Funk, folk and rock cut through rain at Avett Brothers’ concert on the Bangor Waterfront

Posted Sept. 13, 2013, at 10:06 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 14, 2013, at 8:49 a.m.

Approximately 1,000 people braved heavy rain, wind and seasonably cool temperatures to enjoy the folk-rock sound of the Avett Brothers and the high-energy funk-rock of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion on Friday night.

The concert was the next-to-last show of the Waterfront Concerts season.

Despite the relatively low turnout, diehard fans of the Avetts, the popular Americana trio, still stood in the rain, ready to sing along to their hits, “I and Love and You” and “Live and Die.” Concert-goers including poncho-clad Michael McFarland of East Blue Hill anxiously watched weather reports all day, hoping the weather might clear up in time for the show.

“Oh, I’m a big Avett Brothers fan,” said McFarland, just before the show began. “I missed them when they played in Blue Hill [at a music festival back in 2008], because it rained that time too. This time, I said I wasn’t going to miss it.”

Opener Trombone Shorty — also known as trombone virtuoso Troy Andrews — brought soulful, rock-influenced New Orleans funk with his backing band Orleans Avenue. It contrasted with the Avetts’ equally energetic take on folk rock, replete with beautiful vocal harmonies; honest, sardonic lyrics; and a freewheeling blend of banjo, guitar, cello, bass and drums; all rooted in the songwriting of North Carolina brothers Scott and Seth Avett.

Cheryl Sprang traveled seven hours from Sharon, Vt., to attend the concert with her husband, cousins and best friend.

“We’re always up for a little adventure,” said Sprang, who described herself as a big fan of the Avetts. “A little rain won’t keep us from going on a trip like this.”

Friday’s concert, as well as Saturday night’s SoulQuest festival, which features headliners Casting Crowns, a multiplatinum Christian rock band, are the final two shows of what has appeared to be a successful Waterfront Concerts season.

Tanya Emery, economic development director for Bangor, pointed to the boost in revenue that concert-goers bring when they come to town and eat in restaurants, stay in hotels and use the city’s other amenities.

“I think this year has demonstrated that the concerts continue to be a huge draw,” said Emery. “I continue to be amazed when I talk to people from five or six hours away who come for a concert and stay for the whole weekend. The increase in hospitality is definitely felt, but we also see a lot of growth in the little things, like foot traffic downtown and people seeing Bangor as a destination.”

Alex Gray, head of Waterfront Concerts, was pleased overall with the diversity of the lineup he booked for this year’s series.

“This was definitely our most diverse year of the four years we’ve been going,” said Gray. “We had the biggest jam band in the world in Phish; we had Kenny Chesney, who is perceived as [one of the] biggest country acts in the world; and we had successful first forays into pop and hip-hop with Ke$ha and Lil Wayne. We wanted to expand our offerings, and that definitely came to fruition.”

Aside from the rainy Avett Brothers concert, there were a few memorable shows, meteorologically speaking, including the Toby Keith Labor Day concert with torrential downpours, the lightning storm that put an early end to Rob Zombie’s performance at the Mayhem Festival, and a steamy start to the Phish concert.

Overall, however, the weather cooperated for the concerts — though heavy amounts of rainfall in July meant lots of muddy shoes and eventually unpleasant odors from drainage problems with the waterlogged sod.

“I think one of the things that sets our fans apart is that they won’t let anything chase them away, whether it’s torrential downpours during Toby Keith, it’s extreme heat, or it’s thunderstorms,” said Gray. “We had the wettest summer on record, but we also had our biggest shows yet. That speaks volumes to the people who come to the waterfront.”

Gray admits there have been some growing pains this year, including the bad-smelling soggy sod and the controversy surrounding noise in neighborhoods near — and not-so-near — the venue. While the smelly sod issue was addressed relatively quickly when city crews put gravel down on the pit and seated areas of the venue, the noise complaints remain a challenge.

Nevertheless, Gray is working on the 2014 season. He and his crew already are close to booking their first acts for next summer.

“We are holding the biggest names in the world, and we’re close to confirming our first act. It would be the earliest confirmation we’ve ever had, and that speaks volumes,” said Gray. “Despite the challenges, we feel like it’s been our best year yet, and we’re truly excited to move forward.”