Better than: Considering the fact they're one of the best bands out there, no further comparison is necessary.
"We are genuinely sensitive men," Seth Avett confessed in a recent conversation with New Times, and if repeated expressions of affection are any indication of sensitivity, Seth clearly wasn't kidding. "I love that man up in the tree," he proclaimed, pointing to a guy who was successfully straddling a palm. "How many of y'all aren't wearing any sunscreen?" he asked, obviously out of concern. When at least half the crowd roared back to say they weren't wearing any, Avett could only reply, "You're breaking my heart!"
Then again, such sentiments seem to come naturally for a band that prides itself on its populist principals. Consequently, despite only a modest turnout for their mid-afternoon set on day two of the inaugural Tortuga Music Festival, the group quickly connected.
Though they boast a reputation as somewhat tattered troubadours, it's that down home demeanor, unabashed enthusiasm, and aw-shucks sensibility that ensures an instant bond with their audiences. Yet, given that they were only allowed an hour -- forcing the deletion of several songs generally considered showstoppers -- the band had precious time to further the frenzy. They relied mainly on more energetic numbers like "Down With the Shine," "Live and Die," "Talk on Indolence," and "Kick Drum Heart" at the expense of some tender ballads. Happily too, "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" delivered the goods as far as a slower song was concerned, and given the locale, "At the Beach" also seemed ideal for inclusion.
It's also to the Avetts' credit that they didn't let their time restrictions prevent them from pushing a few parameters. A take on the old gospel standard "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," highlighted by harmonies from Seth, his brother Scott, and bassist Bob Crawford, provided a rare respite from the pumped up pacing, and a cover of Buck Owens' "Reno Lament" reflected some backwoods roots.
Yet while Crawford's extended stand-up bass solo was certainly impressive, it also took time away that could have been better spent on more Avett offerings. The absence of "I and Love and You," "Murder in the City," "Paranoia in B Flat Major," and more from their excellent new album, The Carpenter
, made the concert seem somewhat skimpy compared to their previous performances this writer's seen before. Even cellist Joe Kwon seemed to be playing second fiddle, given precious little time to display his usual pyrotechnics.
Fortunately, nothing prevented the Avetts from finding their groove. They rocked the crowd, shared some love, and mostly found perfect pacing. But with less than a dozen songs and the stopwatch ticking mercilessly, it wasn't quite the ample experience that the Avetts are known for. Clearly, this was one curfew that came too soon.
Personal Bias: An hour set simply doesn't do the Avetts justice. Note to Tortuga organizers: Next time, we suggest you give them headliner status.
The Crowd: Lots of beer, bikinis, and tattoos. They were clearly primed to party.
By the way: Abbreviated or not, the Avett Brothers never, ever put on anything less than a dynamic display.