Friday night, The Spin ventured to Bridgestone Arena to catch the rockabilly/punk blend of SoCal-punk legends Social Distortion as they opened up for The Avett Brothers and their wilder, more acrobatic take on Granddad’s old-time Appalachian music.
Regrettably, The Spin heard opener Social Distortion’s final song in the beer line. As we waited to be gouged by 10-buck beers and warmed up after braving the night’s near-freezing temperature (a flask would have solved both of these issues ... D’oh!), Ness & Co. concluded their Nashville set predictably with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (no stranger, The Spin caught SD at The Mother Church on the last day of the world back in May). The Spin applauds Social D's selection — although more Thunder 94 to the Avett’s Lightning 100, they foreshadowed and magnified the Avetts' occasional edginess. And if Americana is embracing punk, then perhaps we’ll look forward to the Celtic-punk of Boston’s Dropkick Murphys on the next Mumford & Sons tour? Eh?
Although The Spin is also certifiably underexposed to The Avett Brothers’ discography, we did learn (thanks to Jewly Hight’s preview) that there is a compelling Nashville metric to describe the band’s decade-long rise to fame: Their audience has increased nearly 200 fold, from playing the 100-capacity Layla’s Bluegrass Inn to selling out The Ryman and now playing a concert at Bridgestone Arena (which holds over 16,000). We also learned that bassist Bob Crawford, who has been caring for an ailing daughter, would perform, and for that we were thankful (she has our thoughts). The Spin was also fortunate that The Avett Brothers do the arena-rock thing very well. The group is incredibly energetic, often screaming, head-banging and getting rowdy with their instruments, ensuring that those in the nose-bleeds don’t stop believin’. On “At the Beach,” for instance, the song’s whistling and island-guitar rhythms rode alongside the band’s stomping cadence and certainly warmed the arena to its brim. And The Spin loves a good drinking song, like “When I drink,” in which they sing, “When I drink, I spend the next morning in a haze / but we only get so many days,” which, our upper lip stiffened, earned The Spin’s quick and little nods of approval.
As The Avett Brothers broadcast their picking party to the arena, The Spin noticed the humongous, vertically lined backdrop’s resemblance to a hardwood floor, as if it were still 2001 and the crowd could fit into one living room. Slower songs got pretty intimate until the woman shrieking “Marry me!!!” was upstaged by the grizzly-voiced man yelling the same thing — only it sounded more like “Murder me!!!” coming from him. Not inappropriate, considering it was Halloween weekend. Meanwhile, as the Avetts hummed, hollered and hoe-downed through songs like “Murder in the City,” "I Killed Sally's Lover" and "Die Die Die," their set began to sound more like the horror-punk of the Misfits. Happy Halloween indeed!