Season 40 resumes with the Avett Brothers and Nickel Creek

Austin City Limits ushers in the new year with a stellar double-bill featuring music from the heart and soul of America: Americana rockers The Avett Brothers and Grammy Award-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek.

North Carolina’s Avett Brothers are one of the biggest draws in live music today, becoming sought-after headliners over the course of their decade-plus career. Fronted by siblings Scott and Seth Avett, they made their ACL debut as a trio in Season 35 and return for ACL’s milestone Season 40 as a seven-piece, including the addition of a fiddler, drummer and keyboardist. Together they deliver a standout performance — the band’s onstage energy is undeniably entertaining as they perform with unbridled joy.  Turning the catchy fan-favorite “Kick Drum Heart” into a rock anthem, the ACL audience handclaps along in time. Seth Avett admits performing on ACL is an especially poignant experience for the brothers.  “We grew up watching this show,” he tells the Austin crowd.  “To us, this is what music looks like on television.” Their ACL appearance is a victory lap of musicianship and revelry, illustrating why they are one of music’s best live acts.

“An Avett Brothers show today is worlds apart from five years ago,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “More energy, more excitement, bigger sound. But what has not changed is that down-to-earth quality that connects with fans now more than ever.”

Bluegrass innovators Nickel Creek celebrated their 25th anniversary with their first new release in nine years, 2014’s A Dotted Line, recently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.  Their highly-anticipated reunion brings them back to the ACL stage for their third appearance together.  The remarkably talented collective—mandolin ace Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitarist Sean Watkins (Sara’s brother), along with accompanying bassist Mark Schatz—showcase their virtuoso musicianship and tight harmonies in their ACL return.  Performing a mix of old and new crowd pleasers, the Southern Californian group take turns on vocals and licks.  Sara sings lead on the breakout single “Destination”, also a 2015 Grammy nominee for Best American Roots Performance.  Sean Watkins handles vocals on the faux end of the world ode “21st of May”, while Thile dazzles with his mandolin skills on the instrumental “The Elephant in the Corn”.  A gorgeous rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Ledge” follows, with the three childhood friends delighting in each other’s company and talents for an exquisitely fun performance.

photo by Scott Newton

“The members of Nickel Creek grew up with each other – literally, and musically,” says executive producer Lickona. Their individual talents merge into something much bigger. The old saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ has never been truer.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for a brand new episode featuring Spoon and White Denim.