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Avett Brothers learning to juggle growing repertoire

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Avett Brothers expanded their repertoire exponentially during the past two years, with a pair of albums -- 2012's "The Carpenter" and last year's "Magpie and the Dandelion" -- that each debuted in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200.

But with six albums before those, the North Carolina roots rock group has discovered its become more challenging to figure out what to play each night.

"It's definitely gotten harder," acknowledges Seth Avett, the younger of the two Avett Brothers who front the group. "The real estate on the set list is become very valuable. There's all these different spots you want to hit in a night; you want to satisfy all these different goals while retaining some of the spontaneity and the fire of the moment. You also want to nod to the past some for the folks that have come o hear 'November Blue' or the songs we wrote 13, 14 years ago.

"We're starting to get a good feel for why (Bruce) Springsteen sets are normally three hours-plus, or why the Grateful Dead would play for three hours a night. It's starting to make sense to us."

Avett says the group, which has expanded to a quartet after starting with just he and his brother Scott, has also adapted the improvisational performing philosophy of those forebears, with less reverence for the songs in their recorded form.

"That's one thing I sort of warmed to over the years," explains Avett. "I used to think that when you recorded a song that's all the song was and that was it. The spirit of it remains the same in whatever way you recorded it.

"Now it seems that's all out the window. I find myself subscribing much more to the (Bob) Dylan mentality where nothing's set in stone. The song is brand new every night; it can be a different key, a different rhythm, a different genre. It can take whatever turn it needs to take, and your job is to stay the hell out of the way when it needs to take a different turn."

The Avetts have started working on their next album, which the group plans to record during the fall with producer Rick Rubin in California.

The Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 30, at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $68.50 and $60.50 pavilion, $44.50 lawn. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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