A year in review…and ringing in 2012 with the Avett Brothers
On a white building at the edge of Asheville’s River Arts District, a freshly graffiti’d patch of bricks reads, “Dear 2011, WHY?”
It’s a valid question.
We’re talking about a year which started with a street vendor on the other side of the world finally having enough of police harassment. In his early 20s, he’d been shoved by poverty, injustice, and oppression so far down that dark road, he lit himself on fire. His frustration, desperation, courage, and contempt launched a freedom-and-justice revolution which spent the ensuing months sweeping across the planet. From Libya to Egypt to New York, to Syria, to Oakland, to Moscow…you know the story by now. Everyone’s asking “why” for different reasons, but the emphatic determination to win not only an explanation, but a whole new world culture, became the central most goal of the year 2011.
On the final day of that same year, dozens were arrested while marching down the street in New York chanting “Who’s year? Our year.” The injustice they experienced was relative, if you hold it up to what’s happening in Syria right now. But, as those images play against the emergent election season here in the U.S., it’s hard to not be terrifically aware – going into 2012 – it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. Nothing comes quickly. Tide changes tend to effect the whole ocean, not just a couple of waves.
Meanwhile, in a large arena in Greenville, SC, a few thousand strangers whacked at balloons at midnight, and kicked off 2012 by singing at the top of their lungs about the three words that have become hard to say: I and love and you.
It was a hell of a show.
The Avetts noted early in the night that 2011 had been full of personal and professional ups and downs for them. They were ready to move on, ready for a new year. They played a set with all the force and aptitude of a couple of brothers pushing with all their might against whatever they sought to leave behind.
Reaching across their catalog, they delivered tunes from almost every release. Between thrashy full-band roots numbers about falling down and moving on, anthemic songs like “Down with the Shine” and other favorites, they delivered old timey folk songs like “Single Girl, Married Girl” (the Carter Family) and their own trad-infused numbers like “Hard Worker”.
After a 100-minute set, they left the stage at 11:45, then came back 30 seconds til midnight to lead the countdown. Balloons fell and they launched into a four-song encore to get the year started right.
It was the title track of their last studio album, though, which was the best performance of the night. There was something fully realized about the tune. It sits on the album as a precarious, lonesome and desperate, fed-up tune; but, this night, it seemed to come from a more cathartic place. Like whatever hardship gave rise to it had come to fruition; all the ire which fed it was beginning to make sense as fuel for something better.
Perhaps I’m reading too far into it (I do tend to politicize things), but it seemed timely in the scope of the world. And, when the band cut out at the end, their thin figures framed against the blue glowing lights on the stage, every hand in the room was thrust in the air counting out those three words we could all say a little more often…it felt like the new year just might hold some promise.