by Dan Bolles
Shortly after my rant concerning the level of crowd noise at Jose Gonzales' recent Higher Ground performance, I received the following voice mail message (transcribed verbatim):
"Dan, I read the paper all the time. I don't know what was worse,you mentioning Lee "Scratch" Perry throwing you a bone — the guy whoinvented scratching — or your stupid review of people talkingat . . . at the sh . . . at Higher Ground. I don't know what the fuckyou expect. But your fuckin' reviews are the worst. I don't know whereyou get your ideas. Or what the fuck you listen to. But it all sucks."
Oddly enough, our mystery man left no name or phone number. Musthave slipped his mind. Well sir, allow me to respond to your query.
Aside from providing more ammo for my theory that the level of aperson's intelligence is inversely related to the number of times theyerrantly use some variation of the word "fuck" in a conversation — andyes, I'm aware the original post was called "Shut The Fuck Up . . .Please." And forget that my rant about talkers at the Jose Gonzalezshow was hardly what you'd call a "review" — I couldn't review itbecause I couldn't really hear it, remember? But it seems exactly thesort of people who would pay 17 bucks to see a show and spend theentire time yakking incessantly have revealed themselves. Sort of. Andguess what, folks? They're idiots.
Flash to this past Tuesday's Avett Brothers (pronounced AY-vett) show in the HG Ballroom. I've been a fan since I caught a performance on Conan O'Brien shortly after Emotionalismcame out — which I promptly purchased. For those who aren't familiar,the band is essentially an acoustic folk-pop trio, although Emotionalismshowcases some beefier arrangements and is a bit electrified. While thepresence of of Scott Avett's banjo might lead some to believe theyexist on the fringes of newgrass, they're hardly the next YonderMountain. To be perfectly blunt, they remind me quite a bit of my oldbanjo-driven pop band, The Middle 8 — only better. Or, perhaps moreaccurately, the group that birthed us, The Lazy Songwriter; On record,banjoist Scott Avett bears an honest resemblance to LS front man ArthurAdams (though in concert, Avett eerily reminded me of Clem Snide's EefBarzelay, another favorite.)
Anyway, I had no real professional interest in the show. I was justgoing to see a band I really dig. However, I was curious to see whatthe crowd would be like, especially after my diatribe ended up runningin the paper — a fact of which I had no idea at the time. I'm not sodelusional as to think the ramblings of one ticked-off small-town musicscribe can change the concert-going behavior of the public at large.Still, I've received more feedback on that little nugget than anythingI've written since taking the Marathon to task. It's just an aspect ofseeing live music I'd never had to give much thought to prior. And thiswas my first trip back to the scene of the crime.
While HG was far from sold out, the crowd was electric, evenmouthing words with tunes from AB's early catalog. From my vantagepoint, most crowd banter was limited to comments about the show, andusually in between songs.
And the band flat out rocked. I know it's trite to say bands feedoff the crowd. But in this case it's appropriate — especially given thenumber of times guitarist Seth Avett (they're really brothers!) made apoint to genuinely marvel at their fawning reception.
As mentioned, The Avett Bros. are an acoustic-pop act. But they alsohave a definitive punk influence. As such, the majority of their tunesare up-tempo and high energy. More often than not, the crowd wouldfollow suit, dancing and singing — and occasionally screaming — rightalong. That said, Seth Avett in particular has a knack forheartbreaking, saccharine balladry. In fact, if "The Ballad of Love andHate" pops up on my iPod, I usually have to skip it or risk tearing upin public. No kidding.
I figured that song might prove the audience's real test. Sureenough, as the lights dimmed following a signature scorcher, and hisbandmates left the stage, Seth stepped to the mic and strummed thefirst chill-inducing (for me, anyway) chords. After a brief "Whoo!"from someone near the back, Higher Ground hushed and for the next 4minutes, you could have heard a pin drop — or a heart break, Isuppose. At the song's conclusion there was a pregnant pause as thecrowd stood in awe — or maybe folks just needed a sec to clear thelumps in their throats. And then: arguably the loudest applause of thenight.
So that, mystery caller, is "what the fuck I expect." I expectpeople to go to shows to see and appreciate music, and to respect theright of those around them to listen unmolested — we are largelytalking about adults here, by the way. I also expect people to respectthe performers and show them at least a modicum of courtesy. Frankly, Idon't think it's too much to ask. And when it happens, it makes for onehell of a show.