Avett Brothers sing what they know 

click to enlarge North Carolina’s Avett Brothers are pioneers of the Americana music revival. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • North Carolina’s Avett Brothers are pioneers of the Americana music revival.

Unlike their predecessors Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash, the Avett Brothers of North Carolina don’t write songs about characters in faraway places. Seth and Scott Avett stick to songs about themselves.

There’s little third-person storytelling, and everything is true.

“I love a lot of music that is either fictional or observational, but generally we’re more drawn to songs that speak directly to a life experience that we’ve had, something we would like to happen or something we learned,” says singer-guitarist Seth Avett, who brings his Americana folk band to the BottleRock Napa Valley festival on Thursday. The inaugural four-day destination event boasts rock music, comedy, food and wine.  

If the Avetts were to write a song about the week leading up to their trip to Napa, it would be about the unrelenting rain that has kept them indoors.

“It would probably have to do with ... some gloomy, stay-in-your-house kind of days,” Avett says. “I imagine it would be pretty quiet and lean toward a little bit of cabin fever. I’m looking out the window right now and it’s raining, so I’m looking forward to coming out there.”

The Avett Brothers — Seth, his singer-banjo-player brother Scott Avett, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon — are often grouped into the recent Americana revival scene that includes Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, the Lumineers and fellow BottleRock performers Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

But some don’t realize the band has been around for more than a decade and is among the leaders of the revival.
When Avett Brothers performed at the 2011 Grammy Awards (as did  Dylan and Mumford and Sons), their fifth album had been issued. The current full-length release, “The Carpenter,” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart last fall.

“It does seem like there’s something happening as far as bands with American roots elements in them having more popularity and success,” Avett says. “I think there’s a natural ebb and flow that happens with the mainstream attraction.”

Despite the proliferation of bands that look like they have time-traveled from the Great Depression, Avett isn’t irked that others have mimicked the aesthetic. He views it as a compliment.

“I feel like the longevity of a band, or the quality of a band, comes down to the songs, and nobody can do that for you,” he says. “You can put some suspenders and a Depression-era hat and a beard on somebody, you can put an acoustic guitar in their hands and have them go out and play a song, they can look the part — but if the song isn’t great, it will come out in the wash.”

If You Go

BottleRock Napa Valley 2013

Where: Expo Center, Third Street between Juarez and Bailey streets, Napa
When: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday-Sunday
Tickets: $139 for one day, $329 for three days, $399 for four days, $599 for four-day VIP pass
Contact: www.ticketfly.com, www.bottlerocknapa.com
Note: $20 per day parking available off-site; shuttle service provided

About The Author

Roman Gokhman

Roman Gokhman

Roman Gokhman has been writing about the music scene in the Bay Area since 2006, with a focus on indie rock, world music and the local scene. He's also seen U2 live more than 50 times and expects to add to that total in 2014, if their next album finally comes out.
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