Thursday · Southgate House
"We grew up in the country, and Country music was always around but it was in the background," says Scott Avett, banjo picker of the aptly named Avett Brothers. "Our father was a musician and still is, and he'd say, 'When you're older, you'll like this.' We told him, 'We're never going to like Country music.' We listened to a lot of Pop and Rock from there, and somewhere along the way, we made that switch."
Since shifting from the Rock focus of his band Nemo to the Bluegrass/Country range of the Avett Brothers in 1998, Scott and his guitarist brother Seth have released an impressive body of Indie/Roots/Bluegrass work and established a reputation as a ferocious concert act. The Avetts' sixth album, Emotionalism, hit the racks this week.
"This is the first time we've put out a record where everything is intentional," says Scott with a laugh. "I'm quite aware that sometimes those mistakes are great, but this was a record where we were definitely going to turn our back on that."
The Avett Brothers coalesced in the late '90s as downtime acoustic Country jam sessions apart from Nemo, Scott's regionally successful Greenville, N.C., band. Known as the Back Porch Project or Nemo Downstairs, the group -- Scott, brother Seth and Nemo guitarist John Twomey -- put together a six-track EP and christened the band the Avett Brothers in 2000. With Nemo's 2001 dissolution, the Avetts pursued their acoustic muse full time, hiring stand-up bassist Bob Crawford in 2002 and releasing their debut full length, Country Was, to the delight of a burgeoning fan base.
The Avett Brothers then released 2003's A Carolina Jubilee, 2004's Mignonette and their rapturous live album. They routinely sold out area shows by little more than word of mouth. After an unusual two-year recording break, the Avetts holed up in a cabin for 11 days and unleashed Four Thieves Gone last winter to nearly universal acclaim. The new Emotionalism represents something of a departure for the Avetts.
"We can't help but change," says Scott. "Occasionally we'll learn how to play a different instrument just well enough that we can get that part out and move on. We opened up to a lot more instrumentation and a lot more sound, as much as we can get out of the capabilities of what the three of us can play." (Brian Baker)
VIBROLAS WITH UNDERSEA EXPLOSION, KILL CITY AND BLACK TRACTOR
Friday · Dirty Jack's
There was a time when Rock & Roll wasn't concerned with politics, didn't strive to make any grand philosophical statements and no practitioners had any delusions about the music saving the planet or changing the world. Early on, Rock & Roll was pure entertainment, an escapist's opportunity to not deal with "big-picture issues" or other such complexities. Rock & Roll's earliest fans were passionate about this new musical form, but they didn't expect much out of it -- make us dance, make us sing along, play songs about us and our lives.
As the world became more complex and America became more diverse, Rock & Roll followed suit. But there are still many who lust for that early pure intensity, as the "Garage Rock" phenomenon attests. If that desire for fuel-efficient, powerful Rock music devoid of pretense still burns inside of your soul, Waynesburg, Ky., trio Vibrolas has what you need in spades. The threesome aren't playing Little Richard rave-ups (per se) and they are hardly to be classified as "Garage Rock" (maybe more "Garage Metal"), but the drag-race hysterics of their endearingly sludgy album, From Parts Unknown, plays into the classic spirit of Rock's pioneers. With caricatured car 'toon cover art, songs about any number of transportation vehicles (Cordova, Camaro and motorcycles, to name but a few) and a healthy sense of mirth and merriment (dig "Beerache My Eye"), it's clear that Vibrolas' sole mission is to rock your ass. (Speaking for this ass, please kindly add me to the list of those rocked.)
The band -- which has drawn notice from press as far away as Spain and Germany -- has a Metal edge, but it's more of the Sabbath/Stoner Metal variety. Though they refrain from the unhurried pace that guides that brand of Metal, their need for speed still translates into something impossibly heavy -- perhaps they could be the leaders of a new genre called "Stoner Thrash." They've also drawn comparisons to Motörhead and Mudhoney, a good indicator of the crossroads at which their sound lands. Note to the organizers of the Cavalcade of Customs car show -- Vibrolas should be your house band every year. (Mike Breen)
MXPX WITH THE FOLD, SULLIVAN, THE CLASSIC CRIME, PROJECT 86 AND RUN KID RUN
Saturday · The Underground
MxPx roared out of the great Northwest a decade and a half ago, filled with the desire to make screaming Punk Rock, the energy to take their music on the road at a relentless pace and, as it happened, the Holy Spirit. Christians all, MxPx also decided to keep their religious beliefs separate from their musical beliefs, a path they've found slightly slippery over the years.
Inspired by the Descendents and NOFX, the trio began in Bremerton, Wash., in 1992 when bassist Mike Herrera, drummer Yuri Ridley and original guitarist Andy Husted formed a high school band dubbed Magnified Plaid. The name proved a bit unwieldy for posters and T-shirts, so it was shortened to M.P., but Ridley's Punk scrawl transformed the periods to Xs, and so the band's abbreviation was transformed to MxPx, which stuck fast in no time. Within a year, MxPx had signed with Christian Punk label Tooth & Nail, and released their debut, Pokinatcha, in 1994.
Husted departed after the first album, unwilling to commit to the kind of non-stop touring that Herrera and Ridley envisioned, and was quickly replaced by Tom Wisniewski, who switched from drums to guitar in order to join the band. After a pair of albums (1995's Teenage Politics, 1996's Life in General), MxPx secured a distribution deal with A&M and released the widely praised (and finally widely available) Going the Way of the Buffalo in 1998 -- that year also saw the B-sides/rarities release of Let It Happen -- and their maturing breakthrough, The Ever Passing Moment, in 2000. With their Tooth & Nail contract fulfilled, MxPx signed with A&M proper for their major label debut, Before Everything and After in 2003.
2006 was a big year for the trio as they returned to indie status with SideOne Dummy Records and released Panic, which was quickly followed by a second rarities disc, Let's Rock on SideOne, a re-release of Let It Happen on Tooth & Nail featuring new songs and a DVD of music videos, and they received the keys to the city of Bremerton as their song "Move to Bremerton" was used in advertisements promoting the city.
As MxPx takes to the road once again (on the Tooth & Nail Tour, which is sponsored by White Castle; the restaurants will host "afterparties" in their restaurants after the shows), they'll be incorporating new songs into their frenetic set list, courtesy of their latest album, Secret Weapon, which will celebrate the band's return to Tooth & Nail with its July 17 release. MxPx fans are naturally ecstatic, but Punk Pop fans in general are calling the album's title track (available at the band's MySpace page) the best thing they've done in years. (BBr)