A little over 10 years ago my middle brother stood over my shoulder at the computer in our family’s garage apartment and pointed out songs I should download. I don’t remember the whole list, but I know that day he told me about Acoustic Syndicate, and a little band called The Avett Brothers. At the time the Avetts could barely be classified as regionally famous. They were Carolina boys just getting started, and only known to people like my brother who studied local music closely.
I fell in love with their sound, and fell harder when they sang about my Carolina home.
Stephen was always my music guide. I remember an afternoon when I was 8ish and he was 12ish we were laying on the dining room floor listening beatles cassette tapes. It is the earliest memory I have of Stephen telling me about music. He let me replay ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ over and over because I thought it was so funny, and he tried to tell me I didn’t have to be scared of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.
Stephen introduced me to the basics, the classics, the new guys, everyone. He didn’t discriminate either. Stephen let me go through my Britney Spears face as gracefully as possible. He contributed to my Dave Matthews Band years with gift wrapped CDs, and he saw me come through the other side.
When I was about 16 he introduced me to one artist and one band who would become favorites for life: Paul Simon, and The Avett Brothers. I don’t remember the first Avetts song I listened to. I remember the first one I fell in love with — It’s called ‘Me & God’ and it’s from their 2003 album. It’s quirky, it’s fun, the lyrics are great, and it was made back when the band was really folksy.
That’s the way I always preferred them. They were so Carolina. They’ve changed a lot in recent years. Some people, including Stephen, have mostly given up on them. People who used to follow them around to small venues across North and South Carolina think they’re just too different from their old selves. I admit it took a little while for me to get used to the newer sound, but who am I to expect an artist not to grow and adapt to a changing surrounding?
My music guide has had a tough time lately. I haven’t seen him in a full year and a half, which is unprecedented for our tight-knit family. He’s had a tough time, and a lot of it because of his own mistakes. But if you’ve ever loved someone.. I mean, really loved them, then you understand how the mind can willingly replace mistakes with all of the good things that person has done in your life.
This weekend I’ll see the Avett Brothers for the first time. I’ve been listening to them since that afternoon 10 years ago when Stephen stood over my shoulder and spelled out A-V-E-T-T as I typed it into the search bar. I’ve heard their folk. I’ve heard their pop. I’ve heard their bluegrass. I’ve heard their songs as soundtracks to very popular television shows. But I’ve never seen them live. So I’m going to take my seat in a crowded arena, and I’m going to enjoy every second of a show filled with songs I can sing along to.
The only thing I wish is that the guy who taught me who they are could be there singing right beside me. And I hope they play ‘Me and God’.