The Avett Brothers 

Thursday, May 12; Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum (701 North 15th Street)

The Avett Brothers are to folk music what the Hanson Brothers were to hockey in the movie Slapshot. They're lovable goons, breaking all the rules while hacking, slashing and punching their way into the hearts of their fans. There are two actual brothers in this three-man band -- Scott, who sings and plays banjo, and Seth, who sings and plays acoustic guitar. Bob Crawford rounds out the group on acoustic bass. And you've heard guitar/bass/banjo groups before, so you know what these guys sound like, right?

Wrong. Throw your expectations out the window. The Avetts draw from acoustic music traditions, to be sure, but they are entirely uninterested in trying to re-create anything that's gone before. So in the middle of a lovely ballad set to a waltz tempo, Scott and Seth will abandon their ragged-but-delicate harmonies and suddenly start screaming at the top of their lungs. The guitar and banjo are more likely to be strummed furiously than picked with care. And, with very few exceptions, the Avett Brothers play and sing their own original material.

These originals are the strength of the band. Drawing from folk melodies and pop sensibilities, the Avetts write delightfully offbeat and emotionally resonant songs. Some of them will break your heart -- "Smoke in Our Lights" is a string of clever metaphors that add up to a sad tale of lost love -- and some will make you laugh out loud --"I Killed Sally's Lover" takes a sarcastic look at the aftereffects of folk-music revenge songs. Most will stick in your head after only a couple of listens.

Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door; call 314-231-2489 for more information. The Avett Brothers also perform at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue) on Friday, May 13. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door; call 314-773-3363 for more information.

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