“I guess everything does change except what we choose to recall”.
Tonight I’m heading out to ring in the new year with the Avett Brothers and a few thousand of my closest friends1. Buckle your seatbelt, this is going to go from zero to ridiculous quickly.
Out of three Avett Brothers concerts I’ve attended in my life, two were NYE shows (Charlotte in 2013; Greenville, SC in 2011). This year they come to Raleigh, my hometown, and just too much for me to pass up even though I pledged to give my wife a reprieve after dragging her to three AB shows in two years. My ticket for this year was punched before we even stepped foot in Charlotte last year.
Though my sample size is small, I have never come away disappointed from an Avett Brothers show. This is notable because before each show I walk in with the perfect setlist in mind – a sure prelude for disappointment. The catalog, to my ears, is deep; the stage presence and performance dynamic in a way that breathes new life into songs that long since eluded my attention.
In short, setlists fascinate me, especially the setlist for a show put on by the same group on the same day in the same state2 every year. I don’t know if Scott, Seth, et al consider it carefully or if they just go with what they want to play and let it ride. I thought it might be fun to go a little FiveThirtyEight on this, but I don’t want to take it too far. I decided that counting album tracks per show would be as far as I would take it, and include any other kind of stat that falls below that on the minutia scale. That leaves me with notes like: most played song (‘Go to Sleep’, all seven shows); best represented album (Emotionalism); most show opens (seven tied at 1); longest dormancy for a song (‘Pretty Girl from Chile’, 2008–2013); most encore appearances (‘I and Love and You’, ‘Salvation Song’ tied at 2); biggest spread of setlist position (‘Talk on Indolence’, #4 in 2008, to #30 – last song of the encore of the longest show so far – in 2011).
I’m shocked that ‘Go to Sleep’ is the song that made every show, mostly because it’s one of those songs that flies below my radar. I listened to it to refresh my memory and immediately thought, “Ahh yes, that one!”. Emotionalism is my favorite album, though I find it interesting how well represented I and Love and You is … or do I? Last year, I correctly predicted3 that ‘Open-Ended Life’ would open the show. This year I have no similar such predictions or other setlist premonitions. If there’s one thing that I’ve gleaned from looking at all of these setlists4, it’s that I’m in for a great show no matter what.
- I feel comfortable calling my fellow concertgoers close because I can’t imagine a better filtering criteria if I ever really did have to identify my closest few thousand friends.↩
- For simplicity’s sake, we’ll either choose to ignore 2011’s Greenville, SC show or, since I actually attended that one, we’ll just merge North Carolina and South Carolina and call it Carolinas because, let’s be honest, that’s how most of the country sees us anyway, isn’t it?↩
- Lucky guess. It’s an obvious opener from an album they released that year. I think they could sell pretty much any song in their live catalog as an opener.↩
- Setlists sourced primarily from Setlist.fm: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 (reddit), 2007. Setlist.fm data stops at 2007. I turned to reddit for continuity for 2008 which was missing from Setlist.fm, but laziness prevented me from using it for everything prior to 2007.↩