By Kevin Alan Lamb
So, me and Scott Avett kind of have this thing where no matter what city I see him and his band of brothers perform in, (Detroit, Visalia, Austin, Traverse City most recently), I give him a gift in the form of a Good Sign while he is on stage performing, or just after the show before his exit. Sometimes we shake hands, sometimes he holds it over his head and smiles, and sometimes he just keeps dancing with it. I remember the first time it happened at Interlochen, I felt like God was giving me a pat on the back, simultaneously thanking and encouraging me for my commitment to the wellbeing of our people. This was before my days as official media, coming from my first music festival, Electric Forest, with my best friend Super G. In that moment, with tears in my eyes, I realized all things we dream and desire are possible, so long as we hold true to our passion while being good to others.
We wouldn’t have even been next to the stage, it was strictly a seated affair, if it hadn’t been for the guy in front of me who turned around and said, “We didn’t pay a surcharge to hear you sing.” Super G nearly lost it and replied, “Don’t you know where you are?” Shortly after that we walked down and stood front row, next to the stage along with some beautiful women we had just met, and a whole gaggle of Good Signs. This journey has been long, difficult, and beautiful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but moments such as this are the access point to the certainty that we are in the right place, at the right time, investing our love and energy exactly where they belong. Moments like this are all around us at all times and don’t require Scott Avett, or your biggest hero to be realized, but I will say it helps.
The next time it happened it reached me during a very interesting chapter in my story: I was living in Northern California at the precipice of my Good Sign madness when a friend gave me her ticket to see The Avett Brothers in cow country (Visalia) on Valentine’s Day. I could just be making this up, but I like to believe they had just finished “Salvation Song” when I gave Scott a Good Sign and shook his hand. Again, this was a seated affair and I wasn’t having it, so I made my way to the stage to dance because I’m a human being and I have a soul. Across the country from where I’ve spent most of my 31 years making a home, love gushing from their music, inside their eyes, and upon the delivery of the sound of their voices ensured I was precisely where I belonged.
The next time it happened I was in Austin, dodge, ducking, and diving my way through my fourth consecutive SXSW. This was the first show that I was with DSLR, you know, like with a child, but a professional camera instead. I didn’t have a photo pass, but with the Universe in my corner, I ninjaed my giant-ass into the photo bay for a couple shots and my regularly scheduled special moment with Scott. I only had a Business Carl on me — the given name of the 4×4 Good Sign with a poem I wrote or Smiley face on the back — by this point I felt pretty comfortable that Scott remembered me, and confidently made eye contact, smiled, and handed him a Business Carl, at which point he showcased it at eye level while belting beautiful lyrics which I cannot seem to recall into the mic. Given the setting, this was the most significant moment yet, with Showtime (who I was working for) shooting for the release of their new show, Roadies. It was one of the more spectacular smiles I’ve ever seen on Scott’s face (cheesing), and I’m grateful it was captured in a photo that should make it’s way into this story. Shortly after that, I was chased out of the photo bay, ripe with accomplishment and childlike celebratory enthusiasm. Upon exiting the stage at the completion of their set I gave Scott a Good Sign proper (18×18); he was joyfully stoked at my offering. At some point during their show, I met one of their publicists who was delighted at my appearance and said I was the biggest celebrity there, just after she said, “You’re an Avett Brothers fan!?” Am I a fan of The Avett Brothers you ask? Where to begin… I shared my story with her and expressed my desire to interview them so I could write a story as a testament of my gratitude for the impact they’ve had on my life, love, and happiness.
That just about brings us current, ready to dive into the most recent two evenings with The Avett Brothers at The Fillmore, fresh off the publication of my conversation with Bob Crawford, and first time seeing them in the photo bay as an accredited member of the press. Needless to say, I was excited, and the first photographer in the bay, chatting with the crowd because they’re my people, curious why there were calling me Otto, only to learn they thought my “photo” pass was my nametag. Excited energy vibrated throughout The Fillmore, which is my favorite place to spend an evening with The Avett Brothers. There’s never an opener, and they offer faith in humanity for two-and-a-half hours or about 30 songs. Both nights began with a bang, and the first felt like it was just for me. Maybe it was, or maybe it wasn’t, but that’s the beautiful thing about music, it’s not about the way it is, rather, the way it feels. They immediately achieved full feels with “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” ensuring my permitted stay in the bay is terminated before the three-song standard. For all practical purposes, I was feelin’ it, I’m large, and my Viking arse likes to boogie while working for the crowd, and taking some spectacular photos of course. As a result, I was removed from the bay after being deemed a distraction, for which I have no contention. The way I see it, when your favorite band who you just interviewed for the first time comes out to the song you have lyrics tattooed on your wrists, it’s a great time to lose your shit in the best way possible. My integrity as a writer keeps me from inserting an emoji in my text, but let this serve its purpose.
