Will You Return: Or, How One of My Favorite Bands Ended Up Playing in My Backyard

Avett Brothers

Much like politics and religion, I tend to avoid talking about my musical tastes in any kind of public forum.

It’s not that I’m in any way uncomfortable with what I like or where my tastes lie, but inevitably other people tend to pick your pleasures apart. It’s a fact of life; even though I’m of an age where I can respect you for your personal affections, even I’m still silently judging you for thinking the Dave Matthews Band are still cool.

That being said, writing about one’s taste in music is an even harder endeavor. More often than not it’s a personal thing, a hard feeling to pin down and really hammer out into words. Sure, some tunes are indelibly catchy; but for some one song that they find grating can be a life affirming jingle to another. Regardless of the challenge, I can’t in good conscious have gone to an Avett Brothers concert and not talk about it at least a little bit.

I guess, in a nutshell, they are a bluegrass, country and folk inspired group that is as infectious as a pop convocation with the energy level of a punk band. There’s something very earnest and heartfelt about their songs, whether they’re singing about the curiosities behind nostalgic trinkets in “Yardsale” or what would happen should they die in “Murder in the City.” Unlike a lot of the fluff on the radio, their songs almost feel like self-contained stories, the type of ditty that sticks in your mind not just because they settle well in your ears but because they are so lyrically verbose.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that their song “Live and Die” came out at a pivotal time in my life. I can’t listen to it without thinking of my youngest son Harry, whom we lost to circumstances out of our control. Although we tried to have an acoustic version that I heard on NPR played at his service it never panned out, but the impact was all the same.

From the moment I inadvertently stumbled upon “Kick Drum Heart” on Pandora I’ve been hooked on their addictive music since.

Seeing them live has always been a dream since, but I figured the only chance I’d get to see them is if I traveled to Red Rocks or the Twin Cities on the off chance I was able to pick up their usually sold out tickets. Not an impossibility by any means, but an unlikely scenario if I’m being honest. When I saw they were playing in Deadwood, I almost took a double take. Then when I realized it wasn’t some kind of joke, I hopped on Pop to get me some tickets, post haste.

To make a short story long, the show itself was amazing. There wasn’t just an energy in the crowd, but the band itself fed off of it as well. I’m not sure what they were expecting from a stop-over town on a Sunday night, but the place was packed. I’m sure it was a more intimate show than they’d normally play, but that’s probably why it was so engaging. They looked like they were having as much fun on stage as we were in the crowd. I even danced a bit, sang along and smiled the whole while. If you know me in any capacity (and the odds are good you do because you’re reading this), this probably comes as a surprise. Hey, even I have to break the wall down sometime.

Even at a little over two hours, it just didn’t seem long enough. They did it right, though: they played the hits, some deep cuts, a little bit of an acoustic set and of course an encore. Which turned out to be well worth it, because the tone of the crowd was nearly deafening as the chanted. The highlight of my night was oddly never at the actual show but waiting in line at the merch booth, where I saw a twelve or thirteen-year-old boy buying what I’m guessing was his first CD, with a smile on his face that could only belay that he had just entered into the gateway of how wonderful music can be.

At one point Seth Avett came up to the microphone and stated that in fourteen years of touring they had never been to South Dakota, but he was gonna make sure it wasn’t another fourteen before they came back.

I hope he’s right.