Wednesday, December 11, 2013
If not for Bob Crawford, we might never know of Scott and Seth Avett.
Bob Crawford, who plays upright bass, Scott Avett on banjo and Seth Avett on guitar. When playing live, the band also includes Joe Kwon on cello and Jacob Edwards on drums.
Scott Avett at an Avett Brothers show.
THE AVETT BROTHERS WITH JOHN OATES
WHEN: 7:30 tonight; doors open at 6:30
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: Sold out
And if not for Scott and Seth Avett, we might not know of the hookiest string band in America.
Crawford plays bass in The Avett Brothers, the crazy-good roots band from North Carolina that blows into Portland tonight for a sold-out show at the State Theatre.
With banjo, guitar, cello, standup bass and piano, the band fuses bluegrass influences with rock, gospel and pop.
Crawford joined up with the brothers in 2001. He auditioned in a parking lot on a Sunday night. They plowed through some traditional country songs, then Seth and Scott showed him an original or two they had written.
He remembers being impressed enough that he wanted to meet up again later and try different things. They hit it off, and together built the foundation of what would become The Avett Brothers. When playing live, the band also includes Joe Kwon and Jacob Edwards.
The Avetts have grown into one of the more popular acoustic bands in the country, appearing on all the late-night TV shows, in major music festivals and, earlier this year on the Grammys, with Bob Dylan singing a wailing, ragged version of "Maggie's Farm."
Crawford was the one who made it happen.
"Scott and I were about to go to grad school. It was the summer before that final push to get in, and it was the last opportunity to go on the road with the band, to go travel and play music and see what it was like," Crawford said by phone from the road.
"We had an upright bass, banjo and guitar. We didn't even need electricity, really. We just needed some places to play. I suggested it. I said, 'If I book a tour, will you guys go?' They expressed their lack of confidence in me, which made me probably work harder."
Crawford cobbled together a press kit and sent it to clubs up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest. He booked about 25 shows in clubs and small rooms from Charlotte up through New Jersey and west to Wisconsin.
"It taught us that we could do it, that being a touring band was something we could do," he said.
Rolling back into North Carolina still high from the people they met in their travels, Crawford told the other two, "I guess there are places we need to get back to."
They've been on the road since. Their success has been a slow build, with one tour growing into another. Even with their recent explosion in popularity, the experience never felt out of control. They've managed their expectations and balanced their appeal with the realization that it could end anytime.
"We never sat around and talked about when we make it. But we've never talked about not doing it, either," Crawford said. "As long as you had the next couple of weeks booked and were making money to pay rent, that's all we had to worry about. As long as it kept progressing."
The Brothers released several albums, and broke into the mainstream with the 2007 CD "Emotionalism." A year later, they hooked up with producer Rick Rubin to record "I and Love and You."
They write smart, lyrical songs with soaring harmonies and driving tempos. They are sweet and delicate and uncommonly energetic.
The brothers do most of the writing, although Crawford calls it a collaborative process.
"It's very much where one person may have an idea or a thought about how something should go, and another person has an idea about how that part could be slightly turned," he said.
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