Monday, February 21, 2011


Being that I’m President of The Hilltop – full authority resides with the Chairman of the Board, whom I won’t name – it’s time for my Presidents’ Day message.

Friday night took me to DAR Constitution Hall to take in the Avett Brothers show. As expected, it was an amazing show that highlighted everything great about the band. The brothers (Seth and Scott) opened by going with a bit of a bluegrass set-up: a single, high pick-up mic (?), one guitar, and two voices. That single, quiet, duet (Murder in the City) was a bold choice for a houseful of fans riled up for the opening of and expected high-energy show…it couldn’t have been a better choice. First, it highlighted the perfect harmonies that DNA allows and they’ve mastered. Second, it showcases Scott’s unbelievably strong voice (“Did you swallow an amplifier?” – NPR) as he moves far away from the mic and controls his sound perfectly through not only distance, but also via direction of projection. After the simmered us all down, the rest-ish of the band (cello and bass) hit the stage as they started to rip through nearly two hours of impeccable showmanship (they also have a drummer, Smiley, who shows up for about half the songs). Scott plays guitar, banjo, harmonica, keyboards, and a standup bass drum/cymbal while singing lead on most songs and harmony on others. Seth plays guitar and keyboards while singing lead and harmonies. The constant movement throughout the show, the clear pleasure of playing for all of us, and the talent on display is stunning. What you get with these guys is a feeling like you get at few shows: warmth and vision of what they believe comes from music. Much like Cloud Cult, what they push through the amplifiers is some serum that can make all the ills of your day disappear, if only for the time you have together. As I’ve said many times, I’m not impressed by bands that feel they need to push for two hours or more – very few have the strength of catalog that can hold my interest for that long. The Avetts hit at about 1:55, including a three-song encore, that actually left me wanting more, and that’s a rare thing. I don’t know what the future holds for the band; will they become so big that they outgrow smaller venues? (DAR holds right at 3,700 in a quaint hall). What I tend to believe about bands that I love, especially when new CDs arrive or shows are attended, is that they must surely explode to worldwide fame and tens of thousands will pack the big arenas. What usually happens is that they peak at about the 9:30 Club-level (capacity:1,200) and never grow to stadium-rock levels. I suspect the Avetts are playing at the max level of venue size right now – even with the Grammys turn last week, their music and style doesn’t lead to huge, huge shows (not including big festival stages).

X has wrapped up her studies and hit the road this afternoon for her Bar Exam – we get her back on Wednesday evening. I have little doubt she’ll due just fine and we’ll know for sure in April.

G. had two strange questions yesterday. The first came when he called me from a friend’s house and asked, “Has anything happened at home?” Strange. “What do you mean?”, I said. “Nothing, I just wanted to know if anything has happened at home.” Weird-o. What? Did he set some trap that would spring upon me at my return? Did you know something about aliens landing? He followed that up last nigh with this, at about 9pm, “Todd, do I have school tomorrow?” Well, it’s Presidents’ Day and even I have the day off, L. has the day off, your Mom has he day off. No, you don’t have school. “Are you sure?” Fine. I went on-line and checked with the District, and sure enough, they have school as a make-up for their fourth (pathetic) snow day. From this point forward, they have to make up every other snow day. Don’t ask me how that works; that’s just the way it is. I half expected a question today about whether or not he has two feet.

Speaking of snow days, it looks like we have some inches (and I'm talking pathetic D.C. inches) coming this evening. I sense a school delay. I hope I don't have to feed them....


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