IWTAS on the Road: Avett Brothers with Social Distortion at Bridgestone Arena

We like to keep our talented friends close…we also like when they go far away and bring back the spoils of their victories in the form of ridiculous concert photos and spot-on reviews. Today, we bring you a special IWTAS on the Road feature from our friend and your favorite Corey Woodruff. He shot and reviewed the unique double-bill of the Avett Brothers with Social Distortion, and he had a pretty fine time:

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why cowpunk legends Social Distortion were tapped to support the Avett Brothers last Friday in Nashville, but I’m sincerely glad they opened the show.  Mike Ness and company were in stellar form, plowing through original staples like “Bad Luck” and rocked-up takes on country classics.

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

Sure, they may have been performing on a huge stage in a cavernous hockey arena with a lighting rig and sound system that would do Bono justice, but the sacred stage of Ryman Amphitheater was just a hundred feet away and Ness paid fitting tribute in that huge arena to the legends that graced the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

The band’s version of Hank Williams’ “Six More Miles” followed an introduction that involved Ness betting on Williams over Sid Vicious in a fight, and the Orange County troubadours closed their set with a snarling version of the Cash classic, “Ring Of Fire”.

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

Never having seen Avett Bros. live, I wondered how the young folk-pop group could possibly follow the wall of sound that preceded them. But when I emerged from the backstage media room to shoot their set, I was greeted with a huge painted curtain draped across the front of the stage that obscured a candle-lit set adorned with flowers. And when the curtain dropped as they took the stage, I could tell from the roar of the enthusiastic (some might say, obsessive) crowd that I should expect something special.

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

Throughout their two hour(!) set, the band mutated on stage from a five-piece, banjo-fueled pop powerhouse (“Go To Sleep”, “January Wedding”) to a stripped-down acoustic duo featuring Seth and Scott Avett crooning weepers (at times solo) behind a single mic at the apron of the stage (“Ballad Of Love And Hate”, “Murder In The City”).

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

The show’s energy revved back up as cellist Joe Kwon and drummer Jacob Edwards returned to the stage for a soaring version of “And It Spread” before the band finished their set with “Head Full Of Doubt” and “Talk of Indolence”.

Photo by Corey Woodruff.

The three song encore predictably featured the poppy “Kick Drum Heart” and heart wrenching “I And Love And You” before the Avetts were joined by bassist Bob Crawford as they gathered together for an a capella version of the gospel standard “Down In The Valley To Pray”. It was a beautiful way to end a night of music that evoked every human emotion possible.

Photo by Corey Woodruff.


Comments (4)

  1. Kyle says:

    I enjoyed all the great photos of these great bands. I did, however, find it odd and somewhat disrespectful that the words “predictable” and “poppy” were greatly emphasized when mentioning the music performed by The Avett Brothers. This article, (In my opinion-which may mean nothing to these authors) seemed quite obviously biased. Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga perform pop and have others write most of their music. Scott and Seth are lyrical geniuses and have earned every bit of success they’ve had through hard work and simply great music that is anything but predictable and limited by a single genre- especially pop. Again, maybe I’m wrong but “reading between the lines” it seems as if the authors dislike the fact that Social Distortion had the PRIVELEGE of opening for the Avetts.

  2. Jess Luther says:

    Hi Kyle! Thanks so much for your comment. I assigned Corey to cover the SD/AB show, knowing that he’s a huge Social Distortion fan and I’m a huge Avett Brothers fan. If you look back in our archives, you’ll find a glowing review from a show Avett played at Red Rocks that I was fortunate enough to cover. At that concert, AB were opening for Gov’t Mule, a rich-historied jam band who I found talented and entertaining, but ultimately outside of my generation (I’m 26). Therefore, I didn’t cover them at all. Corey’s connection to Social Distortion is generational, just as our connection to AB is generational. Subjectivity in his coverage is one of the few privileges (<– this is the correct spelling of 'privilege', by the way) of a volunteer-founded and volunteer-maintained blog.

    Conversely, calling something pop music is not an insult, and defining pop isn't as simple as reeling off a list of artists that might be found on Top 40 radio station. By definition, it's a genre that appeals to a younger demographic (of which I assume you are a part) and draws influences from all other genres. If you do a bit of research, you'll find that the origin of "popular music" goes back even farther than rock n roll, to the 1920s and 30s when music was just starting to be recorded and reproduced for distribution to the masses*. These pioneer artists were blues, country, and folk artists – ones I think that our dear Avett Bros. were and are influenced by.

    Thank you again for starting this discussion and thanks for reading!

    *I made most of that sentence up, but I'm pretty sure it's accurate.

  3. Pingback: The Avett Brothers @ Bridgestone Area, Nashville 10.28.2011 » 100% Viewfinder

  4. Corey says:


    I’m sorry that you feel slighted by my review, but my aim was to document and express my impression of the show. That’s what music critics and photographers do, after all. If you were merely interested in an unbiased, factual account of what transpired in the arena that night I have a feeling you’d simply have looked for a setlist on the Avett Bros. fan boards.

    That said, both you and Jess are correct in my preference for the music of Social Distortion of that of the Avetts. However, that’s not to say that I dislike the Avett Brothers. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the “I And Love And You” record was essentially the soundtrack of my recent divorce.

    As for your problems with my use of the words “poppy” and “predictable”, read on.

    In my review I meant that the songs chosen for the encore were predictable. “Kick Drum Heart” and “I And Love And You” are two of the bands most popular songs yet they had not been played in the show until that point, so it was predictable that they would appear in the encore.

    As for my use of the “poppy” descriptor, well, have you listened to “Kick Drum Heart”? It’s a pure pop song. Verse, chorus, hook, upbeat–it’s pop. Especially considering the context of the rest of the Avett catalog, most of which is firmly rooted in bluegrass and folks music. Even on record, the song just sticks out, almost to the point of sounding misplaced.

    But this isn’t a record review.

    Thanks for reading, and taking the time to respond.

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