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Avett Brothers offer free online concert to reward troops, charity-minded civilians

The Avett Brothers and Cheerwine want to give something back, and servicemembers will be among the main recipients.

The folk-rock band and the soft-drink brand, sons of the South born in North Carolina, are teaming up for The Legendary Giveback, a concert benefiting three family-aid charities: Big Brothers Big Sisters, University of Virginia Children’s Hospital and Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that assists military families.

The Oct. 19 show at nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville, Va., has been sold out for weeks. But you can still see it — online, that is.

The organizers hope you do so, because anyone who pledges to volunteer service to a charity or community organization (it doesn’t have to be one of the three chosen charities) through cheerwine.com/giveback or Facebook will be given a web link to watch the show through Livestream.com. The goal, in addition to fundraising, is to trigger a nationwide ripple effect of community service.

If you are a member of the military, consider yourself covered. The Avett Brothers and Cheerwine say you have pledged your service, and they want you to have the link. (See accompanying box for details.)

Neighbors helping others

The Avett Brothers, led by Seth and Scott Avett, hail from Concord, N.C., while Cheerwine was founded 95 years ago just down the road in Salisbury, N.C. The neighbors already had a relationship, begun when multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Scott Avett did voiceovers for a Cheerwine radio campaign. During a meeting, they agreed on a desire to do something more significant — something legendary, even.

“We were very conscious from our very first meeting to say, ‘This isn’t about selling more soda. It’s really not about selling more music. It’s all about what can we do together to give back,’ ” Tom Barbitta, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cheerwine, said during a recent telephone interview.

The benefit concert was an easy sell for the band, which is riding a surge of popularity that includes a performance with Mumford & Sons and Bob Dylan on the 2011 Grammy Awards telecast.

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“As shows get bigger and there are more and more people at shows, I do have the benefit and the fortune to have folks look up to me and to look up to us, and that’s something that we don’t take lightly,” multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Seth Avett said by telephone during a recent tour break. “It seems like a no-brainer that you should take that and use it for something good if you can. And if you somehow parlay that into a charitable cause ... if I can get a 10-year-old kid who thinks I’m like the coolest thing ... if they see me doing something like that, then maybe they’ll think that’s the coolest thing, too.”

Learning from a legend

The Avetts also had positive role models. In addition to his parents, who instilled a “share if you can” philosophy, Seth Avett found a positive example in another entertainer.

“Professionally, or at least in terms of legends, Paul Newman, Paul Newman, Paul Newman, Paul Newman, Paul Newman,” Avett said. “... The more years pass, the more people are going to know his legend as the guy that did that. Not as that incredibly talented, handsome actor. The more decades that pass, he will be known for what he did for people. In my mind, he’s the ultimate example.”

The beloved, Academy Award-winning actor, who died in 2008, lives on through his philanthropy. In 1982 he co-founded Newman’s Own, a food company from which Newman donated all net profits and royalties to charity. To date, those donations have exceeded $330 million, according to newmansown.com.

They won’t generate that astronomical amount in Charlottesville, but The Avett Brothers and Cheerwine will be helping a diverse group of people in need.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network.

Throwing their support behind University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, located in Charlottesville, is a cause near and dear to the band. Bassist Bob Crawford’s daughter, Hallie, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year at the tender age of 2.

Operation Homefront provides emergency financial aid and other assistance to the families of deployed servicemembers, and to wounded warriors during their healing and transition.

Giving back to the military

Barbitta said that supporting the military was important to him, given the number of servicemembers who hail from or pass through Cheerwine country — at bases such as Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

Operation Homefront president and CEO Jim Knotts appreciates the support of the Avetts and Cheerwine.

“We rely on the support of the American people, even the corporations, that obviously care so much about our servicemembers. And we simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do without their support,” Knotts said during a telephone interview.

That help couldn’t come at a better time.

“Since 2008, when the economy started tanking, we as an organization have seen a 500 percent increase in the number of military families coming to us asking for food assistance,” Knotts said. “So our focus is working with as many great companies and organizations and individuals as we can find who want to help these military families who are in a unique and emergency situation where we can help them over that rough patch and put them back on the path to self-sustainability.”

Ready to rock

The Avetts are very much on their feet. “The Carpenter,” their second full-length album with super-producer Rick Rubin, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 last month, and they’re playing to packed houses. They band is eager to face that capacity crowd on Oct. 19, and spreading the goodwill.

“Really, this is on par with the record release as far as a buildup and waiting for the date,” Seth Avett said. “The moment where we’re able to walk out on stage and we’re able to get that show crankin’, it’s gonna be formidable.”

mooress@stripes.osd.mil

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