On a summer evening, Sunday, August 18th, generations of Central California concert-goers gathered for a sold-out Avett Brothers concert. For many in the crowd, it was a family affair. In the middle of their headline set, Scott Avett acknowledged the multi-generational gathering. “Recently, a reporter asked me what the band’s demographic was. I paused for a moment and said, families.” That elicited an ecstatic cheer from the crowd. As is the custom at the pristine venue, smiling music fans arrived early to sample the wares of the winery, local beers and yummy snacks including wood-fired pizza. The back lawn area filled up early seemingly a favorite spot for the many who arrived with their families in tow.
The show opened with a spirited set by the Boston based jazz-infused Blues-rock band Lake Street Drive. The band founded back in 2004 mixes multigenre band elements of Southern rock with Blues, Jazz and Folk rock sounds. The group opened their 11 songs set with “Free Yourself Up,” the title track from their latest album, released last year. The band has recorded an impressive catalog of eight albums allowing them lots to choose from for their setlist. Lead singer Rachael Price belted out throaty vocals in the vein of Janis Joplin. Her Soul drenched lead vocals paired with the band’s catchy hooks, eloquent harmonies, and unexpected transitions. In addition to Price, the other original members of the group include bassist Bridget Kearney, trumpet player, and guitarist Mike Olsen and Mike Calabrese on drums. The newest member of the band keyboardist and vocalist Akie Bermiss joined the group in 2017 bringing yet another dimension to the music. Bermiss added some soulful lead vocals on a pair of covers, “Dirty Work” by Steely Dan and “Everyday People” by Sly and The Family Stone. The well-known covers brought much of the crowd to their feet to sing and dance along to the rest of the set.
A vivid sunset painted the surrounding mountains in pastel colors just as The Avett Brothers band took the stage for a nearly two hour set of 23 songs. The group from Concord, North Carolina features two brothers, Scott Avett on banjo, lead vocals, guitar, piano and kick-drum and Seth Avett on guitar, lead vocals, piano, and hi-hat. Bob Crawford plays the double bass, electric bass, violin and sings backing vocals. Joe Kwon plays the cello and also sings backing vocals. Drummer Mike Marsh and keyboardist and sister Bonnie Avett-Rini are touring members of the band. The band combines bluegrass, country, punk, pop melodies, folk, rock and roll, indie rock, honky-tonk, and ragtime into their own sound. The well-loved group is a favorite on the festival circuit and have produced ten albums in their nearly 20 years together. The group moves seamlessly through country, folk, pop and rock genres. But American Bluegrass is the primary building block of their music. The band seemed to be joyfully enjoying themselves at the Vina Robles show, bantering with the crowd often and interacting with the audience regularly. The brothers took turns diving into the crowd and alternated lead vocal duties often. The music changed directions frequently. In the middle of the show, the brothers did a short acoustic set along with Crawford on upright bass. But the band showed they could be high energy rockers as well on songs like “Kick Drum Heart.”
The band ended a spectacular show with a three-song encore. Most in the sold-out crowd stayed until the last note, singing and dancing along below a crystal clear night sky.