Have you ever seen the Red Sox at Fenway? Ever wondered what it's like for Catholics to attend mass at the Vatican? Well, maybe the second is a bit pushing it, but for Richmonders, that's about the equivalent of seeing Avail in Richmond.
You see, an Avail show here is sorta the "social event of the season." It generally happens once a year and you can expect to see everyone you know attending. Hell, I ran into at least 7 people I hadn't seen since the last Avail show. Oh yeah, it always sells out.
I missed the Pink Razors, but made it inside for the second half of Lucero's set (the line outside was ridiculous). The music itself sounded just as everyone had told me: country-influenced rock. I could see myself enjoying Lucero while sitting on my bench outside in the summertime, drinking lemonade.
The crowd itself seemed to hang on just about every song played. Going between the 1st and 2nd floors of Alley Katz, I found it difficult to get a good view, so unfortunately I can't describe the actual stage presence, but based on sound alone, I'd give them 2 thumbs up. I'd definitely like to see them again, preferably when I'm a little more comfortable with their music and able to actually see what's going on.
Determined not to make the same mistake twice, I sought out (with two Budweiser's in hand) to find a better spot for Avail. Generally, Avail is one of the few bands that will bypass my "old-man syndrome1" and allow me to get in the "pit" (we really need a better word for that) for, but I had a new camera and was determined to test it out.
As David Allen Coe began playing across the speakers, it could only mean one thing - Avail. As "South Bound 95" started, people were flying all over. Sweaty dudes jumping around on each other, girls knocking people on their asses on the floor; the scene was mayhem. For some reason Richmond bands LOVE to write songs about Richmond2, and people here eat it the fuck up. The end of each chorus resulted in a thunderous boom of "...MAKE IT HOME TO RICHMOND V-A!"
From there, every song was a Richmond sing-a-long. "Taken," "Nickel Bridge," "Deepwood," "Black And Red," "Blue Times Two," and a slower-tempo (and my favorite Avail track ever) "Lombardy St." were the most memorable to me. Maybe I'm a tad biased, but I tend to lean towards the Over The James period most, and Front Porch Stories seems to mirror its sound and style.
Whether Avail is playing Richmond, VA or Richmond, CA, you can always expect hear some of your favorite older stuff off of Dixie and 4AM Friday. "Fix," "FCA," "Model," "Tuesday," and "Simple Song" all found their way to the set list.
Naturally, Beau was working hard as usual to keep everyone entertained and in full motion. His usual array of stage props found their way into the set, including the soon to be legendary "hockey mask with the arrow going through." Tim Barry's vocal delivery was on point and it seemed that every song sounded just as good, if not better than its album counterpart.
The night concluded with the expected yet always anticipated "Scuffle Town." As a former VCU student, and a frequenter of Oregon Hill, the lyrics always seem to put a casual smile on my face.
I'm not going to try some clever ending to this review. I'll simple state the following: this was probably my 9th or 10th time seeing Avail (including sets in (Philly, Krazyfest 4, and DC). For a band that had built a strong foundation on an incredible live show, l I can honestly say this is by far the best performance I have ever seen.
1 - Common ailment known to those associated with punk rock. Commonly begins in early to mid-20's (see also http://www.punknews.org/review/3385 )
2 - See also: Avail, Strike Anywhere, Ann Beretta, Sixer, Smoke Or Fire