The Avett Brothers sell out Breese Stadium with Americana charm

A field of 7,500 knit-clad folks, a brisk autumn night and an absorbing Avett Brothers performance is an equation for an October utopia. The Avett Brothers, and their sea of fans, christened Breese Stevens Field on Friday night in the venue’s first-ever concert that sold out in 10 minutes.

It was easy to see why the tickets were a hot commodity: The entire performance was nothing but wildly charming from the second they walked on stage. With the audience primed by two lovely sets from openers Brett Dennen and Nicole Atkins, the band opened in a lively rendition of “The D Bag Rag.” Scott and Seth Avett rushed to center stage, whimsically wailing on kazoos. As it turns out, the secret to making a field of people instantly fall in love surprisingly involves kazoos. After they had the entire crowd smiling ear-to-ear, they went into “Live And Die.” The tune is a simple, yet beautiful, tribute to the common humanity among us all, and their performance genuinely sold every word. Their chummy brotherly vibes seemed universally contagious. I thought the only thing on earth that would make me want to put my arm around a stranger and sing a song was “Varsity” à la Badger games, but The Avett Brothers managed to prove me wrong.

During “Satan Pulls the Strings,” The Avett Brothers highlighted their most essential weapon: their brilliant band. After a steady intro from Mike Marsh on drums got the crowd’s feet stomping, Violinist Tania Elizabeth soloed with effortless panache. Things only escalated as she was joined by the incredible Joe Kwon on cello. The duo laid down a force of an intro, eventually erupting in full-band, jig-inducing romp. It was moments like these throughout the show that proved the band to be a well-oiled machine.

It’s rare to see a band as tight as The Avett Brothers; each member had a keenly escalated sense of the subtleties of the others, naturally anticipating every move and note. They worked tightly in tandem, many parts of a flawless whole. But even in the midst of their precision, each song contained the organic drive of a drunken waltz. The real artistry of the show came in the range they demonstrated in captivating each moment. For every time they mastered a full-blown high-energy instrumental jam, they gave the crowd chills with a tender a cappella ending that could straight-up make your leg hair grow.

The show was as present and pure as the fall air itself, but convincingly grounded in the Americana roots of our past. The Avett Brothers are skilled storytellers. They had my overwhelmingly Northern self wondering if I could get away with things like calling everyone “darlin’”–I suddenly because very aware of the lack of sweet tea in my life. At one point I began calculating the plausibility of dropping out of college to buy a house with a massive porch in the South and have eight children with names like “Susannah Mae.” I slowly grew nostalgic for a life I’ve never lived with the twang of each Americana melody. In just a couple hours, The Avett Brothers built a transporting narrative, took a chilly corner of Wisconsin and constructed a warm, Southern realty.

 

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