The Avett Brothers have become a mainstay at the Newport Folk Festival, and on Saturday afternoon at the legendary Rhode Island gathering, the group snuck in a personal tribute to friend and one-time collaborator Chris Cornell with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.”
Cornell, who committed suicide in a Detroit hotel room on May 18th, had appeared on stage on several occasions with the Avett Brothers in 2013. The Soundgarden and Audioslave front man had joined them twice on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, first to perform the Avetts’ “Vanity” and then to cover Pearl Jam’s “Footsteps.” Scott and Seth Avett later sat in on one of Cornell’s concerts in Charlotte, near the brothers’ hometown of Concord, North Carolina.
Since Cornell’s death, the Avetts have regularly worked “Black Hole Sun” into their sets, and their rendition at Newport was a particularly fiery one. Scott and Seth trade off vocal duties throughout the fan-shot video, which builds into a spiraling, fiddle-laden jam that more than does justice to the original’s sinister, psychedelic sludge. The brothers’ harmonies prove a good match for Cornell’s unmistakable voice, although it underlines just how impressive his range was all on his own.
“The world has lost one of its greatest voices,” the brothers told Charlotte radio station 106.5 following Cornell’s death. “Chris Cornell was one of the kindest, funniest, and hardest working people who we have ever had the honor to know and to make music with. We will miss him terribly.”
The Avett Brothers’ next show will take place August 10th at the San Diego Civic Theatre in San Diego, California.