Selected Avett Brothers Videos For My Friend Who’s Never Heard Them

Here you go–in return for the jazz appreciation lessons.

Impossible not to want to hang out with these guys:

All NPR Tiny Desk concerts should require a gorilla suit, but this is pretty damned good without


Exhausting, But Damn Fine Weekend Part 2: Concert

We had yet another trip to Pittsburgh in store for us Saturday–my fourth in a row, as I’d been in the suburbs Wednesday to help my mom pick out 2011-chevrolet-cruze_100330176_land negotiate for a new car–a long but unexpectedly pleasant experience with Day Chevrolet in Murrysville, PA.  We got her an almost new Chevy Cruze–a perfect Grandma-car, but still a little sporty, a little perky to drive.  Way to go, Detroit–this one brings a hammer to the Compact Dance, and has the Asian marques in a tizzy, I’d wager.

After that, and the two days of swim meet, let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic about another day crammed into a car, even though the plans for the evening were for recreation.  I was grumpy all day, sick of restaurant food, weary of having a seat belt carving into my cartoid, and just plain tired.  If we hadn’t been locked in to the tune of $130 I would have been tempted to bail.  I just wanted to sleep.

That would have been a shame, because we had a semi-potluck in the mid-afternoon: ham, oven-baked herbed potatoes, salad, lots of fresh fruit and tasty bread, and apple pie for desert, with 4 friends and our kids, then the grown-ups saddled up and made the very familiar drive back to Cardiac Hill.  This time, after hours on a weekend, the parking was easy.  We quickly found a space in a small garage, downed some beers in the van–the garage was full of folks sitting in their vehicles, bartending out of PetersenEventsCenter_at_Pitttheir trunks.  Soon enough it was time, and we strolled up to the Peterson Center, a pretty fantastic venue on the Pitt campus.  We were there to see  The Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers, and it turned out we got enviable, fantastic seats, just above floor level.


And man, it was awesome.  Old Crow opened with a boisterous cover of John Denver’s seminal kneeslappin’ Thank God I’m A Country Boy and the crowd roared into Full Whoop–where is stayed through their too 4380881794_bf3f2fcf32_oshort 50-minute opening set.  I loved the crowd–more beards per capita than anyplace but downtown Islamabad– so I felt right at home, enjoying the irony of realizing that at the same moment Old Crow was jamming out genuine old-school Grand Old Opry-grade country to 35,000 hipsters in Pittsburgh, PA all over the country so-called Country Bands were shoveling candy-coated bubblegum pop to hundreds of thousands of rednecks.  The energy was pure and joyful–especially during the most popular songs, when the bands and 35,000 background singers–just listen to the voices….

By the time the Avetts ripped through more than two hours (!!) of their show then re-emerged onstage the crowd was in a danced-up, esq-avett-xlg-38788231full-flowering bliss, seemingly impossible to improve–until they called Old Crow out on the stage for a magnum freaking opus encore medley of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, The Carter Family’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken (you know an band is certified when they cover The Carters in their encore), and–finally–an inspired cover of the Spaniels’ Goodnight, Sweetheart.  Freaking awesome, and utterly perfect.  A stop for take out from Mineo’s Pizza on the way home, and the night was complete.



Commentary Uncategorized



I took a free online course on Coursera recently–read some good old books.  For each selection, students were required to write a brief, 350-word essay that was then distributed to five random classmates for peer review.  The following dreck was my first offering, which was modestly reviewed–two of my five peers, one English and another American, complained that I used “too many big words.” Another American was appalled that I abandoned the accepted 5-paragraph essay form by editing out both conclusive (reiterative, it seems to me) paragraph and let the little essay dangled there from the edge of it’s own cliff.  The content, of course, was mostly stream of consciousness bullshit–I was going for sound as well as substance, but it was still an interesting exercise both in making a succinct and intelligible response and in observing that unlike most of our mass art today, the Grimm folk tales are almost anti-moralistic.  I haven’t taken another Coursera class, but the experience was certainly worthwhile.

 Ubiquitous in western culture, the tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are most familiar to modern readers as homogenized “Disney-fied” fantasies of plucky, rosy-cheeked protagonists set upon by, and ultimately prevailing over, evil—often psychotically so—villains. In a modern reality defined by the expectations of Hollywood accountants, the innocent victims—preferably princesses—prevail despite the devilry and magic summoned against them by armies of jealous Queens, cackling witches, and sociopathic stepmothers. Justice is delivered and all is set right in the world. 

Interestingly, the Grimm stories as translated by Lucy Crane present a much different and arbitrary chain of action between villain (where there is one), victim, and resolution. One might presume that social and cultural changes, specifically the conditions of a largely agrarian, pre-industrial society and the greater exposure to and familiarity with the often capricious forces of nature, result in a more nuanced, grittier and often less formulaic depiction of good, evil, and justice.

In the very first selection, The Rabbit’s Bride, it is difficult to even discern which character is villain and which is the victim: the lonely Rabbit, raiding the cabbage patch and seducing the maiden, or the maiden who allows herself to be seduced and betrothed before betraying her suitor and breaking his heart?  We see this unconventional approach again and again, from the bloodbath that is The Death of The Hen to The Straw, The Coal, and The Bean and on.  There is no justice in these sad tales, and the only possible moral is that tragedy and terror are only a few heartbeats away.

Even a seemingly traditional tale like Rumplestiltskin delivers questionable justice. However unfavorable the heroine’s condition, she strikes a deal with the odd little man and spends her time seeking a way to renege her contract. The story seems almost unfair, but justice in the Grimms’ stories often has less to do with right and wrong, or good and bad, than it does with elevating wit over stupidity.  Time and time again, the wily character prevails and the idiot suffers—whether that idiot is a dolt like Hans In Luck or Prudent Hans, or an inept villain like the Red Riding Hood wolf or the Hansel and Grethel witch.