Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: Rain didn’t damper spirits on Friday evening as The Avett Brothers kicked off a three-night run under the stars at Red Rocks Amphitheater. For Friday’s show, the Avett boys wrangled Bob Weir and Ratdog off their summer tour for an opening slot at the iconic venue. When we arrived at 5:30, the line down the ramp at the south entrance had already ballooned in anticipation of a Ratdog sunset. As we sipped and mingled in the South lot before the show, new friends were born and the atmosphere was supreme. For all the zany weekends at Red Rocks it’s nice to see a weekend with a certain degree of calmness woven into the crowd. I’m glad AEG Live has the awareness to dedicate three nights to the authentic, warm vibes of the Avett Brothers because it’s certainly a crown jewel on the Red Rocks schedule and should be for many years to come.
Opener: Bob Weir and Ratdog. It’s been a good summer for Ratdog with June featuring a block of solid performances throughout the East Coast and Midwest. July saw the band move West, culminating in sold out shows at Red Rocks and The Ogden Theatre. Ratdog: Jeff Chimenti, Steve Kimock, Jay Lane, Robin Sylvester and Rob Wasserman complement Bob Weir’s dwindling vocal range, classic rhythm guitar and spry personality perfectly and help invigorate a whirlwind tour through The Grateful Dead catalog.
Ratdog took the stage to a full crowd and dove into a jazzy introductory jam that slowly gathered itself into a rousing “Help On The Way” and had the crowd roaring under an orange sky. Although it took the group a few songs to completely come together musically, stars aligned during a booming “ I Need a Miracle” that drove the set into an extra gear. The final sixty minutes was a fantastic journey through “Playin’ In The Band,” Eyes Of The World,” “Days Between,” “Franklin’s Tower” and “Touch of Grey.” As the sun shuttered itself behind a blanket of lightning streaked clouds, a brilliant summer moon was revealed and I was reminded that there are zero reasons why I should ever miss another show Bob Weir performance at Red Rocks.
Avett Brothers: The pride of Concord, North Carolina, Scott and Seth Avett, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon have put their own signature twist on classic Americana and they do it with flair. Eight full length and three live albums into their career, The Avett’s have a catalog and live reputation more than worthy of a three-night Red Rocks party. For this weekend’s trio of shows, the group brought along Mike Marsh on drums, Paul DeFiglia on keys and Tania Elizabeth to rock out on the fiddle.
A long set from Bob Weir and Ratdog is a powerful opener and the crowd was pulsating with energy as The Avett Brothers took the stage opening with a rowdy “Satan Pulls the Heartstrings.” During the opening song, spotlights focused on three distinct jam circles on the stage; Mike wailing on the drums in the middle, Tania (Fiddle) and Joe (Cello) stage left and Bob on Double Bass (stage right) before the lights erupted revealing Seth and Scott’s Michael Jackson-esque dance moves and crowd melting harmonies. The show was a blissful journey from the beginning. Although the entire set was full of classics including “Down with the Shine” and “Paranoia in B-Flat Major,” Friday was highlighted by Bob Weir sitting in with the band for three songs, including: “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” which never fails to hit the sweet spot at Red Rocks, a “Little Sadie” that turned the benches into a sea of happy Bluegrass faces and a version of “Uncle John’s Band” that made the moon glow even brighter.
The Avett Brothers have the rare ability in the music world to make you feel their emotions through song and dance. The maturity and mellow nature of the crowd doesn’t hurt either. The rest of the Avett weekend deserves just as much credit as this near perfect Friday evening.
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: B+