As fans, we sometimes think rock stars are insulated from the hassles of the real world.
After all, they’re rock stars.
On so many levels, Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers reminds us that isn’t so.
First, there’s the surface level of simply dealing with the inconvenience of travel and bad weather. The Avetts’ tour was supposed to start during that recent snowstorm that immobilized the South. Crawford, who plays bass in the band, and Joe Kwon, the band’s cellist, were car-pooling from their homes near Chapel Hill, N.C., to meet the rest of the band and the tour bus near Charlotte, which is about two hours away.
A half-hour down the road, Crawford and Kwon turned around. There was no way the band could safely travel to the tour kick-off in Illinois or to the show the following night in Missouri. Both were rescheduled.
And then there’s the issue of Crawford’s little girl, Hallie, who is 4. You may have seen Crawford talking about her recovery from brain surgery in a widely circulated TV commercial that praises St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
When she was 2, Hallie had about half of her brain removed because of a tumor. Crawford left the band to deal with the crisis.
He’s back now, and will be on stage Monday night when the Avetts play the first major concert at the renovated Cumberland County Civic Center.
Crawford said Hallie is doing well.
“We just went back for a checkup a couple of weeks ago, everything seems fine. We heard what parents want to hear: There’s no evidence of disease. That’s what we heard, so that’s really good,” Crawford said by phone from home, with his son and daughter playing in the background. “We’ll go back in April, and pray we hear the same thing then.”
If that’s the case, then Crawford should be able to spend more time thinking about music in 2014.
The Avetts have risen to the top of the Americana-folk-acoustic-rock revival set, on the strength of a series of CDs that feature the sophisticated and sensitive songwriting of brothers Scott and Seth Avett and their familial harmonies. Their latest disc is “Magpie and the Dandelion,” released last year.
The brothers were raised on bluegrass, country and gospel music, and turned to metal, punk and classic rock during their teen years. Their band reflects those influences with a sound that comes straight out of the South.
Fans who have seen the Avetts in Portland before will notice a bigger, more robust sound on Monday. Over the years, the Avetts have expanded from a three-piece, featuring Crawford and the brothers, to what is now a six-piece.
“With the band itself, 2013 was a really good year. It was the first year of having six guys on stage together, and we built this big sound. We went from being a three-piece to having this sound with all these added changes and textures,” Crawford said.
In addition to Kwon on cello, the band includes drummer Mike Marsh and Paul Defiglia on keyboards and organ.
Part of the reason for the additional sound is to fill the larger halls where the band is being booked, which is a result of their popularity. Even though it is set up as a half-house show with 6,500 reserved seats, the civic center is by far the largest venue the band has played in Portland. They’re also booked at TD Garden in Boston and Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., both large hockey rinks.
The new sound is part of the evolution of a band, Crawford said.
“It’s really all about understanding how to work a band, like the Grateful Dead or The Band. All these guys up there and all these little parts going on lead into the whole and fill out the sound,” he said.
Crawford thinks the band is better now than it has ever been, because of those textures and nuances. The tour is in its early stages, which bodes well for fans. The music feels fresh, and the band is discovering what works and why, just as an athlete finds a rhythm during the course of a season.
“The farther you go in the season, you can turn the corners easier and faster, and your stamina is up. Things are fresh in your mind, and you play on themes and keys, and as a band you develop instrumental things. This is where it becomes really fun.”
It will be tough for the Avetts to top 2013. In addition to filling out the sound and releasing a new disc, the band also played for President Obama at the Christmas tree lighting at the White House. That means in the past few years, the Avetts have played for the president and with Bob Dylan at the Grammy Awards.
“We’re really blessed.”
On stage and off.
Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: