The Avett Brothers Headline the 15th Annual Suwannee Springfest | County Grind | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


The Avett Brothers Headline the 15th Annual Suwannee Springfest

Face it, aside from the denizens of Davie and Florida's northern most extremes, Americana, folk and bluegrass aren't exactly in great demand, at least not in our part of the state. While a handful of homegrown heroes -- Rod MacDonald, Matthew Sabatella, Jennings & Keller, the 18 Wheelers, and others of their ilk -- try to keep acoustic music alive, it's mostly an uphill battle when it comes to stealing the spotlight in these environs. Consequently, the lineup of the 15th Annual Suwannee Springfest next March bodes well for those who want to get back to the land and enjoy some homespun harmonies.

Don't get too psyched though. While banjos and fiddles may play some

part in the proceedings, most of the acts participating this year are

more contemporary than vintage in their musical leanings.

Why you might not want to go: While the David Grisman Sextet, the Travelin' McCourys, Jim Lauderdale, Donna the Buffalo, Trampled By Turtles, Scythian and the Emmitt-Nershi Band drape themselves in traditional trappings, the number of unknown bands with silly names (Grandpa's Cough Medicine, Dread Clampitt, Sloppy Joe, the Wetherman, somewhat dilutes the star power and leaves doubts as to what to expect. OK, maybe it's unfair to judge a group by its handle, but compare this fest to gatherings like Newport, Telluride Bluegrass, the Folks Festival and Rocky Grass, and sorry to say we look like also-rans in the festival finals. We're not even close. 

Then again, why you might want to go: Considering the dearth of interest usually accorded music of this kind, we should probably be pleased with whatever the organizers can muster. Despite a lot of filler, the headliners are certainly worth the drive, although waiting until the last minute makes that top ticket price of $180 seem somewhat of a stretch. Fortunately, March forestalls the possibility of heat and humidity and hopefully too the accompanying critters, bugs and mosquitoes that the Suwannee might serve up along it banks. 

And while we're on a positive note, let's also give a shout out for the event's chief headliners, the Avett Brothers. Dare we say that this group alone makes the trip worthwhile? The band's last studio album, I And Love And You, and their recently released live CD and DVD, Live Volume 3, boosted the North Carolina trio into the big time and suggested that they're stars merely waiting in the wings. Like their previous indie efforts, these two albums are rich in gut-wrenching appeal, containing songs that revolve around simple truths that speak to honesty, heartbreak and humanity.
In fact, one of the things that distinguish the Avetts from their like-minded peers is their ability to combine a wistful and plaintive approach with the irresistible urgency of cascading choruses that seep into the consciousness. "I want to have friends that I can trust/ for the man I've become and not the man I was," they croon convincingly in "The Perfect Space, one of I And Love And You's many highlights. Producer Rick Rubin, clearly no slouch when it comes to illuminating the dark recesses of a musician's mind, sustains the Avetts' unfettered style, but subtlety fleshes it out along the way, adding jaunty piano interludes, the occasional fiddle, and sudden shifts in rhythm that add distinction to the effort overall. Consequently, a stunner of a song like the sprightly "Kick Drum Heart" or the hart-wrenching "Laundry Room" each morph into a tour de force, exceptional examples of the band's dual ability to shift the dynamic and alter the mood accordingly. 

That then, sums up the motivation to make your way to Live Oak and the loftily named Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Yup, the name bands flesh out a worthy headlining marquee, and maybe some of the unknowns will prove worthy additions as well. But if you're really hoping for a first class, down home divergence, look no further than the Avett Brothers. It may not provide the back porch perspective you're looking for, but it will rock your rocking chair nevertheless.

The 15th Annual Suwannee Springfest. With the Avett Brothers, the David Grisman Sextet, the

Travelin' McCourys, Jim Lauderdale, Donna the Buffalo, Trampled By

Turtles, Scythian and the Emmitt-Nershi Band. March 24 to 27, 2011 at Live Oak Florida's Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.  Early bird tickets can be purchased until January 31 for $125. From February 1 to March 15, tickets cost $150. From March 16 - March 23, tickets will cost $165. Tickets cost $180 at the gate. Single day tickets and two-day passes with camping are also available. Click here.

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Lee Zimmerman

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