The Avett Brothers find a Cheer-ful way to give back through Lowcountry concert
By T. Ballard Lesemann Special to The Post and Courier – Wednesday, November 13, 2013
If you go
What: The Legendary Giveback II with The Avett BrothersWhen: 8 p.m. ThursdayWhere: North Charleston Coliseum, 5001 Coliseum DrivePrice: $33.50-$45.50 For more info: www.theavettbrothers.com, Cheerwine.com/giveback, www.NorthCharlestonColiseumPAC.comOn the webFor those who won’t be able to attend, fans will be able to catch the show virtually by pledging hours of community service on the event’s website, Cheerwine.com/giveback.
It may seem silly to compare a serious songwriting group to a candy-sweet soft drink, but it’s quite easy to link Grammy Award-nominated folk-country act The Avett Brothers to the cherry-accented beverage Cheerwine.
Both were born in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, just north of Charlotte. Both have earned intensely loyal fans over the years. Both are fiercely independent. And both retain an elegant sense of Southern charm with each step forward.
This week, The Avett Brothers, led by the core trio of siblings Scott Avett (vocals, banjo) and Seth Avett (vocals, guitar) with pal Bob Crawford (vocals, bass), return to the Lowcountry for a benefit show co-sponsored by Cheerwine as part of the Legendary Giveback concert series, an annual collaboration that brings fans together to raise funds and support for family-based charities.
Tom Barbitta, Cheerwine’s senior vice president of marketing and sales, has been a driving force behind the Legendary Giveback project since it began in 2012.
“I first met Scott, Seth, David and their manager, Dolphus Ramseur, when I attended an art exhibit in Cheerwine’s hometown of Salisbury a few years ago,” Barbitta says. “I was more familiar with Scott’s amazing artwork than the band’s music at the time, but I fell in love with the band’s music, and we got to know each other well.
“We often discussed ideas about giving back to that community,” he explains. “We wanted to work together to something bigger than selling music or soft drinks. That’s how the Legendary Giveback started. We moved our regular agendas aside, and we kept the attorneys and accountants away from it. We did it right and kept it real.”
Produced by the Carolina Beverage Corp. based in the small town of Salisbury, the cherry-accented Cheerwine soft drink has been a treasured treat in the Carolinas and around the Southeast since 1917.
“I feel like it’s one of those fascinating things that should be in a museum,” Barbitta says. “There’s a great story to it. It’s the little guy that lives in a world of giants, competing against giant brands. It’s the little guy that everyone loves — an independent, family-owned company that doesn’t answer to Wall Street. You can’t make that stuff up.”
Still owned and managed by the same founding family, Cheerwine has successfully pushed to expand production and distribution around the United States; its next big goal is to be available in all 50 states by its 100th anniversary in 2017.
Barbitta, a native of New York, joined Cheerwine in 2005 after working with various snack and beverage companies.
“I don’t necessarily think of myself as a New Yorker, but my roots are still there,” he says. “I think of myself as someone who’s passionate, who believes deeply in what my company is doing.”
One of the more clever charitable efforts Cheerwine has done recently has been to partner with The Avett Brothers on the Legendary Giveback concert series. The idea started last year, when they held a fundraiser show at the open-air Telos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville, Va., on Oct. 19.
The band’s performance was live-streamed nationally to fans who pledged to volunteer their time and effort to a charity or community organization. The concert footage reached more than 11,000 fans from 17 different countries.
“The response from our fans last year was both humbling and gratifying,” lead singer Scott Avett states in a recent press release. “And we’re grateful that Cheerwine is committed to raising more funds for the families that this year’s concert benefits.”
Avett’s Carolina story
Local fans have enjoyed watching The Avett Brothers develop as respectable songwriters and professional performers, graduating from small clubs to larger venues like the Music Farm in downtown Charleston, then making the jump to big rooms like the North Charleston Performing Arts Center and Coliseum.
The Avett Brothers formed in the 2000s in the town of Concord (near Salisbury, north of Charlotte), with Scott and Seth Avett joining forces in 2002 with stand-up bassist Bob Crawford. Initially, their original material drew heavily from folk-rock and country-pop acts like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Stanley Brothers and the Band. They worked elements of Carolina and Appalachian-style bluegrass and mountain music into the mix, too.
After a successful run with manager Dolphus Ramseur’s indie Ramseur Records label, the band signed with American Recordings/Columbia in 2009 and released a well-produced major label debut titled “I and Love and You.” The album reached at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 200 that year, launching them toward national fame and acclaim. Critics and fans praised the band’s rustic, rootsy style and its homegrown authenticity.
More than 10 years into their recording career, The Avett Brothers are still firmly in control of their music and recordings. Last month, they released the 11-song collection “Magpie and the Dandelion,” a sturdy follow-up to 2012’s “The Carpenter.” In-demand studio wiz Rick Rubin produced both albums.
“I’ve been listening to both ‘The Carpenter’ and ‘Magpie and the Dandelion’ this week,” Barbitta tells Charleston Scene. “I love the diversity of the band, the musicians and their instrumentations. Their sound is very special. They write all of their music and do it all themselves. It’s not like so many of the big acts out there on radio.”
In August, The Avett Brothers and Cheerwine announced that the Legendary Giveback II concert would take place Nov. 14 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
“It all started right from the heart,” Barbitta says of the Legendary Giveback project. “It wasn’t based on a marketing program. It was really just the value of the brand and the value of the band aligning.”
Proceeds from the ticket sales for the first Legendary Giveback show in Virginia benefited several organizations that specifically addressed the needs of families, including Operation Homefront, specializing in military service members and their families; Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network; and the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.
This year, the Legendary Giveback will feature the Children’s Hospital at the Medical University of South Carolina as the primary beneficiary, as well as Operation Homefront and Big Brothers Big Sisters again receiving funds.
“We wanted it to be connected to family charities and children, so that’s how we connected with Operation Homefront and Big Brothers Big Sisters,” Barbitta says. “We always want to have a local charity, so this year, we’re excited to be working with MUSC in Charleston in a large venue. I know they’ll raise a lot of good money and support for these organizations.
“I really do think of The Avett Brothers as a kind of metaphor for Cheerwine: an independent band with Southern roots with an eclectic, diverse, loyal audience,” Barbitta adds. “They don’t sound like anyone else, and we don’t taste like anyone else. It’s a great fit, not just because they’re a great band that makes great music, but because they transcend the same values of the Cheerwine brand.”