Take Me to Church! Jim Avett Concert on Hallowed Ground

Joined by Finnegan Bell and Marci Shore, Jim Avett's sold-out show at The Society of St. Thomas & St. Denis was a celebration of song and storytelling for the young and young at heart.


Well, I can't think of a better way to usher in daylight saving time than winding down with a glass of vino in a graveyard while waiting on the band to kick off in the church on a gorgeous 70-degree Sunday evening. What???? Vino, graveyard, church, concert? Yep, STAC House Shows and Awendaw Green put on a marvelous sold-out performance at The Society of St. Thomas & St. Denis Parish in Cainhoy off of Hwy. 41.


The show featured Jim Avett (father of the Avett Brothers), with Finnegan Bell accompanying and Marci Shore on fiddle. Odd venue? Not really—why let history crumble away in a forgotten forest? The church and grounds could stand to benefit from the union. The crowd filed into the church pews as Finnegan Bell strummed their first notes. Finnegan Bell's duo, Shane Williams and Warren Bazemore, have played all over the country since they began writing and playing together at USC, but their roots are nourished here in the Lowcountry. They play over 100 shows a year, sharing the stage with good company, such as Nickel Creek, Leigh Nash, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Jars of Clay, David Mead, Griffin House, Danielle Howle, as well as members of Hootie and the Blowfish and Alison Krauss and Union Station. They strummed and harmonized with beautiful tracks from their new record, as well as a moving melodious rendition of "Hallelujah." I watched the sun's last rays blur orange on thick leaded-glass window panes, marveling that I sat in the same pews where Carolina lineage sat hundreds of years ago. Ironically, Finnegan Bell was singing a track off of their CD titled Carolina Line.  


After their set was done, we took a break for a few and wandered the grounds again. The huge red doors of the church were latched wide open to allow laser lighting from a production trailer outside to beam the stage. Jim Avett was carousing the grounds as well. Easygoing and approachable, if you make eye contact with him, he is going to talk to you. Jim asked me where I came from in North Carolina, and I told him he wouldn't know the little place, Walnut Cove. He took me by the hand and marched me up to the pulpit where Marci Shore, the fiddler, was rosining up her bow. "Marci here is from King, North Carolina," he said. King is just a country mile from Walnut Cove. We talked about our little necks of the woods for a few and vowed to catch up with each other again. 


Jim Avett is a humorous avid storyteller, as well as a humble musician. Noticeably, the venue majority was more the younger crowd than the young-at-heart crowd, Jim bridged the divide easily with humor, song, and encouragement. He held the attention of 120 youthful parishioners for the full set. There were some tunes that didn't strike a chord of familiarity with many; Jim described these as being on the B-side of the record, not quite as popular, but still meaningful. There were others that had everyone singing along, including covers of Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, and Don McLean. Jim artfully filled in messages of love, faith, and strength between the tunes. 


Jim refers to himself as left behind. "Left behind, music moved on, America moved on, and I pretty much stayed right where I was. But that's ok, you see. I don't mind being where I am. I had my day, you'll have yours, and the one's following you will have theirs too. And if the only thing I'm known for is siring the Avett Brothers, I'm ok with that too," he tells us.


But tonight, Jim Avett wasn't the Avett Brothers' father. Jim Avett has a song to play and a story to tell. The word that comes to my mind is repurposed. I believe this graveyard and grounds with over 300 years of history that include founding SC, fires, revolution, births, baptismal, and death lies in wait of ruin without a caring community. It is the perfect venue for repurposing and showing that longevity has value. Tonight—this night—the church had a song again. 


I look forward to many more productions like this. Thank you, Holy Cross Sullivans Island for use of the property, Awendaw Green, STAC House Shows, The Society of St. Thomas & St. Denis Church, Jim Avett, Finnegan Bell, and Marci Shore for an eventful evening.