The confusion came partially from the fact that half the band has shoulder-length hair that from far away looks the same, but mostly was caused by how often they switched instruments and rotated in and out of the stage. Seth and Scott Avett (the only two members that were actually born Avetts) rotated between the piano, guitars and a banjo primarily. Bob Crawford spent most of his time on the bass, but also sang and picked a guitar.
With each instrument change came a change of who was on stage, from just one member at points, to all five at others (also in the Avett Brothers are Joe Kwon, who plays the cello, and drummer Jacob Edwards). The rotation kept things exciting and unpredictable. You rarely knew what song was coming next. The show was like putting your iPod on shuffle and waiting to see what popped up.
Bathed in blue, pink and purple lights, the band took the stage at just after 8 p.m. dressed in blue jeans with big belt buckles and plaid shirts. From the very beginning, they were incredibly appreciative of the supportive audience. Seth and Scott took the time to thank the crowd between each song -- and they seemed to really mean it. Some songs were emotional and chilling -- an early on, stripped-down rendition of "Murder in the City," for example -- and others were just plain-old exciting -- "Kick Drum Heart," especially.
"Laundry Room" ended with what could only be described as a folk jam session. A highlight of the nearly two minute breakdown was Joe Kwon -- the Steve Aoki of folk music -- playing his cello with more passion and energy than I'd ever see a cellist play with before.
There was good variety of new and old songs, with at least one or two from almost all of the Avett Brothers' seven full-length albums. Some of the newer ones though sounded the most spectacular, especially "The Once and Future Carpenter," the lead single from the band's newest release, "The Carpenter." The live version had more excitement and flare than the calmer, recorded release. Both are moving and beautifully harmonized, but the live version brought out a sense of vigor that the album track doesn't have.
The whole night was a bit of a game of musical follow the leader. Seth stood up and clapped, and the crowd did the same. Scott jumped in excitement, and we followed. With each song, the audience remained engaged. During the two and a half hour long set, few sat down, and those that did returned to their feet usually just a song later.
To close the show, the Avetts all took the stage for a sing-along version of "I and Love and You." Upon conclusion, Seth thanked the crowd for singing, as he had been doing all night. "You all sound lovely," he said. I can assure you that Seth sounded lovelier.
For the encore, the Avett Brothers began with a ferocious rendition of "Talk on Indolence." As Seth growled out the chorus, Scott picked up a tambourine only to chuck it behind him into the back curtain. He then left the stage and returned carrying a snare drum above his head.
The band then gathered around the lone snare drum and played a series of classic bluegrass tunes as a final goodbye. As if the snare drum was a campfire, the five Avetts took turns singing lines of songs like "Alabama Gals" and "Shady Grove." The band had thrown a few classic songs in throughout their set, but it wasn't until the closing, broken-down setting that their true beauty really came out.
Of course, upon finishing the final notes all of the members of the band took the time to once again thank the crowd, blowing kisses and bowing as if we had done them a favor. We may have, but what the Avett Brothers gave the crowd is better than anything the crowd could have given back.