If you’ve never seen The Avett Brother’s live, you ought to, but they do this thing that I just love where they play an upbeat, uptempo and dynamic song that ignites the crowd with exaltation, sweat, and loss of breath; then they slow it down with a more introspective and soothing ballad which allows you to catch your breath, bask and bathe in their harmony while healing from something so simple yet spectacular as knowing people like them exist, and in this moment they are using their gifts to help heal your wounds, and possibly their own. In this instance, “Down With the Shine” was the second song in the sequence which I enjoyed from the main floor, telling myself I couldn’t be disappointed with having been able to shoot only one song because of my actions we honest to the way the music made me feel and dance.
An evening with The Avett Brothers can be likened to the joy induced by the true Christmas Spirit; where you dance, sing, and be merry with the person to your left, and person to your right, intoxicated by shared substance of the soul exploding to the surface like a mighty volcano filled with delicious chocolate or cheese, (if you’re the savory type). Now imagine how the festivities would escalate when Bob Dylan joined Bing Crosby on stage and they sang “Forever Young!? Well we didn’t have Bob Dylan, (he was busy avoiding the acceptance of his Nobel Prize), and we should just be grateful Bing didn’t accept his invitation, (because he’d be 113 and would overshadow another Christmas resurrection), but we sure did have The Avett Brothers who filled the Fillmore with joyful noise so jolly, few noticed the lack of bells and holly accompanying their rendition of “Forever Young.”
The night couldn’t have been ended on a sweeter note, with an encore performance of “I and Love and You”, followed by “Pretty Girl From Michigan”. Whether it’s one of your favorite songs or not, a quintessential element of any evening with The Avett Brothers is that glorious moment of crowd collaboration when you raise a closed fist, erecting a finger at a time while singing in unison, “I… and love… and you.”
We were collectively moved and melted on this particular Thursday evening, some for the first time, others for the 10th. Consistent to each and every evening with The Avett Brothers, however, we spent it together, all with a little more love and life in our bones than the evening before.
This just about brings us to the closing chapter of my story with Scott Avett thus far. Night two took on its own form when they came out to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” immediately igniting the crowd. Guests were mesmerized by love; some, seemingly unexpected. Each evening with The Avett Brothers offers a special opportunity to witness fan’s eyes opened to what this really is; who and what they really are; and the magic of music.
There were about a thousand more souls on site Friday night, many of whom witnessed my latest interchange with my friend Scott. Just before he exited and said goodnight to an ecstatic crowd, I made my way to the stage and gave him my friend’s Good Sign flag, which for many, so many years, I’ve worn as a cape. When you see so many shows they touch you but they don’t all move you. When I see my favorite Brothers I’m touched by the goodness that needs to change this world. When I look Scott Avett in the eyes and we smile, it’s because we both care to take to the good and decent while finding immense love and joy in the potentially spectacular, as a result.
Just in case you’ve been holding onto a dream, this is a reason to believe you can realize it. Just in case you’ve been holding on for some hope, here it is for you to have. And just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound. And just in case you don’t believe in coincidence, “November Blue” began playing in the coffee shop the moment I finished this story…
All Photos captured by Kevin Alan Lamb of The Avett Brothers at The Fillmore Detroit can be located in the Gallery!
“If I weren’t leavin’, would I catch you dreamin’
And if I weren’t gonna be gone now, could I take you home
And if I told you I loved you, would it change what you see
And if I was staying, would you stay with me
And if I had money, would it all look good
And if I had a job now, like a good man should
And if I came to you tomorrow, and said let’s run away
Would you roll like the wind does, baby would you stay”