Burnett was in town for the Sundance premiere of a film he co-produced with Jack White (of the White Stripes) and Robert Redford (of Sundance, obviously).American Epic is a documentary the started with the discovery of a vintage American recording device and follows the device around the country while modern artists from Merle Haggard to Alabama Shakes record with it.
One of the bands in featured in the film is the massively popular Avett Brothers. And so, in a little bit of Sundance magic, the Avetts played the afterparty. And at 10:35, after Burnett called them “a great American band,” the party really started.
Opening with “Satan Pulls the Strings” the band hit the stage with their trademark energy and didn’t slow down, not even during a charming if not a little confusing kazoo medley. The Avetts don’t talk much during their shows, preferring to go from one song to the next at exhausting speed. And because of that, they were able to rip through 17 songs not counting the encore in about an hour and a half.
During the show the room seemed to be divided into to groups. The fans who were close to the stage knew every word and jumped and danced along, and then there were those who stayed in the back of the room and, apparently, paid a hefty $125 to chat with their friends. Ah, Sundance.
In the hour and a half they were onstage the band played lots of crowd favorites, including “Talk on Insolence,” “Murder in the City,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” and “Slight Figure of Speech.” They played a song from a new album, expected this fall, “Divorce, Separation Blues.” But the highlight of the night, for this reviewer was a rollicking take on George Jones’ “The Race Is On.”
That was my favorite until the encore, that is. The band came back onstage for one song, a long version of “Kick Drum Heart” complete with a jam-band musical interlude that included Seth Avett walking through the crowd as members of the audience held the cables attached to the guitar above their heads.
In the end, I can’t tell you if American Epic is a good movie. I didn’t go to the premiere. You can find out yourself when it airs on PBS later this year.
But I can tell you this: American Epic can throw one heck of an afterparty.