic Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Such emerging recording artists as Foster the People, Kendrick Lamar and the Alabama Shakes commanded attention.
However, the Avett Brothers' progressive folk and boundless energy won over the masses congregated under the hot sun. During the middle of their set, the crowd gave the Avett Brothers a well deserved ovation. “Thank you,” vocalist-guitarist Seth Avett said. “We'll take what we can get.”
After the fiery performance, Avett and his brother Scott Avett, cellist Joe Kwon and double bassist Bob Crawford, appeared drained and giddy at once.
“It was something I'll remember for a long time,” banjo player-vocalist Scott Avett said. “What a great response at a really cool event.”
The Avett Brothers, which will perform Saturday at the USF Sun Dome, has been out behind its latest album, “Magpie and the Dandelion,” The project may have been recorded during the same session that produced 2012's “The Carpenter.” but it's not a bunch of B-sides. The Avetts, with the help of producer Rick Rubin, crafted a winning blend of rustic roots music and ragged folk. The latter is refreshing in this age of over-processed perfectly played pop.
“There is something good about just letting someone play and going with it,” Scott Avett said. “There's something good about warts and all. It's real.”
While coming of age in North Carolina during the '90s, the Avett Brothers, like many growing up just after the Clinton era commenced, were drawn to Nirvana. Part of the appeal of the late, lamented band was the shards of reality, which were part of everything Kurt Cobain penned.
However, by the mid-'90s, the Avetts attended Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C.,and were moved by some of the acts on the bill.
“I remember seeing this band, The Blue Rags, and they were young, and they were playing ragtime and bluegrass with such energy,” he said.
That laid the groundwork for the Avetts. They didn't become one of the myriad of post-grunge bands. They picked up banjos and truly alternative instruments to make their own style of music.
The band's tunes may be raw but they're fleshed out with some assists from A-level talent, which assisted during the “Magpie” sessions. Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who joined them during their aforementioned Firefly set, fiddler Tania Elizabeth, the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and vocalist-guitarist G. Love, joined the group in the studio.
“Those guys are so talented,” said Love aka Garrett Dutton. “They do things differently. They fill a big void.”
The band's association with Rubin and his American Records is a perfect fit. Rubin gives them enough rope. The Avett Brothers can do what it wants. “I think that's huge,” Scott Avett said. “We have that autonomy, and that's really important. We need to make the music that we are driven to make.”
The Avett Brothers have free will but they work hard under Rubin, who demands the best from his bands. “We'll play songs over and over again because of Rick,” Scott Avett said. “He just wants us to make the best music possible. We can make the necessary changes along the way by working on songs for a as long as we need to. It's worth the trouble.”