Avett Brothers documentary playing in Greenville Tuesday
By Erin Shaw
Monday, September 11, 2017
Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio’s music documentary “May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers” pulls back the concert curtain on the famous North Carolina folk-rock band and offers an extended look at its members as they reach soaring heights while simultaneously keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Filmmakers followed The Avett Brothers for more than two years as the band recorded the multi-Grammy-nominated album “True Sadness,” beginning at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville and ending at producer Rick Rubin's Shangri-LA studio in Malibu. The recording process provides the main plot of the doc, but its heart is the brotherly bond between Scott and Seth Avett and the premium they place on family. They lay bare feelings about parenthood, divorce and the strangeness of turning difficult experiences into successful songs.
“Judd and Mike have cinematically captured something we are trying musically to present every time we make a record: an honest and artistic portrait of life as we experience it,” Seth Avett says.
“May It Last” premiered at this year’s SXSW festival, and for one night only on Tuesday, more than 250 theaters nationwide will screen the documentary, including Grande Stadium 14 and AMC Fire Tower 12 in Greenville.
Family photos interspersed with old concert footage document The Avett Brothers’ formative years and rise to fame, which also features bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon. The real gold coins, however, are in the snippets of Scott and Seth Avett’s day-to-day lives. Whether it’s helping their dad split wood, getting eggs from the hen house or making a waffle breakfast, audiences see what a regular day between tours is like for the brothers, who still live in their hometown of Concord, North Carolina, down the street from one another.
At one point, Seth Avett talks of his high school days, when he recorded snippets of songs and mailed the cassettes to Scott Avett, then in college at East Carolina University. They’d also write songs and sing them to the other’s voicemails. Their collaborative spirit hasn’t changed much, and “May It Last” captures how the two skillfully turn a jumble of thoughts and lyrics into a full-fledged song.
“The Avetts are the rare example of a family-based band where there’s love and understanding of what the other one brings,” Rubin says in the film. “That ability to really share their innermost deepest private thoughts is what makes a great songwriter, but typically it’s more of a solo mission. So the fact that they they are able to do it together and help each other through that process or add to each others’ process allows their songwriting to grow in a different way than most.”
The result is an intimately captured, emotional, alternately sad and joyous portrayal of the band. It’s like having a private Avett Brothers concert in your living room, only better.
7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Regal Greenville Grande Stadium, 1685 E. Fire Tower Road. $15
7 p.m. Sept. 12 at AMC Fire Tower 12, 750 Greenville Blvd. SW. $16