"We've had this very early connection to Ohio," said Bob Crawford, bassist for North Carolina folk-rockers the Avett Brothers. "The whole state has been a really special place for us."

"We've had this very early connection to Ohio," said Bob Crawford, bassist for North Carolina folk-rockers the Avett Brothers. "The whole state has been a really special place for us."

When the Avetts play LC Pavilion's outdoor amphitheater Saturday, it will be the culmination of a slow climb won through hard touring. The band has been on the road almost nonstop for the better part of a decade, and Ohio has been a part of that from the beginning.

In 2002, the Avetts' first tour stopped at Athens' tiny Casa Nueva after former Casa booking manager Matt Harvey was the only person out of dozens to respond to the press kits Crawford mailed across the country.

The band's throat-searing take on folk, bluegrass and country was a hit in Athens, and even as their profile expanded exponentially with each successive album, they kept close ties with their early Ohio pals.

That tour also marked the Avetts' first stop in Columbus. The band was staying with Crawford's parents, who moved to Hilliard in the late '90s, when a show in Louisville fell through. Scrambling for a replacement gig, they agreed to play a Hilliard sports bar called Sports on Tap.

"At that point, the goal was you needed to make something to keep going," Crawford said.

The band got paid and fed, and they played Sports on Tap several more times before graduating to large Columbus concert halls like the Newport and the LC.

Now, as they tour in support of last year's more elegant "I and Love and You," the challenge is translating the energy that crackled through those intimate early gigs to the enormous stages they've begun to frequent. What once felt daunting now feels liberating.

"I think what we learned over the past three years is that we can work a big stage," Crawford said.

"I think it comes down to how we feel on stage, and can we communicate with each other? Can we feel comfortable? If we're comfortable, and we're having a good time, that's going to make it easier for the crowd to have a good time."