The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013

The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
Photo by Steven Cohen

Avett Fest
with the Avett Brothers, Brandi Carlile, Dr. Dog, and the Wheeler Brothers
Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset, WI
Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Look at that sky," Brandi Carlile instructed the crowd as the sun was making its way behind the hill of the Somerset Amphitheater. With the rain out of the way, summer was officially on the horizon when Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers took the stage on a perfect Saturday night. Both bands, along with openers Dr. Dog and the Wheeler Brothers, brought a summery set of songs, some made for dancing and some made to tug at the heartstrings.

See Also:
Slideshow: The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater

Brandi Carlile truly loves the Twin Cities -- Somerset being close enough to the Cities to bring out a crowd excited to see her -- so she was a perfect candidate for the bill. The 32-year-old has been flying high on her latest release Bear Creek for a year now and has graced this market many times in the last year.

Each time she has been spot-on with her performances, so nothing out of the ordinary happened. Each note was hit perfectly, each story was perfectly timed, and each song perfectly carried out. You almost want to hear her hit a wrong note to see if she is infallible, but knowing Carlile, she would probably take it all in stride. Her claim to being awkward was relaid about her interaction with Scott Avett upon meeting him backstage. She said to him, "'I think you and I read the same books.' Do you ever meet someone famous, and you say [to yourself], 'Why did I say that shit?' Because I've been obsessing over your lyrics, Scott."

The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
Photo by Steven Cohen

Brandi is not the only one who has been obsessing over the Avett Brothers' lyrics. The band has been around for many years, but hit it big with the Rick Rubin-produced I and Love and You in 2009. Since then, the brothers and company have not slowed down and opened with the lively "Live and Die" off The Carpenter. The song contains the proven successful formula that the brothers have perfected with its tempo changes, starting slow and building into something bigger and exciting, adding instruments along the way.

Their set consisted of songs that spanned their career, a balanced mix that revisited 2006 with "Distraction #74" and showcased their rock and roll side with "Paul Newman vs. the Demons." "Laundry Room" is a melancholy piece built around a crumbling relationship, and includes the most poetic, poignant lyrics "I wish that you would always stay, Last night I dreamt the whole night long, I woke with a head full of songs, I spent the whole day, I wrote 'em down but it's a shame, Tonight I'll burn the lyrics, 'cause every chorus was your name."

The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
Photos by Steven Cohen

As voiced by Brandi, the brothers have proven themselves to be masters of lyrics and narrative evidenced in "Ten Thousand Words" and "When I Drink." If you are ever feeling hopeless and lost, put on "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise," their dark song that can inspire hope in anyone. While their lyrics play an important role in the music, Seth and Scott Avett together weave magic with their voices, never once blending, but rather complementing each other with their tight vocals and harmonies during an acoustic mini-set midway through the show. 
Their cover of David Childers' "The Prettiest Thing" was ideal to slow down the set before launching into the dance-inducing "Kick Drum Heart." Their hit "I and Love and You" was not saved for last, but it immediately brought cheers from the audience and the unspoken request to sing along to the chorus. While Seth stepped behind the piano, Scott, sans guitar, commanded as he drew out the opening lines and pointed skyward as he sang, "We are headed north."

With an indoor concert, the signal for an encore is the house lights staying down, so it wasn't a given that there would be an encore with Avett Fest. The band didn't make it too awkward for the audience as they came back, saying, "Thank you. We'd love to play some more," and opened with the clap-along "The Cuckoo Song." As if in prayer, they followed up with "Salina," a song that talks of their life on the road and hoping to eventually making [North] Carolina home. Changing tempos again, the song trails off with the cello and piano getting lost in the night sky.

The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
The Avett Brothers at Somerset Amphitheater, 6/29/2013
Photos by Steven Cohen

Critic's bias: I saw the Avett Brothers when they sold out First Ave. touring off I and Love and You and knew they were going to be playing bigger shows soon after. The key to success is energy, and these guys have more than enough to fill an outdoor amphitheater.

The crowd: Ranging from hippies to families ready for a summer night of music.

Overheard in the crowd: "Do those people know that they didn't have to pay $50 to play frisbee all night?" -- about the group of kids that spent the whole time tossing a frisbee around.

Random notebook dump: If you ever get the chance to see Dr. Dog, do so. The band finally was able to play in Somerset since SoundTown was canceled last year.

Random notebook dump 2: [Promoter of the show] Sue McLean would have been proud.

Avett Brother's setlist

Live and Die
Go to Sleep
Down with the Shine
And It Spread
Laundry Room
Old Joe Clark
Paul Newman vs. the Demons
Distraction #74
At the Beach
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Ten Thousand Words
When I Drink
The Fall
I Never Knew You
The Prettiest Thing (David Childers cover)
Kick Drum Heart
I and Love and You
Slight Figure of Speech

The Cuckoo Song
Talk on Indolence

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