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Summerfest Daily Highlights: Thursday, July 5

Zac Brown Band, The Avett Brothers and Death Cab for Cutie

Jun. 20, 2012
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Zac Brown Band w/ Blackberry Smoke and Sonia Leigh
Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.

Zac Brown is easy to spot in his band; he's the guy with the trademark knit cap and bushy black beard who creates a sound that mashes up country, folk, jam, bluegrass, Southern rock and reggae. It works for his seven-man lineup, The Zac Brown Band, which broke through in 2008 with a re-recorded hit version of the song “Chicken Fried.” Although it took some years and lineup changes to get there, it was a fast rise for the band, culminating in the commercial seal of approval with the 2010 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The group appeals to a wide range, given its eclectic mix of musical styles. As a result, they've played youthful, hip festivals like Bonnaroo and toured with the Dave Matthews Band on that group's summer 2010 tour. Fans can expect to hear covers from a fusion of genres, with artists like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Rage Against the Machine. —Harry Cherkinian

The Avett Brothers

BMO Harris Pavilion with Miller Lite, 9:45 p.m.

Bluegrass and jam band music always has found its own synergy, but add indie rock and punk and the flavor changes significantly. That unusual synthesis forms the heart of The Avett Brothers. Comprised of Concord, N.C., brothers Scott and Seth Avett on banjo and guitar, respectively, stand-up bassist Bob Crawford, cellist Joe Kwon and drummer Jacob Edwards, the band has been described by the San Francisco Chronicle as having “the heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of The Beatles [and] the raw energy of The Ramones.”

The band had its roots in the merger between Seth's high-school rock band Margo and Scott's college group Nemo, originally releasing three albums under the Nemo name. When Nemo fell apart, the brothers took a more acoustic and traditional direction. Several EPs and albums emerged, including live albums that helped build a fan base. Late-night talk-show appearances broadened their scope, and when the band chose legendary producer Rick Rubin for the 2009 album I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers began to chart a serious indie rock/alt country course. The band has continued to grow in appeal with its unique sound, further boosted by the 2010 release of Live, Volume 3. —Michael Muckian

Death Cab for Cutie

Harley-Davidson Roadhouse with Miller Genuine Draft, 10 p.m.

Milwaukee's most die-hard Death Cab for Cutie fans probably caught the band back in April, when the group headlined a sold-out show at the Riverside Theater backed by The Magik*Magik Orchestra, the San Francisco ensemble that lent arrangements to the group's 2011 album Codes and Keys. They can expect a different show this time around. Death Cab is leaving the orchestra behind for the summer leg of their U.S. tour, which is welcome news for fans who want to hear the group cut loose a bit.

Since 2004, when the Washington indie-rock band signed to Atlantic Records on the strength of their sweeping 2003 album, Transatlanticism, and buzz around singer Ben Gibbard's glitch-pop side project The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie has had two beasts to serve: the new audience they picked up on commercial alternative stations, and old fans who came of age listening to Gibbard's erudite tales of heartbreak. The band's career-spanning live sets toss plenty of red meat to both camps, drawing almost equally from their fastidious major-label albums and their heart-on-sleeve independent releases. —Evan Rytlewski


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