SXSW Music Live: Avett Brothers
Make way for the headliners
By Doug Freeman,
2:25PM, Thu. Mar. 16, 2017
The Avett Brothers rode into SXSW with headliner expectations behind the premiere of a feature documentary and success of last year’s ninth LP, True Sadness. Judging from the rabid fans that packed the Moody Theater Wednesday night and the band’s flawless 90-minute set, the North Carolina outfit once again proved its star status.
Openers Mark Eitzel and Lo Moon were both perplexed by their billing, and rightly so. Eitzel’s resounding croon received warm welcome, but even the acclaimed indie songwriter found his depressive ballads an odd warmup.
“I’m the good-time opening act,” he deadpanned while working through brutal and cathartic cuts from new album Hey Mr Ferryman.
L.A. quartet Lo Moon commanded the stage better, though their epic pop swells seemed equally misplaced. Hyped behind only one released song, the band showed potential with their intricate grandiosity and Matt Lowell’s falsetto reach, but the buzz from single “Loveless” doesn’t quite reflect the more meticulous pop direction of the whole.
The Avetts immediately rallied the crowd, opening with George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” before stomping out “Satan Pulls the Strings” and dropping into the pensive “Morning Song.” Alternating between emotional ballads and string-fired showdowns set the pace for the septet throughout the 16-song set, from the fervent holler of “Ain’t No Man” and hillbilly shuck of “Wanted Man” to poignant older cuts like “If It’s the Beaches” and “Colorshow.” The fans sang along to it all.
Most impressive was the clear tightness of the group that allowed them to improvise effortlessly around the stage. Rocker “Slight Figure of Speech” and the stunning “No Hard Feelings” closed before a two-song encore featuring appropriate Texas shout-out “Stay a Little Longer.” Fifteen years in, and the Avetts have finally fully arrived.