My first Avett Brothers show was at the House of Blues on a cold March night in 2010. We were pretty far back in the venue, so I was straining to see the four men on stage. They didn’t make it super difficult, as they were jumping and yelling, and bringing a level of energy to the stage I don’t know that I had ever seen before. Scott, Seth, Bob, and Joe, were the heart of the Avett Brothers, and they made me fall in love from first sight.
I couldn’t wait to see them again. My next opportunity to see them in Chicago (I wasn’t yet a part of the fan group/s, or traveling to see them) was in September 2011 at the Aragon Ballroom. My friend, Katie, and I got in line super early, and managed to get right up close. Only this time, she told me that the bassist, Bob Crawford, was taking a hiatus from the band, because his daughter, Hallie, was very ill with brain cancer.
At first blush, I was slightly disappointed — she raved about how amazing Bob is and what a kinship he has with the Avetts. But my thoughts soon turned to Bob and the rest of the band,as I considered what Bob’s absence must TRULY mean to them. They had to be sorrowful and deeply concerned for their friend and his daughter. I didn’t think much of the fact that Paul was playing bass, but did hope I would get to see Bob back in his place alongside Scott very soon.
Thankfully, Hallie did make an incredible recovery, and Bob came back to the band. However, the Avetts kept Paul on — rounding out their sound with keyboards, organ, and strings whenever necessary. The addition was an incredibly smart one, since Paul Defiglia is such an accomplished musician.
And so it began — coming to “know” Paul as best as I could, as a fan watching from the sidelines. Many fans do their level best to meet the band members in person, and Paul was always willing to take pictures and have conversations, even when other band members were unable. His affable personality warmed even the most curmudgeonly of fans who wanted to see the band as they knew them “back in the day.”
He continued to tour with the band, and recorded with them on their latest record, True Sadness. It’s hard to understand how someone can have such kinship with a person who is, at their essence, a stranger. But it was hard *not* to feel a kinship with Paul.
Paul was one of the more active members of the band on social media, in particular, Twitter. He would respond and like people’s comments, as well as share his own take on various topics and events. One thing I came to learn about Paul, was that he was a devout Cubs fan. Obviously, when we won the World Series, every Cub fan was beside themselves with joy. While the light was eventually dimmed by the election of 45, at this point, all we had was excited bewilderment.
And when Paul flew a little “W” flag from his perch on November 5, 2016, at Waukegan’s Genesee Theater, I couldn’t contain myself. While I’m not normally a fan of people yelling shit out at quiet moments of shows, I think there *can* be a time and a place for it. And that night was my night. As the show headed into the encore, I yelled, “Paulie, we did it!!” and fiddle player, Tania, started up the crowd in a rendition of “Go Cubs Go.” It was truly magical.
I’ll be seeing the Avett Brothers this Saturday at a post-Reds game concert. It will be the last show where I’ll see Paul. I hope he’ll read this post and know that he truly DID do a fine job for the better part of this decade. You will be missed, sir, but we will enthusiastically follow your journey from here. All the best.
My contribution to the show on 11.5.16: