Cheerwine and the Avett Brothers give back

  • Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:41 p.m.

Todd Bachman remembers seeing a band called Nemo a dozen or so years ago when he was a student at Catawba College. The group played hard rock at a now-defunct coffee house beside a barber shop on Innes Street.
Nemo is history now, but important history, since band members Scott and Seth are now part of The Avett Brothers, which plays to audiences considerably larger than the 80 or so students who packed that Salisbury coffee shop.
Now a family man, Bachman has attended many Avett Brothers concerts up and down the east coast, and he travelled from his home in Florida with wife Trisha to see them perform in Charlottesville, Va. Friday night.
"There is nothing like an Avett Brothers show," said Bachman, who admitted to"dancing like a schoolgirl" during Friday's concert, which was a collaborative effort between the group and Cheerwine.
Indeed it was a dancing kind of night - a gorgeous fall evening at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, perfectly sited right next to the historic downtown mall.With a successful new album "The Carpenter," the Concord-based Avett Brothers are hotter than a pepper sprout, and they delivered the high-energy show their fans have come to expect. Songs included the standout cut "Live and Die" from their new album and older favorites like "Kick Drum Heart" - which featured a kick-tail guitar solo by Seth Avett. Interspersed were more reflective numbers, like the earnest and heartfelt"Through My Prayers."
Band members left the stage swigging from glass bottles of Cheerwine but were soon urged back for an encore.
Proceeds from the event - called the Legendary Giveback - will benefit organizations that address the needs of families: Operation Homefront, devoted to helping military service members and their families; Big Brothers Big Sisters, the well-known mentoring network; and the University of Virginia Children's Hospital.
Fans who pledged online to contribute hours in their own communities received a code that let them access the concert online through Livestream.
But the flesh and blood Avett Brothers experience is the point for many fans, who made sure the event sold out quickly.
David Butler of Greensboro got his tickets through a Cheerwine promotion and brought his friend Hester Petty, who has become a convert because of Butler.
"You just can't feel bad after you hear them play," said Petty, who's now seen them dozens of time. Butler thinks that Friday's concert was the 88th Avett Brothers performance he's attended.
He loves the the music, the band and what they stand for.
So does Tom Barbitta, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cheerwine.
Surprisingly, Barbitta became acquainted with the Avett Brothers not through their music but through Scott Avett's art exhibit and lecture for Center for Faith & the Arts in Salisbury.
After that, Scott Avett, band manager Dolph Ramseur and Cheerwine began collaborating, with Scott lending his voice to radio commercials. "We got closer through that, and we began to talk about what else we could do together," Barbitta said.
The partnership felt like a natural one.
"The values of the band and the values of the brand are very much aligned, vaues around community and family and integrity," Barbitta said.
"Because of the strength of those things, that led us to say, let's do something extraordinary for the community, give back."
The Legendary Giveback was never about selling more soda or more music, Barbitta says.
One of the charities benefitting from the concert is Operation Homefront, and Friday's concert was live-streamed to US military bases in this country and around the world, Barbita said.
Because of fans' access to the concert online, what would otherwise have been a Charlottesville phenomenon turned into a much bigger thing, Barbitta said.
Expenses haven't been tallied yet, but Barbitta says the donations to the three charities will be significant.
So will there be another Legendary Giveback event again next year?
"We hope so," Barbitta says. "We think the idea lends itself to doing something annually, something that can grow and become bigger every year."
As an independent, family-owned brand, Cheerwine is the "ideal brand to support something like this," Barbitta said.
And will any follow-up event also feature the Avett Brothers?
"I think we would love to stick with this relationship" Barbitta said.
"It has to do with values...with who they are as a group, and what this brand stands for. They're local guys, who grew up with Cheerwine in their baby bottles.
"And just picking a band off a shelf - that wouldn't seem right."
The band will appear on an episode of CMT's "Crossroads" with Randy Travis, airing Nov. 23.

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