Roots-music favorites The Avett Brothers returned to Minnesota on Saturday night. The concert, a sold-out double-bill with Minnesota’s own Trampled By Turtles (TBT) saw the veteran acts deliver solid sets on a beautiful night at Treasure Island’s outdoor amphitheater.
Though the two bands play variations of folk and bluegrass, Saturday’s show highlighted many of their contrasts. TBT’s opening set saw heavy doses of the high intensity, fast-paced bluegrass for which they’ve come to be known. Songs like “Annihilate,” “Wait so Long,” and “Feet and Bones” all pushed the tempo in that way that nobody else does quite as well. This was balanced by plenty of mid-tempo songs that were, for the most part, effective and easy on the ear.
TBT’s setlist, though familiar to diehard fans, was strong and included a few gems. “Bloodshot Eyes,” a beautiful song from Palomino that doesn’t always make it into their sets, was a welcome addition, as was a cover of Loudon Wainwright III’s “The Swimming Song.”
That balance, and mix of songs, combined with their top-notch musicianship, made for a compelling performance that set the tone on a gorgeous night.
The Avett Brothers set included more slower numbers and ballads. A few, most notably the excellent “Murder in the City,” would prove to be highlights of the night. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of some of the quieter moments would be undermined by the sound system, which was conspicuously quiet in much of the venue, particularly on the lawn.
For the Avetts, the louder, rowdier numbers would be the most successful. This included rock and pop-oriented songs like “Talk on Indolence,” and “Will You Return?” which showcased their higher-energy side, while the funky “Ain’t No Man” got the audience dancing.
Though their sound was sometimes polished, the emotion they expressed came off as genuine— a must in roots music. They may not have been playing traditional bluegrass, but at their best moments, they had an infectious energy about them, an energy they’ve had every time I’ve seen them.
The weather was great, and the music was good. Fall may be upon us, but Saturday proved again that quality music in an outdoor setting can’t be beat.